Why Warby Parker Will Outsell Your Business, And Why You Can’t Compete With Them


CornealiaWow. Bold statement, isn’t it? Yep. And it’s 100% true. Or, at least, for some of you it is true. I sit here, in my virtual avatar world, and watch the moaning of the optical masses in regard to WP and ‘what it’s doing’ to the optical industry.  It puts me in mind of Chicken Little, actually.  ‘The sky is falling’-that Chicken Little.  I was raised by a rabid group of opticians, optometrists, and one ophthalmologist we could never seem to keep a lab coat on.  I’ve heard this same ‘woe is me’ attitude time and time again.  1 hour eyewear, Walmart and Costco selling eyewear,  contact lenses online, LASIK/LASEK, before that RK, they ALL were going to usher in the end of the world, optically speaking, according to the moaners and complainers.

But…we’re still here. Huh. Funny, isn’t it.

So, now it’s WP.  Do those of you who bemoan WP know anything about the company? How it started, what its premise is, business model, etc? Wait…what’s that? Yeah…silence, from most of you.

Warby Parker was started by some guys while still at Wharton School of Business in the amazingly brilliant “Venture Initiation Program”.  These dudes received $2,500 (lemme spell that out for you-two thousand five hundred dollars) to launch WP.  These regular guys-albeit with business/marketing degrees-then proceeded to get their company on vogue.com and featured in GQ, which called WP the “Netflix of eyewear”. THAT’S marketing, folks.  But they didn’t stop there.  No, they went on to hold not one, not two, but three separate ‘rounds’ of fundraising.  They’ve doubled their employees in ONE YEAR, 60 in 2012 to 113 in 2013. Sold over 100k pair of glasses last year, and have donated over 500,000 pair of eyewear through their ‘buy a pair, give a pair’ program. Again, brilliant marketing, assuaging the guilt over eyewear gluttony by gifting to those less fortunate.

So, why would you even begin to moan about this company? Yes, they are taking sales online. Ok, I get that. You might lose a few customers (which brings into question if they are lost, were they truly great customers to begin with?) to WP and its competitors.  Oh, no. Woe is you.

For a group that is supposed to help others see better, you are not seeing the ramifications of this with any clarity whatsoever.  You are so busy looking up at the sky to see if it truly is falling to notice the diamonds you are walking past on the ground.

Diamonds, you ask? Yes. Warby Parker, first of all, is bringing the concept of ‘fashion’ and having more than one pair of glasses, and slamming the buying public in the head with it, then bashing them a few more times with the idea that it’s ok to try something more retro or fashion forward.  And they wrap up the whole ‘go ahead, get another pair or two or three’ with the feel-good of giving a pair to the needy for each pair the public buys.

Are you learning anything yet?

Secondly.  WP   is NOT going to take away your business to the point you have to close your doors. If that was the case, there would be no clothing stores, electronics stores, or even grocery stores, since all of these things are readily available online.  As a matter of fact, the largest online clothing retailers still own less than 1% of the entire online clothing business.  So, stop whining. Start thinking about how you can market yourself to those who, for whatever reason, HAVE gone the WP route, or thought about it.

Rather than cry into your ultrasonic cleaner, why not study the marketing plan WP has instituted and learn something from it?  Use the strategies they have implemented, that you feel are applicable, and apply them to your business.

  1. 1. Offer a day per month through your social media pages to adjust and verify online eyewear purchases, and a discount for those who want to ‘trade them in’ for better quality glasses-with donation of the online eyewear to Lion’s Club or Project Homeless.
  2. 2. Put in an ‘altruistic’ line, for instance 141, Eyes of Faith, or even Paws&Claws, and use the gifting/donation aspect to assuage the guilt and get that second pair sale.
  3. 3. If someone wants to buy online, let them go!  Explain the value of purchasing at your practice, but if they are adamant, ask them to return once they’ve purchased their eyewear for you to verify the glasses.  This makes YOU the expert, not the online company, and validates your claim to being the better choice.  Very few will have a great experience online, and many will come back.  Those that don’t, well, I guess they weren’t loyal anyway, were they?

And, like all those other ‘sky is falling’ moments that the optical world has gone through in the past, we will all still be here when the dust has settled.  Your choice is if you are going to be standing successfully picking up the diamonds of marketing lessons WP is showing you, or if you will continue to stare at the sky waiting for it to fall until you realize the only thing that’s fallen is your business.

Cornealia Edema is a feral optician and sometimes writer.  She lives with an assortment of eye world people in a commune somewhere in the Midwest, where they heat the house through  panels of recycled high plus lenses, and grow their own cotton to make acetate frames with. She can be reached at cornealiaedema@gmail.com –she checks her email once a week when she goes into the local town to purchase the commune’s weekly supply of alcohol, ammunition, and tobacco. 


Kala Mid Page


  1. Finally! An article that states the facts and doesn’t mince words! I don’t understand why people are afraid of change and the success of others. Great article!

  2. Great article!
    Can Cornealia Edema tell us the if it actually happened, when it happened and where the donated 500,000 pair of eyewear went to? It could be a full time job just finding those 500,000 less fortunate and getting the free eyewear to them with 500,000 different pairs of Rx lenses. Of course since Warby Parker was started by some guys while still at Wharton School of Business, they have (will?) apply their business education to work out those details.

  3. I think they are going through New Eyes For The Needy, which all they have to do is send the product to them, who then does the distribution. Is it smoke and mirrors? Who knows?

  4. Frances. I agree. Interestingly, when I see some idea or proposition that IIS whew and working, I say…….”why not me ” ……or , how can I learn.

    WP was not the first, nor will it be the last online seller of eyewear. They created a plan, and executed brilliantly ( first three years ). , and we all ca learn.

    The market is big. Where is your piece ?

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