Op-Ed: Monopolies And Evil Empires

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Image: Wikipedia

‘There is no karmic law that dictates your business will succeed if others fail, so why not just wish them well and get on with it? (#Girlboss)

I have to say my piece because frankly the Evil Empire posts, Warby Parker is crap and the monopoly subject is over or at least should be over.

Let me ask you this: Do you stop ordering and funding other ‘monopoly’ companies such as: Amazon which is huge competition for eyecare professionals and Google (Near Monopoly) who controls the cyber world and where you sit on their search engine? What about Facebook/Instagram/Oculus Rift (Near Monopoly) who owns social media and has shopping. How about other near monopolies such as Netflix, Microsoft, Unilever  (over 400 companies) Anheiser-Busch (over 200 beer companies).

Evil Empire: Monsanto Owned Companies, who control almost everything you buy. Image:
Evil Empires: List of 10 companies that control almost everything you buy. Image: Natural Blaze 

Lets really talk about Evil Empires: Monsanto is a monopoly and nobody talks about them controlling our food source and killing bees and butterflies while poisoning the soil with their Neonicotinoids laden insecticides. Will you stop using Round-Up? What about Epi-Pen who jacked up their prices so much?

On another note for those going to Vision Expo West.. are you staying at any of the monopolistic Hotel? MGM owns just in Las Vegas? (Bellagio, Circus Circus, Aria, Mandarin Oriental, Vdara, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York, New York, T-Mobile Arena..)

Why is it OK to do business with any of the above and yet scream NO Fair because it is in your industry? Is it because they are successful?

First any eyewear company or rep that (I will not name names) that complains about Luxottica as evil- that does then exact same thing that Luxottica does, namely wholesale and retail products is just bitter. If an eyewear company  has brick and mortar retail store(s) or has a shopping cart on their website for consumers, they are doing the exact same thing as Luxottica, Essilor and VSP/Marchon and Safilo— Wholesaling and Retailing products. The only difference is the size of the company.

Image: Wikipedia
Image: Wikipedia

In defense of Big Boy Companies, every one of them started out a small, little independent business just like every entrepreneur. How they grew was a focussed plan of action and good leadership. Anyone can achieve the same if that is what they choose to do. It is a personal choice and a business decision.

That said, when I read intros like the following or hear the same crap on the forums.. it gets REALLY OLD and sounds ridiculous:

‘My greatest competition is, well, me’. R. Kelly

We pulled together a few examples of what we are talking about:

Via Brownie and Madam)

The insane price of frames comes from a monopoly by Luxottica, which owns most of the retail outlets in malls in the US. … researched why glasses were so expensive, and what they discovered shocked them. They found that there were three big companies that made all the glasses. These same companies also owned all the vision insurance plans, and owned all the retail stores that sold all the glasses. They also discovered that the glasses and sunglasses that had designer labels on them, weren’t actually designed by the design house. Instead, these same big companies were doing the design, and paying design houses a royalty for using their brand name.

Alpa and Nik had the epiphany that by designing their own glasses, manufacturing the products themselves, and by selling direct to Consumers, they could bypass retail and these big companies.

Brownie and Madam
Brownie and Madam

Seriously?

  • There are way over 5,000 eyewear manufacturers in the world and over 2,000 that we personally track. Therefore those three DO NOT MAKE all the glasses.
  • You took that 60 Minutes segment as the truth. Did you even research the market?
  • Yes you are right about Luxottica owning most of the eyewear/sunwear retail outlets in the mall. That can be compared to all stores in malls. Very few small independent retail businesses can afford to be in malls today. Most malls look alike with the same stores.
  • Why glasses are so expensive has nothing to do with Luxottica. You can buy frame and lens online for $8.95 from Zenni Optical. That is NOT expensive and probably the best eyewear deal a consumer can possibly get.
  • Luxottica charges what the market will bear and they need to answer to stockholders. This is called CAPITALISM. Honestly, I wish I had bought stock in Luxottica, I would be able to retire by now, KUDO’s to those that did!
  • Fortunately the consumer has MANY Choices in eyewear, unlike DRUG Companies which charge exorbitant rates for life or death solutions. Talk about insane prices, which is why people are getting their drugs in Canada and Mexico. Real Ray Bans are not ½ the price in 3rd world countries they are in the US like pharmaceuticals are.
  • If you want to talk about greed. .what about epi-pen whose price has gone up over 400% and that product saves lives unlike a pair of RayBans, which the wearer obviously has a lemming mentality.
  • The same three do not own all the Vision Plans although they do own several in the top 10 plans. They do not own Aetna and Anthem (monopoly), Cigna and Humana, Kaiser, Davis, WellPoint and Advantica. Luxottica does not own Davis Vision or Spectra.  When making statements like that…..google it first so you don’t look like an idiot. See top 1o here. 
  • So What if they do own vision plans? What difference does that make to you or the consumer? NOBODY forces a person to buy only what is in their insurance.
  • Brand Licensed Designers are very involved in Product Design and merchandising. It has to do with branding, which is omnipotent with all designers. The day ended about 30 years ago when companies just slapped a designer logo on a frame. Like all licensed products from shoes, purses, belts, sheets, paint, furniture and more the consumer will always pay the 10-40% excess cost of the licensing fee. The reason why there is ‘designer anything’ is because the consumer wants it and guess what- consumers will always buy the hype and the logo, which is why there are designer lines. Again, it is the rule of supply and demand. That is business 101.
  • Licensing is nothing new in retail and it has been going on since the first designers started licensing out their products back in 1930’s.  How do you think athletes and celebrities make most of their money? By the way.. do you really think that Shaquille O’Neil, Greg Norman, NY Yankees, Russell Westbrooke design their own eyewear? NOOOO, they rely on experts in the optical industry to produce eyewear that works and sells.
  • You are right most of the designers do not make their own eyewear, like they do not manufacture most of their licensed products. Otherwise would see a COACH Factory that made purses, shoes, watches.. that is not going to happen because it is not cost-efficient.
  • Kudos to Brownie and Madam for going exclusively after the women market setting up a program like Tupperware with home parties. Also owned by an optometrist, Dr. Shroff.

