Ajaline, a fine jewelry flash-sale Web site set to launch on Feb. 1, wants to adapt a model crafted by online retailers such as Gilt Groupe and Rue La La.
This story first appeared in the December 27, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Co-founder Meeling Wong, a former president of John Hardy, said she is curating Ajaline.com to cater to brand concerns about how items will be sold. Only three to five will be featured each week, and each flash sale will be open for three days, with a 24-hour preview. Discounts will range from 30 to 70 percent off retail, with prices from $500 to $50,000. The first sales will spotlight designs from Buccellati, Lagos and Temple St. Clair.
Fine jewelry has been slow to embrace e-commerce, but Wong said she tells companies, “You guys think you can control the Internet. You can’t. You can control where you are and the way you’re presented.”
Wong, who is starting Ajaline with another former consultant, Jim Conte, began her career at Carolee Designs in 1984. She worked as the national sales manager for David Yurman before joining John Hardy, which she left after three years to start her namesake jewelry consulting firm. During that time, she formulated the idea for Ajaline.
As a consultant, “I was challenged in turning inventory,” she said, adding that as much as 20 percent of fine jewelry and watches go unsold annually in the U.S. “I’d say, ‘What’s all this sitting here? Why are you producing more goods when you have all these goods sitting here?’…I’m very aware of the kinds of inventory that brands carry.”
Alberto Milani, chief executive officer of Buccellati, which will be sold on Ajaline.com in February, said the exclusive focus on jewelry and an emphasis on customer service were attractive selling points.
“We believe…an interesting benchmark will be created for Buccellati’s first experience online. Buccellati is one of the first brands presented by Ajaline. We are currently testing with them, providing the best image quality and organizing training sessions for their customer service department. Based on initial results, we will discuss with them the possibility of exclusive product development and social events.”
Lagos, which will also go on sale in February, sees the site as “a win-win for Lagos and retailers, as we are able to quickly react and sweep out underproductive style and sell full-margin product in our regular channels,” said the brand’s vice president, Chris Cullen.
“This site is all about jewelry,” Wong said. “They know who I am. They know that I’ve built brands and I know how hard it is to build brand equity, and you don’t want to lose your brand equity over just one sale.…They’re with similar brands…not next to Juicy Couture or Omaha Steaks.”
Ajaline is funded by Zadora founder Andreas Von der Goltz and several unnamed private equity partners. The company expects to earn 30 to 40 percent profit on each sale and is projected to generate volume of $10 million in its first year.
“This is about a different channel and opportunity.…The world outside — if you live in Kansas or Louisiana — you don’t have access to these brands and sample sales,” Wong said. “On the Internet, you have to bring it to them. There are very sophisticated shoppers in North Dakota who want to access Buccellati and Temple St. Clair.”