Features: Fashion Feature

Dec
2004

Deluxe Dwellings

Deluxe Dwellings

Taking an inside peak at eyewear’s penthouse of potential

By Lauren Siegal and James J. Spina

From top: VERA WANG Brilliance from Couteur Designs/ Division of Kenmark Group; CAVIAR 1750 from Ultra Palm Optical; CHOPARD 590 from Eastern States Eyewear; BALMAIN Elegance 011 from Europtik; CHRISTIAN DIOR 3646 from Sàfilo USA


Looking to live it up in the lap of luxury? Be assured there is room at the top but this niche demands unquestionable quality, intense understanding of your patient’s every need and a willingness on the seller’s part to constantly man the impeccable “service” elevator. In today’s uncertain economy there is a general trend of consumers being increasingly cautious about where they spend their money. However, being counterintuitive is the key to understanding consumers and their relationship to acquiring personal luxury items. And deluxe eyewear holds prime court in this realm.

Most people are putting off that big-buck trip to a tropical island… but a choice few are still BUYING tropical islands. New car sales are in the dumper… but the demand for exquisite luxury cars such as Bentleys and Lamborghinis has never been higher. Products always considered niche at best are now understood as niche-is-best.

And eyewear (in a similar boast-position to fine watches and bankable jewelry) lets the consumer show another taste and pride in a viable manner. Deluxe glasses make customers feel good about themselves.

But these glasses don’t sell themselves. The key to selling luxury is helping the customer justify the purchase and instilling confidence. Successful high-end retailers offer the consumer a unique and uplifting experience worthy of cost and wrapped in the prospect of coming back for more… with family and friends in tow.
some profiles of high-end eyewear retailers who know that to accommodate the deluxe customer you must be the best. They dwell in the lux-nest knowing it takes quality and commitment to reach the pinnacle of optical retailing’s new heights.

From top: PORKPIE from l.a. Eyeworks; ROBERT MARC Horn 42 from Robi


Edward Beiner

Location: Miami, Fla. and Orlando, Fla.
Number of Stores: Five
Brands: Edward Beiner, Gold and Wood, Oliver Peoples, Chrome Hearts, Robert Marc and Chanel
Average Frame Price: $250 to $300
Average Price of Complete Eyewear: $700
Average Age of Customer: 40 years old
Customer Distribution: “We sell more women’s than men’s frames, but this is beginning to change,” says Edward Beiner, owner of Edward Beiner Lunettes.  “Men are becoming more aware that they can create an image with eyewear.”
Image promotion: Mailings for trunk shows and annual fall and spring sales, some ad placement in mall magazines
Percent of eyewear that is high-end: 100 percent
Philosophy: “It takes many different factors to create a high-end optical,” says Beiner.  “The right demographic has to be there. The look of the store has to be right. You have to have displays that make the merchandise look good. The merchandise has to be special and durable. But probably most important, the staff needs to understand what the high-end customer wants and how to sell them a product so that they understand the value and quality of what they are buying.” 

To stay on the top of the industry, Beiner travels extensively outside of the United States to shows in Paris, Japan and Italy. “I am able to secure products that other people don’t have,” he says. “I deal with vendors that don’t do business with everyone. That’s what gives me an edge.”
In addition to his retail locations, Beiner also owns and manages EBX, an eyewear wholesale distribution company.

Leonard Opticians
Location: New York City
Number of Stores: Two
Brands: Cartier, Oliver Peoples, Alain Mikli, Bulgari and Chanel
Average Frame Price: $250 to $300
Average Price of Complete Eyewear: $450
Average age of customer: 42 years old
Customer Distribution: 50 percent men, 50 percent women
Percent of Merchandise that is high-end: 100 percent
Image Promotion: Word of mouth, ophthalmologist’s referrals, occasional advertising with some manufacturers
Philosophy: “You deserve the best and you should have it. You want to make the right impression and glasses are the first thing that people notice about you,” says Bernice Olivetti, OD and buyer for Leonard Opticians.
Their individualized attention and quality of work continues to draw New Yorkers in the know to Leonard Opticians. This is not your run of the mill eyewear store. The entire staff is made up of experienced opticians who work with each customer to find the perfect frame. 

“We don’t have a lot of inventory around,” says Olivetti. “The customer sits, we talk and we find out which frame works the best. We offer one on one individual attention to every customer.”
 
