1. Headline
  1. Headline
By
updated 2/17/2013 11:45:38 AM ET 2013-02-17T16:45:38

It's a tale as old as e-commerce: You fall in love, start shopping around for engagement rings and notice that pricing and selection online are superior to what's in stores. But then come the cold feet. After all, who wants to spend thousands of dollars on a once-in-a-lifetime purchase without actually handling the merchandise first?

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Therapy dog helps 6-year-old boy move arm again after brain surgeries

      At just the right moment, a dog named Tank gave a boy named Jack the motivation he needed to get moving again.

    2. In your face! Julia Roberts has a ball with Jimmy Fallon on 'Tonight'
    3. Pirelli Calendar to feature first-ever plus-size model
    4. Swarmed! 8 tips on best mosquito bite treatments and repellents
    5. Best ATMs ever? See how this bank surprised customers in tearjerker ad

In October 2012 Ritani, a name that has been around the wholesale jewelry business since 1999, set out to change this scenario, offering jewelry buyers the best of both worlds. The Seattle-based company has relaunched in a clicks-and-bricks format that uses strategic partnerships to keep overhead low while expanding its online and offline reach. Customers can make straightforward online purchases of necklaces, earrings and other jewelry items that are shipped directly to them. With engagement rings, however, the website also provides a platform for customers to create their own designs, which are cast by Ritani and shipped to local affiliate jewelry stores (or directly to customers), where they can be examined in person before purchase. Change your mind? No problem--there's no cost for handing the ring back to the jeweler and walking out the door. (In that case the ring is returned to Ritani and disassembled.)

"We're the first jewelry brand to bridge the online and in-store experience in [engagement rings]," says Ritani president Brian Watkins, who earned his e-commerce chops as vice president of merchandising at Seattle-based online jewelry retailer Blue Nile. With a $15 million investment by Cantor Ventures of New York, which has a controlling interest in Ritani Wholesale, the company can now offer a wide selection of ring options from Ritani's catalog as well as add other local jewelers to its network.

That network is growing, thanks to what Watkins claims is a win-win for the independent jewelers who sign on. As Ritani affiliates, jewelers receive a percentage of the purchase price for each in-store transaction and for each online transaction in their region; Watkins won't reveal the figure "for competitive reasons," but says that it's more than enough to cover staff time and related expenses.

At its relaunch, Ritani had six jeweler partners with 35 storefronts; Watkins hopes to have more than 50 affiliates nationwide in 2013.

"While no business is riskless, the fact that we're not taking on inventory, that we're offering something new, is very different from other jewelry businesses," says Cantor's director Jed Kleckner. "The main investment we're making is in technology and not inventory. That gives us opportunities to add more retailers and for our growth to be very rapid."

Sounds like the start of a beautiful marriage.

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Theo Wargo / NBC via Getty Images

    In your face! Julia Roberts has a ball with Jimmy Fallon on 'Tonight'

    8/1/2014 4:45:08 AM +00:00 2014-08-01T04:45:08
  1. Courtesy of Steve Mason

    Parents plead forgiveness for late daughter's $200K student-loan debt

    7/31/2014 7:10:12 PM +00:00 2014-07-31T19:10:12
  1. Special hospital unit in Georgia prepares for Ebola patient

    Emory University Hospital in Atlanta said it is preparing an isolation unit to receive a patient with Ebola disease "within the next several days."

    7/31/2014 9:52:34 PM +00:00 2014-07-31T21:52:34
  1. Kerry and UN announce 72-hour cease-fire in Gaza

    Civilians in Gaza will use the time to receive humanitarian relief, bury their dead, care for the injured and restock food supplies. 

    7/31/2014 9:55:08 PM +00:00 2014-07-31T21:55:08
  1. Courtesy of Tyler Doss

    Watch therapy dog help boy move arm again after brain surgeries

    8/1/2014 12:50:14 AM +00:00 2014-08-01T00:50:14