Alex and Ani's Investment Bank Approach

In less than a decade fashion jewelry retailer Alex and Ani has gone from a single store to the fastest growing retail company in the world thanks to a venture-capital mindset and investment banker approach to market evaluation. The retailer relies on a team of recent grads to identify emerging technologies and analyze the competition's market position.

As the retailer continues to expand it has its eye toward an initial public offering and is gearing up its technology and product offerings to facilitate its ambitious expansion plans.

Ryan Bonifacino, VP of digital strategy, was on hand at RIS News' 2014 Retail Tech Conference and outlined Alex and Ani's approach in a talk entitled "Innovation Enterprise: Growth and Innovation by Design." Bonifacino was brought in to build a digital program from scratch and presides over a team of recent college grads that he mentors into subject matter experts.

Each member of the team is given two companies to research in-depth — one retailer and one service provider. The team approaches its research as first-year business analysts, pouring over SEC filings, financial reports, transcripts and earnings calls to build a robust knowledge base and present their findings and recommendations for future IT deployments to the team.

The approach has paid dividends, keeping the team on the cutting-edge of retail deployments including beacon technology. Alex and Ani can boost of being the first fashion retailer to roll out iBeacon, having piloted the technology in two stores and then introducing the sensors at all 40 brick-and-mortar locations in Q3 2013.

"We were looking at beacon technology for a while," Bonifacino says. "We rolled it out right on the heels of Apple releasing iBeacon. We pride ourselves on being first even if it was accidental."

One thing that is not an accident is the brand's lightning fast growth and increasingly diverse product portfolio. The retailer specializes in women's charm bracelets, necklaces and earrings and has its eye toward home goods and a men's line of products. As the retailer continues to expand its products and physical and digital footprint an IPO is on the horizon and will likely have investors wrapped around the block to buy a piece of the world's fastest growing, investment banker influenced, retailer.