Jewellers and retailers flock to digital marketplaces
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Thanks to Joor, a New York online platform that brands itself as “the future of wholesale”, Pippa Small carried on selling her jewellery through the pandemic. “We use Joor to create orders for most of our accounts, such as Twist in the US and White Bird in Paris,” says Small, who has subscribed to the business-to-business service since 2014.
According to Kristin Savilia, chief executive of Joor, her company’s objective is to help digital transformation across “all categories of wholesale, including jewellery”.
The platform’s subscribers include luxury conglomerates — such as LVMH, Kering and Richemont — as well as smaller designer fine jewellery brands including Ileana Makri, Wwake and Polly Wales. It allows brands to work with any retailer they do business with (and access is free for their retailers). Retailers purchasing jewellery on Joor include Harrods, Selfridges, Liberty and Net-a-Porter. They do so by visiting virtual showrooms on the platform and purchasing digitally.
Tech solutions like this, across the fashion industry, have been attracting investor attention. Last month, Joor raised $46m in funding led by Australian group Macquarie. In March, Lightspeed, a Montreal ecommerce provider, entered into an agreement to buy NuOrder, of Los Angeles, the second-largest apparel wholesale platform after Joor, for $425m. During the pandemic both platforms moved into the digital trade show space, with Passport, a service provided by Joor, hosting 17 global events last year — including London Fashion Week.
Anna Jewsbury, founder of jewellery brand Completedworks, exhibited virtually through Passport at London Fashion Week. “Retailers that were already on Joor came across our digital profile,” she says. “They were all smaller fashion boutiques and were interested in our fashion jewellery.” Completedworks no longer wholesales its fine jewellery but sells to clients such as Alex Eagle on a consignment basis — a commonplace practice in designer fine jewellery.
Nouvelle Box of London, the first business-to-business marketplace platform tailored to jewellery, was built with both consignment and wholesale in mind. “The pandemic was the trigger for me,” says Darren Hildrow, previously jewellery director at agency Rainbowwave, who joined Valery Demure, an industry specialist, to launch the platform in February. Nouvelle Box specialises in designer jewellery brands that straddle the worlds of fashion and jewellery, are mostly small scale and are known for setting jewellery trends.
“From the outside, people see diamonds and gold and think that fine jewellery brands have a lot of money,” Hildrow explains. “They don’t. It’s hard to run a small fine jewellery brand and make ends meet, so we keep the Nouvelle Box subscription within reach of small designers.”
As jewellery does not work at the pace of the fashion industry, he says the role of the platform is to smooth the shift from paper to digital, by offering tools to create consignment documents and order forms all in one place. Nouvelle Box works with a range of brands, from fine diamond-focused jewellers such as Mindi Mond of New York to Capucine H, a French avant-garde designer.
Alice Cicolini, one of 30 jewellery brands to have signed up so far, says that “instead of spending time on bits of paperwork”, the platform provides a relatively seamless way to do business with a group of retailers. She also hopes it will allow her to use face-to-face time to deepen retail relationships when she returns to trade shows such as Couture.
The idea is that a brand displays a profile, information and collection photographs, and opts for one of three levels of visibility. They can then contact any of the 100-plus jewellery-focused retailers they don’t already work with, using a LinkedIn-style messaging system.
Nouvelle Box says it is as much about “creating community” as facilitating commerce. There is a magazine area with articles by jewellery specialists and a services section that showcases vetted professionals who offer marketing, editorial, or video services. And there are plans to create a section for personal stylists who work with wealthy clients.
Nouvelle Box has also joined with Ylang23, a Texas retailer, to support its Next Now award. As a result, Pari Fine Jewels, designed by Athens-born Pari Sofianou will be showcased on Nouvelle Box, free for a year.
So far, the platform seems to have won over retailers because of the sense of discovery that it offers. “While we use a variety of platforms, we generally do not rely on them for sourcing designer fine jewellery,” says Beth Kanfer, footwear, handbag, jewellery and soft accessory fashion director of store group Nordstrom. “However, the brand curation provided by Nouvelle Box adds value as it provides access to a diverse selection of emerging brands with authenticity and limited distribution.”
Ruby Beales, jewellery buying manager at Liberty, is drawn to the site because it is so targeted. “I love that Nouvelle Box is a bespoke platform, specifically for the jewellery business. It was founded by industry experts who know just what jewellery buyers and retailers are looking for, rather than the more one-size-fits-all approach of other platforms, which tend to work with a variety of brands across all categories.”
As the world opens up, many retailers and brands expect platforms to coexist and blend with physical events, such as Paris Fashion Week or Couture.
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