Via L’Appel who just raised over $57,000 on Kickstarter L’appel bills themselves as the first alternative to overpriced designer glasses. We also saw the exact same thing with J.First Eyewear. I wonder how many Worlds First True Alternative To Overpriced Designer Sunglasses there is?

J.First Eyewear
J. First Eyewear on Kickstarter

 

Le Apel
Le Appel

Seriously?

  • The ‘First Alternative’ to over-priced designer glasses? What does that mean? Designer as in licensed brands? Designer as a person who actually designs eyewear? Designer as a company that created a brand?
  • Do you really think you are the first? Discount ‘Designer’ glasses have been available since at least 1996 when eyeglasses.com and framedirect.com started selling eyewear on the internet at a discount.
  • Luxottica again has plenty of competition with over 5,000 manufacturers wanting piece of their business. YAWN…
  • Of all the Thousands of eyewear collections in the market, less that 400 are Licensed Brands. Licensed meaning they pay a licensing fee to a ‘designer-company’ for the use of their name. Of the top 30 ‘Clothing Designers’ in the USA, Luxottica pays licensing fees to only 3, (Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch), yet they do have 15 eyewear licenses. The rest they did it the old fashioned way, they bought the companies. (RayBan, Oakley, Persol)
  • There are hundreds of Eyewear Designers, many that are opticians in the optical industry, some that have designing eyewear for the big companies and have branched out on their own. Each can offer their own collections.

Via Jembere Eyewear

The sunglass market is overflowing with outrageously priced sunglasses, so Jembere Eyewear was created to offer an amazing product at a reasonable price. After spending many years working in the Eyewear Industry I have been able to gain experience in all facets of the sunglass world from product development, merchandising, sales and brand management. I always refused to spend the $400, $500 or more on brand name sunglasses while knowing I could offer something just as great, if not better at a much more affordable price! So I introduce Jembere Eyewear to you! have always struggled to find the right pair of sunglasses.  I’ve owned Oakley’s, Ray-Bans, and even Gucci sunglasses – all of which have been big disappointments.  Not only did my college wallet spend $$HUNDREDS on the “name brand” designs currently available, they would always disappoint me in terms of fit, and price.

Jembere Eyewear $165.00
Jembere Eyewear $165.00

Seriously? 

  • The reason why the sunglass market is overflowing with outrageously priced eyewear is because the consumer is buying them. It is called supply and demand, something I learned in the 6th grade.
  • Consumers have free choice, they don’t have to buy overpriced sunglasses. Nor do they have to succumb to peer pressure and buy name brands.
  • Of over 5,000 manufacturers most of them lie in the low to mid price range. If you were in really in the sunglass business you would know that there is millions of cheap sunglasses in the market. (44 Million results on Google)
  • Out of the 10,000 different eyewear collections, I am sorry you paid to much for a Me-Too, I- gotta- wear what they are wearing brands.

Via vibeWEAR  And SpeX Eyewear

The sunglass monopoly that Luxottica operates (which owns Ray-Ban and Oakley – it is their parent company) handles the design, manufacturing, pricing, and distribution of their branded (and EXPENSIVE) sunglasses. This results in prices that are WAY inflated, compared to the quality. When was the last time you shelled out $150 for a pair of sunglasses – only to have them break, or lose them?  Don’t you wish there was something of DESIGNER quality, without the DESIGNER price tag?

