In the optical business since 1969, Marvin Freeman took a chance when, on the invitation of a friend, he moved to Las Vegas in 1992 to open Davante, a high-end optical boutique in the newly created Forum Shops. Freeman was one of more than 25 optical retailers applying for a space in the upscale theme mall adjacent to Caesars Palace hotel and the only one accepted. “At that point there was no retail atmosphere in Vegas. People had money from gambling, but nowhere to spend it,” Freeman notes. HIS gamble paid off many times over.
The retailer now has 11 stores, with eight in Las Vegas, including one in the new 175,000 square-foot, three-level Caesars Forum expansion. The expansion includes an array of upscale specialty retail shops and restaurants and one of only two spiral escalators in the U.S. With prime frontage on Las Vegas Boulevard, the new space is already one of the highest yielding retail areas in North America. Davante is sharing in that success. After only six months in business, it became Freeman’s number one store in sales, passing the boutique in the Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes. And fortunately, the original Caesars Forum shop has not been adversely affected. It, in fact, has shown a slight increase in sales in the past year. Freeman attributes this to the fact the original store was converted into a sunglass-only shop.
What’s special about the new store—in addition to its spectacular location next to Joe’s Stone Crab, the legendary Miami Beach restaurant—is at 1,700 square feet, it’s the largest of Freeman’s Las Vegas stores. “What customers like about this store is there is more space. They can walk around and look. We can pull out eight or nine frames at a time. It’s also the most expensive store we ever designed with such extras as tiles imported directly from Italy,” the retailer says. Another distinguishing characterize is it was the first of the stores to have customized, supplier-identified cases built for individual vendors. Featured in these cabinets are Cartier, Chanel, Fendi, Oliver Peoples and Tag Heuer. Three of the collections have their own video playing in the case. In addition to these collections, the store displays frames from 33 vendors for a total of 3,000 pieces. Lines range from Oakley to Judith Leiber, Bulgari, Ferre, Missoni, Christian Roth, Mikli, Retrospecs, Kieselstein-Cord and Kirk Originals. All frames are on display and there are no duplicates. “We encourage customers to buy what they like because it might not be there tomorrow. This works well with the tourist mentality,” Freeman explains. “Of course, because we have so many stores, we can always get a back-up style from another location if needed.” The average price for a purchase in the new store is $350 with prices going to $26,000 for a Cartier frame with diamonds. The best-selling collection is Chanel. “We sell 200 Chanels a month at the new location alone,” he notes.
Sixty percent of the customers are local and 40 percent are tourists, the retailer says, in large part because “we stopped doing an Rx business in the other Forum location. After 13 years, we had gathered quite a customer base, who are now coming to our new shop.” In contrast, his two shops at the Venetian Hotel have an 80 to 85 percent tourist-based clientele.
In addition to providing a wide variety of products, Davante offers extensive customer service, including long business hours. The new store is open from 10 a.m. to midnight 365 days a year. Davante also has its own lab located at its corporate headquarters in Las Vegas. “We do a lot of
custom work on temples, including diamond placements, and a lot of custom nosepads,” Freeman says. “We will even buy discontinued frames at our expense in order to provide replacement parts for our customers. We also do same-day progressive lenses for customers if they are leaving town that day.” The lab additionally does many tints, creating exclusive colors, and polarization, a business that is big and still growing, he notes.
For all of his stores, Freeman uses the same approach. “We dazzle our customers with variety to show them what the optical world has to offer,” he says. “And we tell each and every customer the face is the first thing people look at. It’s not the shoes or the handbag or other accessories. It’s the face, the eyes and logically the eyewear. It is Davante’s mission to make each and every face look special.” n