Browsing in a David Yurman boutique at any given time, it isn’t difficult to find a man completing a suite for his wife, a diehard fan adding a silver helix cable bracelet to her collection or an aspirational consumer, romanced by the brand’s ethereal ads, dreaming of one day buying her first piece.
But before Yurman and his wife, Sybil, began to entice such luxury-conscious customers into their stores, they spent 19 years wholesaling their product and building a strong consumer base.
While the wholesale business maintains successful relationships with retail giants such as Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as many smaller jewelers throughout the U.S. and the Caribbean, the Yurmans felt compelled to open stores to house their designs in their own aesthetic vision.
“We needed to have our own stores,” said David Yurman. “We needed to have our own environment…to control our own destiny.”
In 1999, the Yurmans opened up their first store on Madison Avenue. Since then, five additional boutiques have opened in top luxury shopping markets, including Costa Mesa, Calif.; Manhasset, N.Y. (owned by London Jewelers, although David said they have complete control of merchandise assortment); Atlanta, Houston and, most recently, Bal Harbour, Fla., which had its grand opening in November. The retail division now accounts for 10 percent of the company’s business.
Each boutique represents the Zen aesthetic for which the Yurmans are known. All designed by architect Thomas Juul-Hansen, each store has a modern and organic look with Van der Rohe-inspired, carved facades of dark gray English slate and glass, creating a three-dimensional storefront with semi-outdoor showcases that jut out from the facade.
Inside, blown-up prints of the ad campaign featuring Daria Werbowy and longtime Yurman model Amber Valletta hang upon custom-made teak wall panels that coordinate with rough-hewn limestone floors and river rock details. Custom-made swirling counters float throughout the stores, giving a luxe feel. Details like squares of green grass peek up from the floor and counters throughout the shops to accentuate a natural, relaxed feeling.
The Yurman boutiques carry all the company’s collections, including its best-selling Thoroughbred line, the Silver Ice collection of sterling silver and diamonds, the newly introduced Pearl line, watches and limited-edition items that aren’t available in specialty or independent jewelry and guild stores.
The stores are merchandised by both collection and theme. The cases on the floor are divided by collection, such as Silver Ice or Thoroughbred. Wall cases house stories of coordinating jewelry, like a turquoise necklace with coordinating earrings, watch and rings. An entire wall is dedicated to women’s and men’s watches.
When David and Sybil started in the jewelry business in 1980, retail was not on the agenda.
“We didn’t plan to be retailers,” said Sybil, the company’s president. “We chose to be wholesalers and we wanted to use all the people we did businesses with as our retailers. They were our face to the world.”
As the collection grew, especially within smaller specialty stores, the Yurmans felt they were limited by floor space to showcase their ever-expanding collection.
“So after 9/11, David said, ‘I just want to design everything I want to design. Life is short, let’s do it,’” Sybil said. “So it became us designing for our stores.”
David Yurman boutiques will often be testing grounds for new categories. For instance, the firm softly launched a bridal collection of cable-set engagement rings and signature wedding bands in yellow gold and diamonds in February. The line will remain exclusive to David Yurman boutiques until a wholesale strategy is set.
The boutiques also host events and trunk shows that David attends, as do customers, en masse.
“It’s quite adorable; a customer will show up wearing 13 pieces for an appearance [of David’s],” said Terri Eagle, chief operating officer.
The company’s overall sales are estimated to be upward of $500 million and the stores have exceeded sales projections by 20 percent, according to Eagle. As a result, over the next two years Yurman has an aggressive expansion plan.
“We’re thinking 20 stores total within the U.S. by 2007…into top, A-plus markets,” said Eagle.
The firm has its eyes on locations in Chicago, Beverly Hills and Hawaii. It’s also considering cities in Asia and the U.K. As of now, there are no David Yurman stores outside the U.S. and the line is not carried abroad. The company entertained opening a store in Japan in 2002, but it never came to fruition.
A new Web site launched last November represents another retail channel for the company. The entire Yurman collection is available and sales on the site are supported by neimanmarcus.com.
In general, Yurman’s wholesale partners are supportive of the designer’s opening of boutiques near their own locations.
“It’s no different than any other designer opening stores,” said Ron Frasch, vice chairman and chief merchant of Saks Fifth Avenue. “There is a woman who wants to buy at a multibrand store and a woman who wants to buy at a monobrand store.”
Some small independent jewelers claim they’ve been hit by Yurman drawing his loyal customers in to shop the collection in his own designer domain. But Eagle insisted the firm’s retail partners have had positive reactions to the opening of the brand’s boutiques.
“We think it just raised the awareness of the brand,” said Eagle. “[Yurman and its retail partners] are all enjoying double-digit growth at an excess of 15 percent in these markets.”
Future expansion will come from growing the men’s and watch lines, but the Yurmans aren’t kept by cable alone.
“Someday we’d like to do a fragrance,” Eagle said.