SpeX monopoly
Spex Eyewear

Seriously?

  • According to The Vision Council The average person spends something like $70 for a pair of sunglasses. Anyone that pays over $150 for a pair of quality sunglasses, may be buying due to fit, comfort, quality and performance and lenses. They may also be willing to pay for a particular logo on their face. Don’t you wish your logo had that sort of cache?
  • For those who continue to lose sunglasses, make the major investment and buy a $5.00 leash.
  • How do you know the prices are way inflated due to quality?  Have you investigated every pair? That is like saying a Lexus is way inflated, because it is only a Toyota.
  • Eyewear is like shoes.. do you really need a pair of $1000 Manolo Blahnik shoes? Of course not.. yet people buy it all day long.
  • Like all products in the market, there are varying degrees of quality and prices. Think Kia vs Maybach, Think Cost-Co jeans vs 7 for Mankind, think Wal-Mart vs Neiman Marcus. Each appeals to a certain type of person wants and needs. Who are we to judge their pocketbook?
  • Lastly, are you still in business?
Vibejpg
Vibewear

Via Enclave Eyewear; Give them a hand, they raised over $181,000 on Kickstarter and another $42,000 on Indiegogo.

....I also disliked that a few large powerhouses are running a sunglass monopoly and overcharging for glasses that really aren’t made that well. For example, Ray Ban, Oakley, and SunglassHut are actually owned by the same parent company, Luxottica, that controls the design, manufacturing, pricing, and distribution of their branded sunglasses. This results in prices disproportionate to quality.

Two years ago we started Enclave Eyewear with the simple goal of offering polarized sunglasses made from unique materials. The idea was to expose the sunglass industry and create a pair of sunglasses that rivaled the high end frames without the brand inflation. What we didn’t realize at the time was just how monopolized the industry is and how difficult it is to convince a reputable manufacturer to work with such a small company….one end of the spectrum you have a few powerhouses that own nearly every big sunglass brand (see: Luxottica and Sticker Shock). They create an illusion of competition and prices disproportionate to quality.

Enclave Eyewear $45.00
Enclave Eyewear $45.00

Seriously?

  • What are the unique materials that Enclave is made of? If you are speaking of Unique Materials… tell us what they are.
  • Be more specific when you are talking about not made that well. What does that mean? Are the lenses bad, the frames falling apart, not keeping their shape? Hinge design?
  • Expose the Sunglass Industry? Expose what? Expose the fact that cheap sunglasses don’t hold their UV? Expose the fact that most people do not have style and only want what others have? (Crowd mentality)
  • So what if Luxottica designs, manufacturers their own branded sunglasses? They bought the companies and re-created the brands and spent a fortune doing that to drive the business… Did I say they have been in the eyewear manufacturing business for over 50 years? Of course they make their own eyewear.
  • Whether they are made well is up to the wearer and most could not tell you if a frame was made well or not. The average consumer does not care about quality. Why else do they shop at Target and Wal-Mart?
  • Finding a reputable manufacturer to make your eyewear: If you had asked me I could have given you 50 reputable companies that will do private label at a good price and excellent quality.
  • As an FYI here are a few of the Sunglass Brands that are not owned by ‘Powerhouses’ (Luxottica, Essilor, Marchon, Safilo): Spy, WileyX , VonZipper, Kurtis, Kaenon, Electric California, Ryders, Bobsters, Gatorz, Giro, Maui Jim, Zeal, Native, Randolph Engineering, Dick Moby, Freeway Eyewear, Julbo, Vuarnet, Body Specs, 7-Eye, Solar Bat, Guard Dogs, Shred Optics, Dirty Dog, Perv Eyewear, Mako Eyewear, Anon Optics, Rudy Project, Recon, Schedyn, Bomber, Ashbury, Filtrate, Raen, Foxhead, Vestal. That is only a few independent sunglasses companies. Add in another 5,000 eyewear companies that offer sunglasses…. in actuality the ‘Powerhouses’ are in the minority with sunglass designs.

Via SEA2SEA:

That’s why we have created SEA2SEE Eyewear, a stylish, hip product made from upcycled fishnets collected in ports of Spain; a product that can be seen, that anybody can buy and wear with pride, because more than just a product, it is also a statement of change made by people that wear them.

SEA2SEE has also been created to disrupt a contaminating eyewear industry in which circular economy and sustainability is almost inexistent and monopolistic pricing policies reign.

Via Glade Eyewear: OUR MISSION

Glade was born out of our frustration with paying huge markups for gear season after season. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the industry is dominated by a small number of brands who use their outsized influence on the market to inflate prices. Enter Glade: by avoiding conventional retail avenues we can deliver a product we believe in at a fair price.

