Interview With Lightbox CEO Antoine Borde – JCK

De Beers’ lab-grown diamond model, Lightbox Jewellery, exhibited on the JCK present in Las Vegas for the primary time this yr—in, we must always notice, the lab-grown part. Antoine Borde, the veteran marketer who was appointed Lightbox CEO final November, spoke to us from its candy-colored sales space about Lightbox’s retail technique, if it’s going to ever promote for underneath $800 a carat, and the opportunity of including engagement rings to its assortment.

Lightbox simply debuted a “concept store” at Home of Showfields in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which might be open by November. Why that location?

For us, Showfields is a method to join on to customers. We’re a direct-to-consumer model. We did a couple of pop-ups once we launched Lightbox.

For six months, [the store gives us] the power to work together with customers. Showfields is a superb place to try this as a result of they provide us plenty of analysis capabilities. I wish to study from customers what’s their notion of Lightbox, what’s the notion on the vary of merchandise, and get insights on what the model might develop by way of merchandise. The Showfields location in Brooklyn is a approach for us to be in an space that’s up-and-trending, with a youthful demographics, which is in keeping with our goal customers.

Lightbox’s new store in Brooklyn

What’s the subsequent step for the model so far as retail? Do you count on extra brick-and-mortar shops?

Immediately we’re current in round 160 doorways within the U.S. We are going to pursue that. We’re very selective within the doorways we go in. [Having] our personal retail house for now just isn’t determined. This might be a great check and a studying expertise for us. In terms of the model, we want customers’ needs to be at our core. Customers now have far more understanding of what lab-grown diamonds are, so they’re being extra proactive in what they count on by way of merchandise. Self-gifting is a high-trending space the place we have to make investments much more. It’s listening to the patron and ensuring we’re the place we ought to be. That’s the place the advertising background I carry might be an essential part.

I discover that some worth factors at Showfields go as excessive as $3,700. Lightbox has at all times mentioned it’s not a luxurious model. For many customers, $3,700 is severe cash.

Now we have at all times been very constant in the way in which the model has been positioned, by way of worth, by way of communications, by way of merchandise. The vary is increasing because the model is rising. Our portfolio now goes from $250 to $3,700, so the vary is sort of huge, which permits customers to search out the merchandise that they need. The patron tends to go extra towards higher-carat stones, so meaning increased worth factors. We’re increasing in each methods, so now we have stud earrings for $3,700 and we simply launched new rings for $500. We’re increasing on each ends, with a view to have a wider vary, with wider choices for customers.

As you already know, there loads of direct-to-consumer lab-grown web sites. I might most likely identify seven off the highest of my head. How do you stand aside from them?

Now we have two areas the place I believe now we have a really robust aggressive benefit. [First is] the standard of our merchandise—having the fitting requirements and the correct merchandise. The second is round carbon neutrality. This is a crucial message. The carbon-neutral certification that we just received covers a really huge scope. We all know plenty of customers are very delicate to that.

Lightbox has finished some private-label offers. Do you propose to do extra?

We’re open to extra collaborations. We wish to ensure that the manufacturers that we collaborate with have the identical requirements as now we have, by way of positioning, by way of branding, by way of carbon neutrality. So that is one thing we’re nonetheless open to with a couple of manufacturers. Now we have two manufacturers we’re working with, and we’re very open to proceed working with different manufacturers from a white-label perspective.

De Beers is a pure diamond firm. Do you suppose Lightbox will ever be a big a part of its gross sales?

That’s going to be the pushed by the market. Lightbox was a really early participant within the recreation. Now we have set the usual for the business. We wish to proceed to set the usual for the business.

Lightbox is an important enterprise for De Beers. It’s a unique enterprise than the pure enterprise. We see a market that’s growing extraordinarily quick. We’re following that pattern. I don’t know the place lab-grown diamond goes to go. I envision the lab-grown diamond business being extra diversified within the nature of the product, within the nature of the shapes we carry, within the nature of the colour of stones we carry. There may very well be far more variety round that, through the use of lab-grown diamonds another way than they’re used in the present day.

