Features: Accessories


All Eyes on Accessories

Photos by Nedjeljko Matura

Clockwise from chain on top left:
Tiger Necklace/Retainer from CINZIA/Division of Europa International;
Readers Plus Gazelle from Rem Eyewear;
Milan 25D10, black cord with gold and silver pendant, from SHERRY WOLF;
Danglers, eyeglass holder/pin with hidden magnetic loop, from Hilco;
MEGASPECS Hollywood Giraffe from
Corinne McCormack

By Lauren Siegel

Never underestimate the buying power of today’s fashion-conscious consumer. Increasingly for that shopper, eyewear is the ultimate accessory and accessories are the ultimate necessity. Not only do accessories help complete a look, they can also round out a sale. Accessories such as eyeglass chains, cases, readers, sports cords and increasingly, jewelry, handbags and even clothing are more then mere eye candy. Retailers across the country have learned accessories help increase both foot traffic and per-customer sales.

Sharon Katzman, owner of Ioptics, an upscale eyewear boutique in Sarasota, Fla. knows the importance of accessories in this competitive marketplace. In addition to typical eyeglass accessories, Katzman carries everything from household items to credit-card readers to feng shui bracelets to e-shave for men. “I want to make the mix more exciting,” she says. I want my store to be more fun so that a customer can come in and spend anywhere from $20 to $1,000.”

The merchandising-savvy Katzman creates this excitement by displaying her frames together with accessories, sometimes using kitchen items as props. She even has a kitchen in the store where she displays Alessi housewares and Kartell furniture. Whenever new customers come in, she gives them a complete tour of the store.

Clockwise from retainer on top left: Suiters, cotton tie dye retainer
for larger frames, from CROAKIES; Floateyes Pro, floatable retainer from Elite Eyewear; Natural Eyes Lens Cleaning Kit from Quality Accessories; Shield Lens Cleaner with alcohol-free AR formula from Hilco; Micro Clean Lens Cleaner Kit from OptiSource International; Goggleskin, retainer for dive masks and ski goggles, from HIDES/ Division of Suncepts

Most of Katzman’s ideas about accessories come from attending both gift and eyewear shows. Unlike many retailers, Katzman spends much of her time on the main floors of gift shows because that is where she finds the newest products such as her most recent discovery, decorative eyeglass plates that are used to hold eyewear. “I go down to the main floor,” she says. “The new people can’t afford to be up in the gallery.”

Katzman knows the time and effort spent seeking out interesting and innovative accessories pays off. Her customers expect to find them when they come to her store and as a result over 20 percent of her business is generated from accessories sales.

In historic Leesburg, Va., Paige Buszema, owner of Eyetopia, Inc., an accessories boutique and eyewear store, says simply, “It’s all about accessories.”  She believes eyeglasses and fashion accessories work together. “You get a fun, funky pair of frames that makes you express your personality and suddenly you are picking out a handbag and changing your wardrobe,” she says.

In addition to its collection of frames, Eyetopia is known for its eyewear and fashion accessories such as vintage handbags. “Most people come in for glasses and then say, ‘Wow, look at those accessories,’” Buszema says. It’s hard to miss them when there is a chandelier hanging from the ceiling in the center of the store, covered with eyewear accessories such as eyeglass chains and readers.

Like many optical practices, the doctors in the optometric practice of Ralph Swetlow, OD, located in Baily’s Crossroads, Va. have expanded their accessory collections over the last five years. Bonnie Mowlana, senior optician says, “The three doctors have become more open-minded. The retail environment is not quite as rigid now and the doctors are surprised with how much money they can make by selling accessories.” 

Dr. Swetlow’s office carries chains, cases, Austrian crystal frames, watches, bracelets, pins, necklaces and earrings. Mowlana is most proud of her “la lunettes,” decorative chains adorned with beads and a plastic magnifier on the end, that can cost as much as $200. “These la lunettes are beautiful display pieces,” she says.  “Even though they are expensive, they are very effective at drawing attention to the cases.”