 

Stop the Eyecare Monopoly On Indiegogo, (no funds raised)

We plan to cater to seniors who are routinely pilfered by the larger establishments. The establishments usually make huge profits while paying their employees close to nothing. “The markup for eyeglass frames and lenses are around 100-500%” One of the first things I did was to look at the Eyemed website. Here are a few little gems I discovered. This quote is from the Provider Resources page on their site:http://www.eyemedvisioncare.com/provrec/benefits.html

“…EyeMed is committed to supporting your ability to profitably prescribe to your patients needs and wants,…” EyeMed is owned fully by Luxottica. Yes, they are owned by Luxottica—the Italian eyeglass manufacturer. This corporation manufactures many of the major brands of eyeglasses in the world, including Ray Ban, Bvlgari, Burberry, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, Prada, Versace and Polo Ralph Lauren. A complete listing is here: http://annual-report-2006.luxottica.com/marchi_en.asp

Seriously? 

  • If the guy spent as much time fundraising or getting a 2nd job, he might have been able to open his own business. No business plan?
  • Cater to seniors… who get pilfered? Are those the self-same seniors who are taking expensive cruises? Buying luxury goods?
  • Luxottica does not own the major brands.
  • Pilfered? Pilfered as in stolen? Who stole what?

Via Barring Eyewear 

There are two basic goals of our company: reduce the cost of high-price sunglasses in the monopolized sunglasses industry and raise funding for cancer research,” Hwang, the company’s chief designer, said. “Transparency, fair price[s] and do[ing] the right thing are the main ideas that govern the company.”

Barring Eyewear $215.00
Barring Eyewear $215.00

Seriously? 

  • We applaud the give back model and hopefully they keep it up. But as an FYI, the monopolies are some of the the largest supporters of vision charities. Luxottica, Essilor, Safilo and Marchon all have give-back programs.

Via Fello Eyewear Why does the industry need to be changed?  Fello ran two campaigns on both Indiegogo ($35,353) and Kickstarter ($18,880) with the tagline luxury or premium doesn’t have to be expensive.

With over 60 years of experience, we are tired of BIG CORPORATIONS that monopolize the industry and take advantage of you, the consumer. They own the designer brands, majority of retail optical shops, and the vision insurance companies that are only accepted at their stores. They have been able to “mark up” eyeglasses and sunglasses with almost “no limits” while frame quality has suffered. Luxottica owns 80% of the market and artificially raises the price without giving any additional benefits. By cutting out the middleman Fello is able to…: (Indiegogo)

Fello Eyewear
Fello Eyewear

Seriously?

  • If you are speaking of 60 years of optical experience, why didn’t you support the 2000+ small independent eyewear wholesalers? If you did, you wouldn’t be tired of BIG Corporations.
  • How did they take advantage of the consumer? The consumer doesn’t have to buy from them, so how did they take advantage?
  • Like all businesses in a democratic, fair trade way, you have a choice to take insurance or not take insurance. If you didn’t take insurance and built up a clientele without insurance you would not be bitching about it.
  • ‘They’ do not own the majority of the retail optical shops. There are plenty of independent eyecare providers in every zip code that are more than willing to help the consumer. According to Luxottica they own 7200 stores in the world. In the US alone there are over 4,000 eyecare offices.
  • STOP with the price bit.. it gets old.
  • Yawn

Via NY Glass

Few people know that most designer eyewear is made and sold by a giant corporation called Luxottica. Ray-Ban, Oakley, Oliver Peoples, and most other designer brands are made by Luxottica, which also owns major retail outlets like Sunglass Hut, LensCrafters, and Pearle Vision. Luxottica has created the illusion of variety, cornered the eyewear market, and artificially inflated prices.

Seriously?

  • Variety? The consumer thinks that wearing an Aviator is high fashion. Due to that every eyewear company offers aviators and retro frames. Due to supply and demand eyewear companies produce what the consumer buys.. ergo not a lot of variety.
  • Many Licensed eyewear designers and Eyewear Designers do come up with unique frames, unusual colors, intricate shapes and innovative materials. Some are bought through retailers and online. Fakoshima, Gentle Monster, Anna Karin-Kaarlson, Jeremy Scott, Moschino, Mercura, Coco and Breezy, A-Morir, Dolce and Gabbana, Tipton Eyeworks, Coco Song, Lucas de Stael, Ottica Urbani, Catuma, to name a few.

Eponynm

Last Words:

Optician Magazine dated 26th Feb 2016, Luxottica claims they actually manufacture less than 10% of market volume.  It said data provided by market research firm Euromonitor International showed that of the 954 million frames produced worldwide in 2015, 93 million were manufactured by Luxottica – less than 10% of market volumes. (Source  Quora)

We have to ask ourselves why we put down successful companies and people? Why not learn from them instead of complaining about their success.

The Future is theirs to write, not yours. (#GirlBoss)

 

 

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