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Ring Concierge’s success since the start of the pandemic can, in part, be attributed to luck.
“[Going into the pandemic] we were already digitally native, and we already had an incredible e-commerce site,” said Nicole Wegman, founder and CEO of Ring Concierge, on the latest Glossy Podcast. “And more so than before the pandemic, people are comfortable shopping online for fine jewelry, because they had no choice over the past two years.”
And fine jewelry is selling: “We saw a big uptick during the peak of the pandemic for engagement rings, because couples were stuck at home together having those conversations,” Wegman said. “And now, it’s the year of the wedding, so we’re seeing a ton of wedding band sales.
She added, “We’ve been in a pretty good place to weather the storm.”
Of course, it helped that 9-year-old Ring Concierge had a firm foundation heading into the pandemic. Wegman has self-funded the company, and it’s been profitable since year one.
“We are very fiscally conservative, and we are very thoughtful in how we invest in areas we expand in, to make sure we can remain self-funded,” she said. “It’s important to me to have that autonomy and to be able to make decisions that are best for the business and, most importantly, best for our customers and followers.”
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
“We still feel that we have a ton of [growth] opportunity within the U.S. Fine jewelry [in the U.S.] is about a $100 billion industry. It’s really large, but it’s also very, very fragmented. There are a few key players at the top that make up the top 10% of the industry. So it’s Signet, which owns Kay [Jewelers] and Jarrod and some of those mall brands, and then there’s Tiffany’s — they have 2% of the market share. There’s also Blue Nile, which is an online, pretty impersonal website. They have 1% of the market share. And that’s it. Then it just completely fragments into these mom-and-pop [shops]. So there is a humongous opportunity for a brand like ours to take up much more of that market share and be very focused on millennials and Gen Z — because Gen Z is coming up, when it comes to bridal; they’re only a few years away from starting to think about rings. There’s [opportunity] to create this incredible, transparent, on-trend, accessible fine jewelry brand for those generations. It does not exist right now — especially not in an omnichannel way and especially not when you’re talking about utilizing social media. So our big focus over the next five years is to capture that market share within the U.S. and expand upon what we’re already really good at, and not worry too much about trying to spread ourselves too thin with other categories or with international [expansion]. We’ve laid out a plan and we’re pretty confident we can get to be one of the largest privately-owned jewelry companies in the U.S. within the next five years, if not the largest… How can we be the Tiffany’s of our generation?”
Mastering customer service
“We have a huge focus this year on expanding our clienteling and customer care experience. We already have an incredible customer care team. We have one that’s dedicated to all of the fine jewelry shoppers on the website, and then if you shop engagement rings, you’re assigned a one-on-one diamond expert who really handholds you. That experience is incredible. But, how do you scale that? And then, how do you provide that experience the local jeweler is providing, but perhaps remotely? So we are trying to think through that. And there are a lot of ways [to accomplish that]. It factors everything, from your return policy to your service packages. [For example] if someone needs a repair, how easy is it to contact you? We [want] to get [customer service] to the level where people are as comfortable, if not more comfortable, shopping with us than they would just going into their local jewelry store. Because we already know that we have better styles, we know we have broader access to diamonds, and we know we offer so much more, when it comes to the product and the pricing, than the local jeweler offers. And then: How do we take that one step further, where we can get that comfort level there? So that is a big part of our five-year strategy. We know that’s going to be necessary, when talking about capturing market share, but [also] very, very doable. And also, when it comes to Gen Z, they start to care less about in-person versus online. They’re very comfortable shopping online.”
Supply chain challenges
“The diamond supply chain is a bit of a mess. Prices are up about 25% over pre-Covid [levels]. As a percentage, that doesn’t sound too terrible, but when you start to think about what that means in dollars for such a high-ticket item, it’s a pretty high jump. To give you an idea, a two-carat GVS round [diamond] — which is near-colorless and very slightly included, a pretty average color-clarity combination — has gone up $10,000 on retail, [compared to] January 2020. So it’s tough on the consumer. We try to do everything we can to keep our margins tight for them. But obviously, when it comes to mining and cutting and polishing these diamonds, it’s all so labor-intensive. And there are also shutdowns and the inability to ship things the way we used to. So we’re trying to navigate that. We’re hoping it gets better in about a year from now. But throughout the rest of this year, it’s going to remain the way it’s been operating in the past few years. And gold prices have been up since the beginning of the pandemic, because people started to buy gold as a way to diversify out of whatever currency they were in. And there’s absolutely nothing we can do about gold prices being up. So we do what we can to keep our margins tight, and we buy in bulk when it will help us negotiate discounts with our suppliers. But there’s only so much you can do when it comes to gold and diamond prices.”