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Seeing Innovation Evolve through the Lens of the Eyewear Industry

Innovation continues to see its way into new concepts and formats across the globe. There has been significant evolution within the eyewear industry that has caught our eye, pressuring us to ask the question, what will be next? Warby Parker has been the purveyor in a pure play concept that successfully entered bricks & mortar addressing a gap in the market for affordable eyewear. While reinventing the wheel offering low prices and an online home try-on system, they have continued to excel in the market through technology innovation and encouraging other countries and players to follow suit. There are other innovators in this space that have caught our eye:

Chilli Beans (Sao Paulo, Brazil) was one of the first retailers to innovate in eyewear with their experiential store and new business model.   Chilli Beans introduced the fast fashion model to the sunglass world by launching a new collection every 15 days. The new collections are themed and often in partnership with a designer or other famous brand, with each release having a special display feature at the store. Chilli Beans has created a place for customers to shop for sunglasses in an environment that combines music, customization, interactions with other cities and cultures, while encouraging sharing the experience with friends. The retailer invites customers to experiment with products, and share through social media. This was one of the first concepts in recent years to integrate social media into the store experience.  The store also offers events, and blends the idea of retail and foodservice with a Coffee kiosk, all the more reason to keep customers shopping and playing around in the store.

Lunettes Pour Tous (Paris, France) otherwise known as “Eyeglasses for Everyone,” is a concept that was developed to offer customers eyeglasses at prices that are four times cheaper on average than the market price, while producing these prescription glasses “for less than 10 euros in 10 minutes”. The retailer has reinvented optical retail in a country where eyeglass prices are at a premium, and uses the combination of low prices, technological innovation, and an unrivaled speed of delivery to compete in the market by offering private label and recognizing lower margin on lenses. Lunettes Pour Tous is offers 35 different frames between 5€ and 20€.

JINS (Tokyo, Japan) pioneered the concept of affordable, high-quality eyewear nearly a decade ago in Japan.   JINS strategy reinvents the in-store eyewear shopping experience by creating glasses in minutes vs. hours or weeks.  Customers can browse, purchase and receive their prescription eyewear with custom fitting all in the same visit. The retailer recently expanded their presence into the U.S. market with an outpost in San Francisco, offering more than 1,200 difference styles offered at accessible prices ranging from $60-120.  JINS challenges the conventional notion of eyewear as strictly for vision correction and  the in-store experience focuses on delivering fashion, efficiency and price transparency for the customer.  By embracing technology, JINS is disrupting the eyewear market with unique innovations that are paving the way for a new class of smart eyewear to enhance people’s lives.

The eyewear industry continues to evolve as private label, customization and technology continue to revolutionize retail. What new concepts have you seen? Please share with us with a chance for your concept to be featured in next year’s issue of our publication.


McMillanDoolittle is a premier international retail consultancy bringing deep experience with world class clients. Our partners have extensive experience interpreting the retail marketplace and converting insights into successful strategies. We help clients develop innovative solutions in strategy development, the customer experience, new concepts, brand performance, retail performance improvement and retail intelligence services.

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