2017 was a year of many changes in the optical industry. Essilor merged with Luxottica, Hoya bought to bought VisionEase Lens, 3M Safety and got into the 3D eyewear arena. Hilco acquireded, Jonathan Paul Eyewear and Croakies. LVHM bought of 10% Marcolin setting up their own design and manufacturing and invested in Gentle Monster. (Source) Kering continues to grow with manufacturing and luxury lines such as Cartier. The list of buy-outs and acquisitions continued to grow.
Warby Parker grew to over 45 locations and ‘Franchise’ groups are growing, other groups such as Acuity have been created.
Many eyewear companies particularly luxury eyewear sector have adopted the D2C business model opening up multiple locations in Asia and the USA. That means your best selling eyewear might be your competition. In fact the The Direct to Consumer (D2C) is expected to be $2.8 billion of the total $136 Billion. That is up 8% from 2016.
New eyewear niches have opened up: 3D, Smart Glasses, Blue Light lenses, Funky- Club wear, DIY wear, steampunk, Bespoke and custom eyewear. Even jewelers have gotten into the eyewear game. A few new ‘Re0launches’ of several Heritage eye-conic eyewear brands and vintage eyewear is on the upswing. So many new niche markets have opened up: Eco Friendly, Local, sports categories, including swim masks, unusual materials all catering to specific clientele and marketing opportunities.
Traditional optical shops opening their own lines: Eyetique (Norman Childs Eyewear) Silver Lining Opticians (NY) Every designer or celebrity is putting their name on branded sunglasses. Eyewear and Lens companies are going global. Add in Amazon, Zappos, Shop Bop (both owned by Amazon, 1stDibs, Gilt, Far Fetch.
Online refractions and mobile such Eye Netra and Opternative continue to grow despite the AOA warnings.
The one continuous refrain we hear is ‘we want to change the optical industry, ‘honest pricing’, get rid of the middleman.. one company owns the industry…. yada yada..
What is a brick and mortar eyecare professional to do? Is the sky really falling? We say NO.. the market is huge and as long eyewear and sunglass continue to be multi-functional there will always be a place for brick and mortar eyecare professionals. What ECP’s need to do is realize they are their own competition and their own worst enemy.
As the eyecare business continues to evolve use your competition to help make you work smarter not harder.
- Continue to hone your customer service.
- Evaluate each product that you offer 2x a year to see if it continues to work and be profitable for you.
- Look at new category of business: Neutraceuticals, Dry Eye, Kids, funky, medical and see how you can grow each of those aspects of business.
- Become a specialists in something.
- Evaluate your online business or consider putting up an online business, this could just be a convenience factor or could but into something viable.
- Evaluate your Social Media marketing: If you do not have time for all, just focus on one social media platform and make that work.
- Continue to hire and educate all staff, even if they are ABO opticians. Never stop learning, that goes from the part timer and the owner of the store.
- Get your SOS (Standard Operating Systems) down pat. Organize to make doing business with you as simple and easy as possible.
- Refine your business tracking. Know where and what you are making money from. Know your Profit and Loss statements.
- Meet with your sales reps in all sectors, listen to what they say are trends and get ideas from them.
- Be creative, be fun and dare to make a change.
That said, there are many opportunities out there for the independent eyecare professionals. It is easy to get distracted by negativity, by doomsayers and reading about the competition. The true reality is there is plenty of room for growth and for the indie eyecare professional.
Take a step back, open your eyes, start looking at your competition and figure how they did it and their weak points and go from there .