Long ago in shopping centers far away a man named Marvin Freeman disrupted the optical industry by starting a successful luxury and exclusive optical chain called Optica. Optica at that time was instrumental in introducing Luxury Eyewear to the mainstream consumer. He was one of the first chain eyewear retailers to introduce full page ads in local magazines. In California, Optica helped lead the trend to faceted frames in the early 1980’s. In another venture Marvin started Davante a high end retail chain in Las Vegas, he then sold to Luxury Optical Holdings. Marvin Freeman proved to us that luxury and exclusive eyewear have a big place in the market in a larger scale.
Marvin Freeman may also prove to us that sometimes going back is really going forward. In another back-forward step, he opened up a luxury optical shop in South Coast Plaza. His new store concept called Vitra Eyewear (meaning vision in latin) is re-introducing the in store surfacing lab concept. The full hi-tech full service lab is in the front of the store for all to see and enjoy.
Those of us that have been in the optical industry, think back to the original Lenscrafters, all which offered Glasses In An Hour and you could watch your glasses being made. What a disruption that was to our industry, similar to what Warby Parker has done today.
- Niche and Luxury product will never go out of style and opportunities will continue in this arena.
- Adding a extra special touch such as an in-house lab that is open to the public, sets one apart from the competition, engages and entertains the consumer= customer service.
- In house labs are where it’s at. Don’t hide it in the back room.. let people know you provide that service.
- Insurance is not a priority. The priority is 1.) Top Notch quality, exclusive product 2.) Customer Service by well trained, ABO certified opticians 3.) Customization of eyewear and lenses 4.) Use of technology such as 3D and Augmented Reality for better customer satisfaction.
- Marketing includes more that the visualization of lenses. Monthly Trunk Shows are listed on the website.
- Join the Vitra Family encourages email gathering as well as building a community.
- You are never too old to re-start or re-invent yourself. How many times have you said ‘I’m too old for this?’ That take sentence and throw it into the trash.
- Re-look at the past and what has been successful, that maybe you can update to revitalize the office?
Based upon experience, I would predict what will happen in Orange County:
- Eyecare Retailers will start getting feedback about the lab from their patients about Vitra.
- Eyecare Retailers will start getting consumer requests for some of the luxury products from Vitra.
- Vitra will open new locations (ala Optical Shop of Aspen and Davante’s) in strategic areas.