Features: Retailing

Feb
2005

Lady Be Good

Lady Be Good
Focusing on a woman’s point of “view”
By Jackie Micucci

Photos by STEVE POMERLEAU

 Jason Carruthers shows off the eyewear displayed in one of the sections of his store LadyEyes, which caters exclusively to women.


Jason Carruthers’ first optical store seemed as if it would get off to a booming start. He did his homework. People complimented him on the store’s design. It was in a great location. It featured a large selection of beautiful frames. Carruthers focused on customer service. He even advertised. But in the two years the dispensary was opened, the success he anticipated never came.

“It was completely puzzling as to why it wasn’t doing well,” says the optician. “I had to find out why.” So Carruthers did some research. He buried his head in books and spent four nights a week trying to figure out what went wrong.
“I made the realization that the optical business is saturated,” he says. “If you look at the market as a whole I think my experience reflects the industry. It’s completely saturated. Once I accepted the fact it wasn’t poor planning or a bad location, I had to look at it from the customer’s point-of-view. If I’m the customer why am I going to go to this optical store? I thought I have to do something completely different. Then it popped into my head; the majority of my customers were women.”

LadyEyes, an optical shop catering exclusively to a female clientele, was born. The store has been a hit since it opened its doors a little more than a year ago in Windsor, Ontario in Canada thanks to Carruthers unique way of viewing eyewear through the eyes of his target customers.

Instead of thinking of glasses as just for vision correction, he focuses on eyewear as a “cosmetic art form” designed to enhance the wearer’s look. “A woman wearing a pair of glasses wants to look better with them on,” he explains. “It’s a cosmetic thing. Looking good is different in everyone’s eyes. Eyewear is a fashionable product like clothing.”

DYNAMIC
DISPENSING

WHO
LadyEyes

LOCATION
Windsor, Canada

AVERAGE PRICE FOR A COMPLETE PAIR OF EYEWEAR
Approximately $350
($450 Canadian)

NUMBER OF FRAMES DISPLAYED
600

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES
2

20/20 TAKE
Innovative retailing through
same sex selling.


Carruthers says women view frames
differently because of the “cosmetic aspect.”


In fact, the way apparel is merchandised is where Carruthers took his lead from for LadyEyes. “When you go to a clothing store you don’t see a dress displayed right next to a pair of jogging pants so I came up with the five basic looks: elegant, glamorous, sultry, classic and bold.”

These five looks are the basis for the set up of LadyEyes. Carruthers uses photos of timeless film actresses to help exemplify them—for elegant, Grace Kelly; Marilyn Monroe is glamour; Rita Hayworth is bold; Audrey Hepburn is classic; and Lana Turner is sultry. About 120 frames are displayed in each section with successful brand names being Bellinger, Escada, Spectacle Eyeworks, Neostyle and Romeo Gigli.

Selecting product for the mix can be tricky admits Carruthers, a licensed optician of 10 years who runs the shop with wife, Mariana. “You can take one brand and find two, three looks,” he says. “You can take any brand name and find a simple classic frame and then in the very next tray the rep pulls out a bold look. Instead of a brand name I have to look at each piece.” He adds he keeps vendor-supplied point-of-purchase items to a minimum


The dispensary is set up according to Carruthers’
five basic looks as illustrated by timeless
movie actresses so vendor-supplied
point-of-purchase materials are kept to a minimum

.
The response to LadyEyes has been incredible. “It’s been a huge difference; night and day compared to my first shop,” says Carruthers. “There has been an overwhelming response. A lot of people say it’s about time. It’s almost as if people have been waiting for it. From word-of-mouth it’s spread like wild fire. I don’t spend one penny on advertising.”

The women who come to LadyEyes find it’s simpler to get a look that they truly want. The frames are displayed on rods as well as in shelves and cases, and are easily accessible to the customer. “I don’t believe in keeping them locked up,” notes Carruthers. “Glasses are such a hands-on thing.”

Customer service is an important part of LadyEyes and is somewhat easier for Carruthers now that the shop caters to a particular clientele. “It’s nice from my end that I don’t have to be constantly shifting gears,” he says. “I only have to think about women coming in the door and making them look beautiful in their glasses. It’s not that men don’t care how they look in glasses, but women look at glasses differently because of the cosmetic aspect.” 

Carruthers has simplified the eyewear sale not only with the creation of the five basic frame looks, but also with how he sells lenses. “One of the biggest problems is retailers don’t standardize certain lens features,” he explains. “Non-glare should be—as it is in my shop—a standard on any lens. So should progressives for a presbyopic patient. I don’t sell glasses without anti-reflective coating. I don’t ask if they want non-scratch; they all get it. I tell my customers what they are getting and I tell them the price. I don’t think a customer wants to be bombarded with questions. They want their vision problems solved. I think some dispensers are worried about selling perceived add-ons such as AR because the market is so saturated they’re worried about having the lowest price. As long as you are charging a fair price and giving them good product and service, the trust is there.”

For Jason Carruthers, the future, not luck, be a lady. “If you really look back as to the way eyeglasses are sold, I don’t think there has been any major change since the one hour concept; but that was 20 years ago,” he says. “To me, what I’ve done is the future of optical.”

 

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