Lightbox exhibit booth
Lightbox sales space on the JCK present in Las Vegas

Would you do extra colours and completely different sorts of surprising shapes?

Shade-wise, I might solely do it if we do it in the fitting approach. Once you take a look at our pinks, our blues, they’re very pure. In the event that they don’t look pure, I don’t wish to do it. They must look proper.

Shapes, I really feel there may very well be excessive potential. After all there’s the usual shapes—we’re launching ovals, we’re launching cushion cuts, we’re launching princess cuts, now we have plenty of new shapes coming. I might like to have shapes which have by no means been finished earlier than. That is what LGD can permit us to do. You’ll be able to have larger stones, and you may form them in no matter approach you need. I actually really feel there’s a huge alternative to carry this sort of newness, and a extra enjoyable type of fashionable product.

You might be recognized to your $800-a-carat pricing—do you see that dropping?

Our pricing has been constant from the beginning. Within the [lab-grown] market, retail costs have been taking place. However I’m fairly assured that now we have been constant and really logical in the way in which we talk, and really clear round how our merchandise are priced and the way our merchandise are grown. That’s a part of the DNA of the model, and we wish to preserve that. So no additional remark than that.

Lightbox makes diamonds in Oregon. Most lab-grown diamond manufacturing is transferring to India and China. Any likelihood your organization might be transferring?

Once more, I come again to the carbon neutrality. For us, having 100% renewable inexperienced vitality that may be very steady and high-quality just isn’t one thing that you simply discover simply exterior the U.S. That is one thing that can stay. We all know there may be plenty of capability coming from India. I don’t know what the longer term holds, however the plan for now could be to develop at our Oregon facility.

What number of carats are you producing?

Round 200,000 carats a yr.

Most of these go to Lightbox?

Sure. We are able to develop extra, as a result of now we have the house. So now we have the power to increase.

You don’t promote engagement rings now. Would you sooner or later?

It’s a matter of listening to the patron. Now we have plenty of customers who ask, “When are you going to promote engagement rings?” By the way in which, our free stone enterprise has finished very properly. It’s attainable these stones is likely to be used for one thing exterior of Lightbox. I can’t reply exactly this query, however for now we don’t have [engagement rings] in our vary. However that’s a really, very constant message [we are getting]. We’re targeted on listening to our customers, as a result of on the finish of the day it’s essential to reply to their calls for.

How do Lightbox customers view pure diamonds?

I don’t have any perception on that. The customers that come to Lightbox come for our product, they arrive to Lightbox for our design. They don’t come to Lightbox as a result of they see us as an alternative choice to pure diamonds.

They’re two parallel industries, and two parallel merchandise. I don’t see them as competing. Self-gifting is an instance: You should purchase sure merchandise for a big different or a pal or a member of the family that you simply wouldn’t purchase for your self.

You’ll be able to have comparable merchandise in the identical class, however for various events and completely different functions. After I was at L’Oréal, we carried a number of completely different manufacturers of make-up. We carried $15 mascara, and we had mascara for $80. You wore the $80 mascara while you went out for sure events; you utilize the $15 mascara while you exit daily. You’ll be able to have a pure diamond and LGDs in your jewellery case, however you’ll use them for various events and other ways.

Does being related to a pure diamond firm like De Beers restrict what you are able to do?

I haven’t seen any limitation to date. I attempt to carry plenty of new concepts, newness, and a brand new dynamic to the model, and I’m being inspired to try this. [De Beers’] new CEO may be very connected to that. He needs Lightbox to proceed its trajectory. From the beginning, the model has had a really recent DNA, very fashionable.

We’re a part of the De Beers household. After all De Beers provides us help, but it surely’s not one thing that places any burden on us.

One other view of the Lightbox sales space

(Photographs courtesy of Lightbox Jewellery)