A Look Inside the Blue Nile Jewelry Factory During the Busiest Time of Year (Video)
December is traditionally a slow month for weddings, but it is by far the most popular month for engagements.
Harvey Kanter, president and CEO of Blue Nile, the Seattle-based retailer that sells diamonds and fine jewelry online, tells AllThingsD that a quarter of a million people get engaged during a four-week period around the holidays.
For Blue Nile, that means running its fulfillment center in Seattle at a top-secret location at full capacity, with gemologists cranking out thousands of custom engagement rings and orders a day. Amazingly, rings that are ordered as late as Saturday at 5 pm ET will arrive by 10:30 am (local time) on Christmas Eve. In other words, there’s no reason why the question can’t be popped in front of all the friends and family. (Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated how many orders were being processed a day. The correct number is 200 to 800 custom engagement rings daily.)
Part of the reason the process is so efficient is that everything is handled under one roof.
The company has one of the largest selections of diamonds in the world stored safely in its on-site vault. Inside the nondescript building, expert gemologists wearing visors with magnifying lenses are clustered in groups by specialty. One section is dedicated to wedding band creation, another to the setting. In a separate room, custom machines wash the rings, extracting any lose particles of precious metal so they can be reused.
Absolutely no waste is created from the tanks of chemicals, and all water is either recycled or evaporated instead of being poured down the drain.
Engagement rings have represented the bulk of the company’s business since it was founded in 1999, but Kanter was hired nine months ago to expand Blue Nile’s operations. “We are looking for a higher level of repeat business and to grow our non-engagement ring business,” he said. “The experience can evolve further to increase page views and minutes on the site.”
In the third quarter, the company said, its non-engagement sales in the U.S. increased 12 percent year over year to $21.8 million. Overall, sales increased 20 percent in Q3 to $90 million. In the fourth quarter, the company is expecting record results, including sales between $140 million and $153 million, and earnings of 44 cents to 50 cents a share.
Here’s an interview with Kanter at the front of the buzzing fulfillment area (cameras not allowed in the vault):