The big screen for magnifying diamonds at a co-branded Jared-James Allen store.

Jared is striving to raise its profile and business performance — and much of the effort centers on innovation.

“Frankly, it’s about reimagining the jewelry-buying experience and re-elevating to accessible luxury,” said Bill Brace, executive general manager for Jared and chief marketing officer for Signet Jewelers, the parent corporation.

“We had some of the same brands as Kay Jewelers and Zale,” two other jewelry divisions of Signet. “But we have been introducing higher prices, higher quality and unique and exclusive designs. It’s a kind of a transformation in progress. We’re pleased with the way it’s going. It’s a turnaround in progress.”

For the fiscal year ended Feb. 1, Jared generated $1.09 billion in sales, with a 4.7 percent decline in total sales and a 2.5 percent drop in same-store sales.

Signet, considered the world’s largest diamond retailer with more than 3,300 stores, generated $6.1 billion in sales last year, with total sales down 1.5 percent, same-store sales up 0.6 percent. Aside from the Kay and Zale divisions, Signet operates stores and web sites under the names H.Samuel, Ernest Jones, Peoples, Piercing Pagoda and JamesAllen.com.

In the second quarter ended Aug. 1 (the last results reported) Signet’s same-store sales were down 31.3 percent due to pandemic-related store closures, though in August same-store sales (preliminary) rose 10.9 percent as stores reopened, and e-commerce grew 65.2 percent. Jared’s quarterly results were not listed.

Considered the fourth largest jewelry chain in the U.S., Jared sells an extensive assortment of necklaces, earrings, charms, bracelets and timepieces, and such brands as Le Vian, John Hardy and Vera Wang. Prices start at $50, and go up to $500,000 for one-of-a-kind diamond pieces. “You can spend more if you like,” said Brace. “We have access to more than 200,000 diamonds.”

Bill Brace

Bill Brace  HOWARD TUCKER

This year, Jared introduced a custom jewelry service, several in-store and online technologies and formats for interactive and easier shopping, and a string of new collections, including the Royal Asscher bridal line, with a proprietary cut from the Asscher family that provided royal families in Europe with diamonds and jewels for centuries, and a “Closer Together” diamond collection with classic yet distinctive looks and cuts. Lab-created diamonds, which are less expensive than natural diamonds and gaining popularity, were also introduced.

Jared is co-branding and commingling assortments with the digitally native James Allen brand and its diamond studios. So far there are five co-branded stores; 13 more will open within a month.

Among other innovations recently implemented:

• Virtual consultations with jewelry consultants who utilize iPads for live chats and showing products to customers. Shoppers don’t need to make appointments, but can if they want.

• Visual search capability enabling shoppers to upload to Jared.com a photo of a piece of jewelry they like, perhaps seen in a magazine, on display somewhere, or worn by a friend, and the web site will retrieve products that look similar to what’s in the photo. “Men and women know what they like when they see it, but sometimes it can be difficult to describe,” said Brace. “The visual search capability decreases the burden on the customer to describe the jewelry and it’s an immediate, effective way of curating.”

• Large digital screens magnifying diamonds from the James Allen web site, to better see inclusions, the cut, the sparkle, color and clarity, seen at the co-branded Jared-James Allen stores.

• The Foundry custom jewelry service, equipping Jared jewelers with CAD programs and 3-D printers creating models that customers can try on and request changes in the fit and design if they like, before the jewelry gets manufactured. The Foundry is in public view and geared to be a co-creation process. “People love seeing our skilled jewelers doing the work. It adds an exciting element of in-store theater,” Brace said.

• Buy online, pick up in store, as well as curbside pickup, which was readily accomplished since almost all of Jared’s 234 stores across the country are located off-mall. Many shoppers are reluctant to enter stores, but when they do, “People are more planned in their approach to the stores,” Brace observed. “They’re generally there to buy. There’s lower traffic but more conversion.”

• Ten-foot long self-service tables arranged with ring styles for customers to try on, at co-branded Jared-James Allen stores. “Customers these days are used to a more self-exploratory shopping experience. We are trying to extend that in our stores,” said Brace. “This is a much more engaging, comfortable and enjoyable experience sitting down on the same side of a table with a consultant, or you can be there on your own. We take a lot of care that all the jewelry is properly cleaned and sanitized. These are not rings that people actually buy. They are high-quality glass replicas, not platinum or 18-karat gold.”

Self-serve ring tables and a big screen for a magnified view of diamonds at a co-branded Jared-James Allen store. 

“Many of the initiatives we started or envisioned before COVID-19, but obviously COVID-19 jolted us into a new reality in March when all our stores temporarily closed,” said Brace. “It was a great catalyzing experience and in many ways accelerated the process. What otherwise would have taken months or years to implement, instead took days and weeks.”

Brace acknowledged that given how the world changed this year, it wasn’t easy to implement changes. “The financial constraints have been significant. It forced us to be very choosy in our investments. But we needed to differentiate the brand, refocus on our core customer. We previously had too much overlap with our other banners.”

Currently, the bridal jewelry business is strong. “As terrible as COVID-19 is, relationships are stronger and COVID-19 has accelerated engagements,” Brace said.

“The second trend is ‘Zoom-worthy’ jewelry,” for those group calls, Brace added. “Earrings, necklaces and cocktail rings are hot. Big gold pieces, bigger statement pieces and colored stones are really trending.”

The Diamond Studio inside a co-branded Jared-James Allen store. 

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