Below, Coe talks to JCK aboutthe status of Lightbox’s new factory near Portland, Ore.; what the brand haslearned about consumers’ take on colored diamonds; and why the company recentlyintroduced grading reports for its products.
What are your biggest initiatives for 2020?
The opening of the new manufacturing facility in Oregon. It’s already well advanced. The building is complete and services are complete. They are literally installing reactors as we speak. It will come online the second half of this year and will give us significantly more volume of product—something like 200,000 polished carats per year. That will enable us to get into much wider distribution than today. Today, our production is significantly lower because we’re doing it out of Element Six in the U.K. This factory is a game changer. It’s going to ramp up over a period of time; the idea is that by the end of the year, it will be fully running.
How are sales?
They’re going well. Very positive. We’re doing a trial with Reeds—we’re in 45 of their doors and in two doors with Bloomingdale’s. The trial runs through the end of the quarter. We’re already looking for opportunities to expand distribution. We’re aiming to get in nationwide distribution by the end of this year.
Do independent jewelers fit into yourdistribution plans?
We’re very happy to do both chains andindependents. We’ve already had some preliminary discussions with independents.
What do you look for in a wholesale partner?
Somebody who obviously has a strong retailpresence and a good relationship with their customers—also someone who sharesour vision in the existing opportunity lab-grown offers in the fashion jewelryspace and the opportunity to get colored stones out there in the market.
Besides pink and blue, are you working withany new colors?
Probably not for 2020. It’s worth noting thatcolors continue to do very well for us. Fifty percent of what we sell are inpinks and blues. We had the view it might take time for consumers to get usedto colored product, but it’s been strong from the start. More colors are likelyto come online from 2020 onward. Our focus this year will be around new designsof jewelry and pushing distribution out more widely.
And what sizes are you now producing?
We have been starting to push up the sizes. Wedo have a lot more products at 1 carat size. And last year we launched some earstuds at 1.5 carats, and they have performed well.
The news that you recently started providing grading—was that in response to customer feedback?
It’s something consumers have been asking allalong. We made it clear we don’t feel it makes sense to issue individualgrading certifications because stones from a particular batch are the same.It’s more important that we have rigorous quality control in place and onlysell stones that meet those quality requirements. We’ve confirmed that qualitystandard in those tech specs. All our white stones are near colorless, VSclarity, VG from a cut perspective, and anyone buying our white stones will geta copy of that tech spec confirming the quality of their product.
How are Lightbox’s e-commerce sales going?
They’ve gone very well from the very start.Last year we saw 16% of sales online came from repeat customers who came in tobuy a second product—an early sign that consumers liked the product enough tocome back and buy more within a very short period of time. No doubt, it will bea large part of our distribution in the future—but no doubt wholesaledistribution will be bigger.