By  on February 14, 2005

NEW YORK — Appealing to middle America’s appetite for branded merchandise from favored discount retailers, Wal-Mart-owned warehouse chain Sam’s Club has taken its engagement ring assortment a step further by offering branded rings, bridal sets and anniversary brands via an exclusive partnership with jewelry e-tailer Modern Love.

The deal also has television talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw involved.

The branded Sam’s-Modern Love partnership launched last fall. Although the companies do not disclose revenue figures on the lines, sources said sales are strong and deemed the partnership a success.

Modern Love’s relationship with Sam’s Club goes back 13 years when the firm was a vendor to the retailer, selling its collections as unbranded merchandise. Today, Modern Love is the only branded, bridal set collection offered at Sam’s — except for Sam’s higher-priced, Regal Elegance brand in the solitaire diamond engagement ring segment.

What makes the new Modern Love-Sam’s relationship unusual is that most discount retailers don’t offer branded jewelry. For example, while Costco Wholesale’s online store may sell $400 Fendi handbags, it also asks $30,000 for an unbranded 2.28-carat round-cut engagement ring set in platinum. And while Costco.com or Wal-Mart.com offer a variety of engagement rings and jewelry, they lack clear brands to pull in consumers.

When the jewelry firm’s chief executive, Isaac Gad, approached the retailer last year about a specific Modern Love-branded line of bridal jewelry, the company’s prior relationship made doing so easier. The selling point was consumer preferences for brands.

“It’s really all about that luxury item, that luxury product. People don’t want to buy a generic piece of jewelry. They want to buy a brand,” Gad said in a recent interview. “We like to call it middle market bridal.”

Modern Love’s branded collection of International Gemological Institute-certified engagement rings, bridal sets, anniversary and wedding bands run from $800 to $10,000. They are set in either platinum, 18-karat gold or 14-karat white or yellow gold with diamonds bearing at least “SI” clarity ratings and “I” color ratings. The assortment can be purchased both at Sam’s Club locations and online at SamsClub.com; it can be viewed online at ModernLove.net, which is headquartered on West 46th Street here.

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