Eyetique
Location:
Pittsburgh, Pa.
Number of Stores: Four; (three more are set to open this year)
Brands: Norman Childs Eyewear, Cartier, Oliver Peoples, Matsuda and Sama
Average Frame Price: $355
Average Price of Complete Eyewear: $525
Average Age of Customer: 18 to 55
Customer Distribution: 64 percent women, 34 percent men, 2 percent kids
Image Promotion: “Each month we feature different personalities of Pittsburgh in our ad campaigns,” says Norman Childs, president of Eyetique. “We advertise in about 15 publications and we stress in our ads that we offer a wide selection and impeccable service.”
Percent of Eyewear that is high-end: 100 percent
Philosophy: “Take care of the customer at any cost and you can sell anything.”
At Eyetique, the emphasis is on the staff as much as it is on the customers. Of the 37-eyewear stylists, all are licensed opticians and each must go through a three-week intensive training process. “We find the best people and we train them on everything from the image of the store to how to sell frames,” says Childs. “I really believe in what I do. We are all always learning new ways to do things.”
 
Optical Shop of Aspen
Location: Newport Beach, Calif., Los Angeles, Calif., Overland Park, Kan., Kansas City, Mo., Santa Fe, N.M., Santa Monica, Calif., Laguna Beach, Calif., Phoenix, Ariz., and Scottsdale, Ariz.
Number of stores: 13
Brands: Matsuda, Hiero, Kieselstein-Cord, Clayton Franklin Spectacles, Face a Face, Swiss Horn and Chrome Hearts
Average Frame Price: $325
Average Price of Complete Eyewear: $500
Average Age of Customer: “Most of our customers are between the ages of 30 and 50, but we cater to clients of all ages,” says Michi Arena, general manager of the retail division of Optical Shop of Aspen.
Customer Distribution: 60 percent women, 40 percent men
Percent of eyewear that is high-end: 100 percent
Image Promotion: The company runs ads in trade magazines, local city magazines and high-end trade magazines, and brand itself through advertising and the use of logos.
Percent of eyewear that is high-end: 100 percent
Philosophy: “We pride ourselves on service, quality and selection. When a customer comes into one of our stores, that is what he notices,” says Arena. 
At Optical Shop of Aspen, looks are everything. “When you walk into an Optical Shop of Aspen, you know what store you are in without having to even look at the sign,” says Arena. “You can tell our stores by their cleanliness, the way in which we treat our customer, the way the store is designed and the kinds of materials we use. We have some of the most beautiful stores. We train our people to do displays because we are very particular and very detail-oriented in the way that we present ourselves.”

The company also operates a wholesale division called named Optical Shop of Aspen International, which licenses high-end eyewear including such brands as Chrome Hearts and Swiss Horn.

The Eye Gallery
Location:
The greater Atlanta, Ga. metropolitan area
Number of stores: Six
Brands: Chromes Hearts, Gold and Wood, Face a Face, Robert Marc and Alain Mikli
Average Frame Price: $350
Average Price of Complete Eyewear: $450
Average Age of Customer: middle-aged
Customer Distribution: 50 percent men, 50 percent women
Image Promotion: Word of mouth, exclusive mailings and ads in the phone book
Philosophy: “We offer customers better quality, excellent service and excellent frame choice,” says Ryan Bloss, OD at the Eye Gallery.
The Eye Gallery prides itself on its reputation. “We are a high-end retailer in Atlanta,” says Bloss. “We offer exclusive products and excellent service from an experienced staff.” 

As its name implies, The Eye Gallery is a gallery for eyewear and most of the store’s frames are displayed behind glass. “This gives the store an art gallery look and also lends us the opportunity to show the frames to the customers so they each get a personalized touch,” says Bloss. 

Just as an art dealer would attend many art shows, the buyers at the Eye Gallery attend many eyewear shows to ensure that they have the best and newest frames on the market.

From top: BRENDEL 908696 from BBH Eyewear; TRACTION PRODUCTIONS Madurai from L’Unique Optique; MIHO from Selima Optique; KATA Thread 1 from Legacie Eyewear/ Luxury House of B. Robinson Optical; EDWARD BEINER MIAMI Timba from EBX Optik; BEAUSOLEIL 340 from Frederic Beausoleil

 

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