Private label and in-house brands in eyewear are hitting the right notes with today’s buyers. By taking on big names like Luxottica and Safilo for a share of consumers’ wallets, private label and in-house brands are opening the way to greater commoditisation in the market and a significant shift in competitive dynamics.
Traditional Focus versus a New Norm
Traditionally, eyewear of recognised brands such as Oakley and Revo has been the mainstay of optical shops. Consumers seek these established brands for quality assurance and less for their emotional appeal. Due to the oligopolistic nature of the eyewear market, prices are generally artificially inflated and lacking in transparency.
More recently, a new norm for eyewear has emerged. An impressive array of private label and in-house brands are making their debut, with creative marketing and simple pricing systems to boot.
Vision Express Offers Both Branded and Private Label Eyewear
Source: “Skinted vs Minted”, Vision Express
Eyewear retail chain Vision Express, based in the UK, is an example of an optical store which offers private label alongside branded eyewear. Vision Express prices its private label products significantly lower than established brand names. Besides Vision Express, optical stores primarily featuring in-house brands have emerged, with notable examples mentioned below.
Emergence of Optical Stores Offering In-House Brands
Japanese optical chain Owndays manufactures and retails a wide array of in-house brands. Its in-house brands are targeted at people with different lifestyles, usage occasions and even personalities. In addition, Owndays prides itself on a simple pricing structure with fixed and affordable price points, regardless of the country in which it is present.
Another example is Warby Parker, a US-based online optical store. It offers in-house brands of spectacles and sunglasses, mostly priced at US$95. Warby Parker is best known for its strong community initiatives, for example providing funding and/or glasses to non-profit partners such as VisionSpring for every pair of glasses purchased by consumers. Besides serving the community, Warby Parker positions itself as carbon-neutral by tracking its total emissions and purchasing carbon offsets accordingly.
In stark contrast to Ray-Ban, Gucci and other major eyewear brands, Warby Parker and Owndays’ brands are not licensed to other retail channels. Both have created a separate ecosystem for their products, which are available only through their own retail stores so they can retain control over the marketing and pricing of products. In the case of Warby Parker, its products are also perceived as exclusive and very much coveted.
Why Marketing is Crucial for Private Label and In-House Brands
The mix of differentiating factors – cause marketing and lifestyle marketing from Warby Parker and Owndays respectively, together with straightforward pricing and strict distribution – have made both brands the success they are today. People buy Owndays and Warby Parker eyewear not just for the products themselves but also the story and ideals behind them.
Notable concept designs from Owndays include Zoo, a collection evocative of animal and plant imagery, suitable for the loud and expressive. There is also Butterfly Effect, a collection of spirited and unconventional designs. The collection, as it is aptly named, aims to prompt a small change within a person in order to bring about a bigger more positive effect. Besides marketing different ranges of generic spectacles based on various ideals and aspirations, it also positions its computer glasses based on different lifestyles and usage occasions. Owndays provides options for people who either use computers and smartphones or watch television and play video games more often. By marketing based on lifestyles, private label and in-house brands can better price target consumers base on their willingness to pay. Lifestyle marketing also provides consumers with more reasons to buy, thus shortening their purchasing cycles.
The concept of private label and in-house brand specialty stores has yet to be widely adopted. However, in light of their growing popularity, industry players should re-examine their competitive advantages and act decisively.