As retail woes continue and brick-and-mortar shops continue to close down, online sales for jewelry continues to gain market share along with a few large retailers. However when it comes to buying jewelry, you may want something unique that isn’t mass-produced. Bright Society bridges the gap between online and independent jewelers through an online marketplace that sells new as well as pre-owned jewelry and watches showcasing merchandise from independent as well as brand-name jewelers.
AlleyWatch chatted with VP of Marketing Lauren Kennedy about the company, its genesis, and how it plans to grow.
Tell us about the product or service.
Bright Society is a marketplace that sells new and pre-owned fine jewelry and luxury watches from established brick-and-mortar jewelry stores. Our first-of-its-kind assortment offers pre-owned and new products across vintage, custom, and branded categories, all with price points above $500.
Bright Society is the first platform to aggregate product exclusively from independent jewelers. It also provides the consumer with access to a deep and ever-evolving inventory of fine jewelry and luxury watches.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
The Jewelry and Watch market in the U.S. is reported to be $85.4B. Our first move is to penetrate the ecommerce vertical of this market, which results in a total addressable market size of $6B. As the business grows, we will consider international expansion.
What is the business model?
Bright Society is a two-sided managed marketplace. Our revenue model is exclusively transaction-based.
What inspired the business?
The independent jewelers were the initial inspiration behind the company. Sales growth within the jewelry industry is happening exclusively online. The result is stagnant in-store sales and an annual store closure rate of 4 percent – an all-time high. Unlike other industries, brick-and-mortar jewelry retailers have not had a viable option for selling online. While these independent jewelry shops house collections that are second to none and valued at nearly $10 Billion, most of them lack the financial resources and technical expertise necessary for building a profitable ecommerce business. According to an industry publication, 77 percent of independents don’t have a website with ecommerce capabilities and 96 percent report less than 5 percent of revenue from online sales. So, we set out to create a solution.
How has your previous experience in the diamond trading business impacted this venture?
It has given us a competitive advantage. We have a deep connection to the close-knit jewelry community, which has enabled us to build a trusted network of exceptional retailers. We began with a good understanding of the gaps in the marketplace and the needs of our jewelers. We built on that knowledge by interviewing jewelers in our network and visiting them in their stores. They provided a wealth of information around market demand, customer preferences, etc. that helped us fine-tune our platform and processes.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
The most meaningful milestones to us within the next six months are to: close a Series A round from a venture capital firm with expertise in our space, expand our internal team, and onboard 30 new retailers.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Whenever you think there might be a chance to slow down slightly and catch your breath, it’s not true. The challenges never stop or get easier and breaks really don’t exist. No matter where you are in the process, there are always things you still need to do — and on top of that — you are always faced with the unexpected problem that needs a solution!
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Andy Dunn! We think he would have a ton of great advice for building and e-commerce startup, but more importantly, Joe wants to talk about clothes. On an average day, Joe is dressed head-to-in Bonobos. His first order was April 2011 and he’s placed 47 more since then. When he needed to buy an outfit for his rehearsal dinner, he walked in to the guideshop at 17th and 5th and let one of the customer service reps pick out his outfit.
Why did you launch in New York?
We love New York. We are New Yorkers and couldn’t imagine calling another location home. The energy, people, and endless landmarks make the city second to none. Plus, New York is the heart and soul of the jewelry industry. It is home to one of the world’s largest diamond markets as well as countless legendary brands, independent jewelers, manufacturers, wholesalers and more.
Where is your favorite bar in the city for an after work drink?
Bryant Park Cafe, at least during the Summer, the frozen mango margaritas are day-making.