Direct-to-consumer fine jewelry brand Mejuri has come a long way since its 2015 launch.
Aside from announcing it received a $23 million in Series B funding earlier this year, the brand is further expanding its physical retail footprint within its three showrooms located in Toronto, New York, and Los Angeles where customers can get hands-on with product.
Up until now, inventory of Mejuri’s in-store products (which range from $29 for small hoop earrings to $2150 for bigger ticket items like engagement rings), were not stocked on-site. Instead, shoppers could only purchase product by placing an order that was then filled and shipped within one to two days.
However, the brand is now rolling out a new hybrid showroom model, The Mejuri Studio, that allows customers to walk out of the store with product in hand—all while staying agile and without a surplus of inventory on-site.
This model allows the brand to respond to customer feedback in real-time, and they plan to launch this program ahead of the holiday shopping season.
I spoke to Noura Sakkijha, Mejuri’s Co-Founder and CEO, to learn more about the why behind this transition as well as the nuts and bolts that will make this new approach work. Here’s what she had to say.
KALEIGH MOORE: What initially made you reconsider your approach to order fulfillment within your physical retail spaces?
NOURA SAKKIJHA: We opened our first showroom in July 2018, and the model was based on next-day shipping without the option to walk out with product. For the last two months, however, we’ve introduced a pilot program in our Toronto showroom with inventory available on-site, and as a result, we saw a 35% increase in conversion rate.
We originally began with our ship-to-you model to keep our retail models lean, envisioning retail would simply be an awareness channel for a brand that has such an active online community as core to its business. However, physical retail has allowed us to continue that strong dialogue with our community offline. When it comes to our retail locations, we look at optimizing them in much the same way you’d optimize a website: We look at conversion rate, but we’re also interested in how we can further build our community.
For example: We looked at how our consumers were interacting with our jewelry displays in our New York and Toronto showrooms, and based on what we saw, we decided to develop more than 30 different forms of custom jewelry displays that would show the customer how the product might be styled. This means we can show our pieces “stacked,” so while someone is shopping they can also decide how they might wear it. This is extremely important to our retail model, which relies on removing the barriers and intimidation around shopping for fine jewelry.
KM: So what fueled the switch from 1-2 day delivery to in-store product fulfillment?
NS: After opening our showrooms and seeing how our customers wanted that instant gratification (especially after spending time getting styled), we realized that giving them the product right there elevates the experience. We also realized that many of our customers are coming for gifts, which is time-sensitive. This, along with the fact that we’re working on increasing the number of retail locations, pushed us towards carrying inventory on-site.
KM: Tell me about how the new in-store fulfillment process works.
NS: We don’t display all of our products in the stores; we curate the collection based on the location and what’s new at Mejuri. We also have all of our stores linked to the same ERP system, which allows all of our data to be centralized.
This enables our team to monitor inventory levels and push replenishment multiple times a week if needed in order to stay nimble and lean at each location. We also allow customers to make returns in-store (even if the purchase happened online) and have the option for customers to pick up online orders placed before 12:00 p.m. in-store the next day.
There is only one display of products on the floor for customers to try on, handle and play around with. However, we do have personal stylists on hand at each studio who can grab pieces from the back to help style one customer’s look while another is browsing so that our experience is individualized and seamless. Once an order has been placed, it’s gift wrapped in the back of the store and brought out to the customer.
KM: What technology behind the scenes helps with inventory forecasting? Or are decisions purely based on in-store purchase data?
NS: Mejuri’s business is a marriage of trend-setting design and trend-validated data. Since we’re introducing new editions every Monday, each new piece impacts the performance of other products. We use in-house planning tools that weigh different indicators of success (such as material, stone color, etc.) when we look at inventory planning. We’ve released more than 1,700 products to date, so we have plenty of feedback to work with, too.
In stores, we carry a curated selection of our products, and we customize this selection based on the location, which is informed by data and our stylists’ feedback. Based on sales from existing products and feedback from our community, we then include this in our design loop. Our design and forecasting teams sit side by side, which means we include both in the thought process. We’re vertically integrated and use technology and 3D printing in our prototyping and production processes, which also helps us shorten the steps needed to go from design to production.
KM: What about demand around the brand’s online business? With more than 100,000 people on the waitlists for Mejuri product, what are you doing to shorten wait times? This clearly illustrates demand, but does it also indicate a supply chain issue?
NS: We manufacture in limited quantities with individually-handcrafted pieces, and this process means we produce in small batches. When we release new editions, they often sell out, exceeding demand expectations. The initial launch means we can then predict demand for the next restock on a product and size level.
We don’t carry a lot of inventory because we built our supply chain in such a way that we’re able to replenish very quickly, so when you’re on a Mejuri waitlist, on average you’re waiting no more than three weeks to receive your product. This short wait period ensures our community is always receiving the highest quality hand-crafted pieces.
KM: How do you plan to react to the increased volume that happens during the busy holiday shopping season while using this model?
NS: We take this into consideration in our inventory planning (as well as our employee staffing) to ensure we have sufficient inventory and seamless service during this busy time.
We’ve also designed our showrooms in a way that allows for flexibility in terms of capacity as well—we’re used to big crowds. Last month we saw 25,000 people at our showroom locations. On a typical weekend in our New York showroom, we get an average of 2,000 people coming through the store.
Based on the day of the week, we both re-merchandise the pieces, move tables, and even re-situate entire lounge areas to create more space for visitors coming in groups, which means we can accommodate different store capacities.
There have been times where the demand exceeded our expectations and we sold out of inventory, so to prepare for that, we’re still giving customers the option to place orders in-store, which we will then ship with express free shipping from our main warehouse.