Like Mowlana, Jon Martinez, director of public relations for Morgenthal-Frederics, an optical boutique chain based in New York, believes in giving customers many different choices. “When people walk into the store and don’t want to purchase a frame, they have an option,” he explains.
Some of the products customers can choose from include letter openers with a magnifier on the end, data books, wallets or leather portfolios. Accessories like these account for up to 15 percent of the store’s sales.

Clockwise from top: Handbag/Case M10055L with shoulder strap from SAX NORTH ATLANTIC SERVICES; Handbag/Case 303-999 with bow from CALIFORNIA OPTICAL;
Handbag/Case SR-1310TM with buckle from ASTUCCI US

But, to Martinez, selling accessories is about more than increasing the bottom line. “Accessories support what we do with the eyewear,” he notes. “It’s all about branding and function.” In fact, most of the leather goods the store sells carry the Morgenthal-Frederics’ logo. “It’s a complete package,” he says. “There is branding from the eyewear to the accessories.”

“Accessories, like glasses, should inspire people,” says Toni Blackman, a consultant at Selima Optique, a boutique with shops in New York, Los Angeles and Paris. If the hats with glasses on them or vintage designer bags don’t inspire customers, then surely the adult powerHouse books, a series of books on avant-guarde photography, art and culture, will.

“Selima always says ‘the more the merrier,’” remarks Blackman. Selima displays many of the accessories in the store windows. “Sometimes people are looking for optical and then are surprised by our accessories. It works both ways,” she adds.

Dale David, optical manager of Jervey Eyecare in Greenville, S.C., agrees. His basic philosophy on accessories is “they work.” He has no doubt about the value of accessories. “If you display them, they sell.”

David works in a pediatric office, so the accessories are targeted to kids. These accessories include specialty cases, eyeglass retainer cords, swim goggles, and the office’s biggest seller, adhesive eye patches, a medical accessory that makes a perfect add-on. While sales representatives introduced most of the accessories that Jervey Eyecare carries, David notes the staff also spends time at eyewear shows looking for accessories.

As of now, accessories account for about 10 percent of Jervey Eyecare’s sales. But that figure is expected to increase. “As we’ve expanded our accessories line, our overall sales have also increased,” David says.

When a shop carries good accessories, it becomes not only a go-to shop, but a one-stop shop. Carrying a breadth and depth of accessories increases both sales and the customer base.

Forget everything you thought about eyewear accessories because today’s accessories are taking the eyewear industry to a new level. Their basic function remains the same, but they have been updated to be more fun and fashionable. 

Make your case Say goodbye to drab black eyeglass cases and hello to fun embellished cases with stones, bows and lots of color. Eyeglass cases that look like purses, complete with handles or shoulder straps and exterior pockets are a major trend in accessories. Many even have mirrors in them and can carry more than just frames.

Up in Smoke Men love cigar cases for their readers. They are a small, convenient and fun alternative to the traditional case. And, they make excellent gifts.

Get Pinned Pins with magnetic loops on the end are a must have. Offered in many colors and designs, they look great by themselves or with frames.

Charge It Credit-card readers are perfect for people who are always forgetting their glasses at home. These could easily be give-away gifts to those first-time Baby Boomer customers.

The Chain Gang These are not grandma’s eyeglass chains. This season’s chains don’t just look like necklaces, they also can be worn as necklaces. There are even simple metal and leather chains in dark colors that are perfect for men.

A New Read Look for readers with funky shapes in colorful plastics. Rimless styles currently cover the minimalistic “need” niche.

Package Perfect Instead of being sold separately, lens cleaners and cleaning clothes are now packaged in cute, fun, colorful kits.

Head to Toe Color-coordinating frames, cases, chains and even lens cloths pull a look together.

Think Color Pastel pink, powder blue and lemon-lime are showing up in accessories everywhere this season.