Private investment firm Comvest Partners acquires the financially troubled e-retailer, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.
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QVC has sold jewelry on its TV network since 1987, so when QVC.com launched in 1996, the company had plenty of experience in remote sales for the category. QVC doesn’t break out sales by category or by channel, but jewelry is a big seller on its TV channel. Not surprisingly jewelry was one of the first products offered on its web site, where its popularity continues to grow, according to Bob Myers, senior vice president of merchandising at QVC.com.
QVC’s strategy is to use the web channel to expand its TV offering of jewelry. “While we may be able to feature nine rings in an hour in television, we have more than 1,000 rings available online at any given time,” says Myers. QVC.com sees spikes on featured jewelry the same day the items are featured on QVC-TV. “Many QVC.com customers order products related to ones they purchased on the TV channel,” he adds.
QVC also uses the web channel to offer enhanced product descriptions too cumbersome to feature on TV and an online program guide that helps web shoppers who’d been on the fence about a purchase easily call up the previous day’s TV offer.
Corner stores online
About those corner jewelers? Even they are starting to get online, though sites generally still lack the polish of pure-play jewelers or larger multi-channel players. Jnet.com, an offering of the Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America, a trade group, offers retailer members various levels of service ranging from the opportunity to create an informational web site to a template for an online catalog and transactional ability. About 150 local jewelers ranging from one-person operations to stores with a staff of 10 are using the service, available since late 2000, says Jnet.com director of operations John Davis.
That number is a fraction of the country’s estimated 11,000-plus independent jewelry stores, some of whom have launched web sites on their own . But the beginning of an Internet presence among even the smallest independent retail jewelry operations is proof that although the web may not change this most traditional of marketplaces overnight, it will change it fundamentally over the long term, and even at the local level.
“The goal for the independents is that they see yesterday’s paper order is not going to ensure that they succeed unless they have a web presence that’s comparable to what their store offers,” Davis says. “Today, most of the people running these independent jewelers are the moms and pops who have done it forever. The next generation that’s taking over the business understands that more of tomorrow’s buyers will be looking online, and if they want to stay competitive, they’ll need to have products online that are searchable and competitive with the marketplace in which they operate.”