November 7, 2001
When many consumers think of buying luxury goods or jewelry online, they go to Ashford.com. Thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign and deep-discount promotions when the site started up, many online consumers recognize the name. The deep-discount days have passed, however, and Ashford.com is back to retail reality. It was acquired recently by Global Sports Inc., and it even expects to have its first profitable quarter soon.
The site has evolved to include a well-rounded selection of luxury goods including watches, diamonds, jewelry, home decor, pens, arts & crafts, fragrances, sunglasses, handbags & accessories, men's items and corporate gifts. The jewelry section is large and includes rare and exceptional jewelry and a design-your-own ring feature. The site, however, is a bit crowded. It has so much to offer it can be overwhelming.
Shoppers who know what they want when visiting Ashford.com should find it easily. The site is set up with a set of main categories and each has a set of subcategories. In the jewelry section, shoppers can browse loose diamonds, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings or can search by specifying the product type, material and brand or designer. However, shoppers unsure of what they want or who can't quite think of the right gift may have a harder time at Ashford.com. Because there are so many parts to the site, it can be hard to decide where to start. The site has a Gift Center, which it recently promoted in an e-mail to its shoppers, but it's nothing spectacular. The Holiday Shop offers a variety of holiday related items such as ornaments and other decorations. The Gift Center offers gift ideas for him, for her, for anniversaries and for weddings, but it's very basic. Other jewelry sites offer more personalized gift ideas based on hobbies, interests and personal style.
The individual product pages at Ashford.com are better than most. Each product page includes an extra-large product image and an informative description with links to more information about such subjects as clasp descriptions for watches and diamond and gemstone enhancements for jewelry. The product pages also include warranty information and product availability and show companion products.
Overall, Ashford.com is better than most online jewelry stores. The pages load quickly, the product information is plentiful and the selection is extensive. There's enough customer service information, and Ashford even offers credit accounts for customers.
- by Julia M. Duncan