Brilliant Business Model Puts New Store Set-Up Within Reach

By Paddy Kamen

eyeonindustryThe cost of establishing a new retail store can be prohibitive, easily running in excess of $100,000. That expense, on top of paying for an education in optometry or opticianry, makes the dream of owning one’s business distant at best for many new grads. But what if the cost of setting up the store was cut to one-quarter of that?

Consider what you need to dress up the bare bones of a space: display racks, dispensing tables, cabinets, chairs, etc. Who can provide these at a fraction of the cost you might have expected?

Mani Vaghedi just might be your man. This extremely bright, multilingual computer science, engineering and business grad has created a business – Frame Displays Canada – that will meet the needs of new-to-the-industry professionals as well as optical retailers who want an updated look or are opening another location.

Vaghedi has a strong family background in the optical business: his father, uncles and brother are all opticians. He was raised in Germany and came to the the 1980s. By the early ‘90s, Vaghedi had a degree with a double-major in computer science engineering and business. He moved into the optical retail world and became involved in creating and managing turnkey optical operations for a number of optometrists. In the course of managing the set-up for over 50 stores, he couldn’t help but notice that costs were too high in the optical display and furniture market. He began working on an alternative and came up with an attractive product and business proposition that is helping to create success for retailers in both North America and Europe.

The parent company, CNS Displays, is based in Sterling,VA and services the non-optical retail sector (accounts include Georgio Armani, Lacoste, HMS Host and Gap), while CNS Frame Displays serves the American optical market. A sister company in Germany, Concept-S, provides high-quality, low-cost display equipment to optical retailers in Europe.

The core of Vaghedi’s business is an acrylic modular display system. It features acrylic panels along with various fittings and shelves that fit into them. “The pieces that fit into the panel constitute our intellectual property,” explains Vaghedi. “These fittings and shelves are highly adaptable. For example, the piece that attaches the panel to the wall can serve several other functions within the system. The multi-functionality of key pieces allows economies of scale: we can produce hundreds of thousands of the same piece at one time, thus reducing the overall cost of the installation.”

Frame Displays Canada ( opened in 2011 with a showroom office in a historic building in the Liberty Village neighbourhood of downtown Toronto. The friendly face you’ll see in the showroom is that of Toronto native Satyar Motamedi, Vaghedi’s brother-in-law, who is also national sales manager.

Having a brick and mortar location in Toronto was important to Vaghedi, despite the fact that orders can easily be filled online and via virtual meetings. “We felt it was important to have an on-the-ground location where our customers could see and feel the product and also have the peace of mind that we are, in fact, located in Canada,” he explains. “At the same time, those who cannot come to the showroom will likewise enjoy great service from us via the Internet.”

Store design services are available from Frame Displays at no extra charge. Clients simply provide the store dimensions along with window and door placement and Frame Displays staff use their proprietary drag-and-drop software to draw up a floor plan, arranging shelving and furniture as a starting point for discussion. Working face-to-face with clients in the showroom or via a conference call online meeting, units can be added, subtracted or moved, and new ideas discussed. Even the window displays are shown, and flooring and wall colours can be added. The usual top-down floor plan view can be switched to a 3D view and back again. “The software makes it easy for us to design the store and create an order within 24-48 hours for any client, worldwide,” explains Vaghedi. “We deliver most orders within four weeks, which is a big improvement over the competition which can take as long as three months.”

In addition to optical frame displays, eyewear racks and storage cases, rotating displays and mirrors, Frame Displays also provides practical furniture solutions, including dispensing tables, chairs and countertops. “We produce the dispensing tables ourselves and work with best-of-breed and best-in-design components unmatched by anyone else,” explains Vaghedi.

With 95 percent of their business in the optical market, Frame Displays Canada thoroughly understands retail trends. “The optical shops we design are right on-trend with the latest concepts in retail design: light, bright and engaging for consumers,” notes Vaghedi. “It’s a 21st-century look with high-quality components at a very reasonable price.

Mani Vaghedi truly understands how many details are involved in setting up an optical retail store because he has done it many times himself. As he explains: “I know how overwhelming it can be, from getting the space to outfitting it, obtaining lab equipment, furnishing an examination room and dealing with so many suppliers of frames and lenses. We reduce complexity and financial stress for the practitioner. And we can scale the project to exactly match budgetary requirements, allowing the practitioner to add bells and whistles a couple of years down the road when cash flow has improved.”

Reducing financial strain is key to starting a business off on the right foot and Frame Displays even offers a doorway to financing via a special arrangement with Element Financial ( Vaghedi says, “Qualified practitioners can borrow through our partners and enjoy reduced payments as low as $49 per month for the first six months. Funds can be used for leaseholds, equipment and pre-payment to vendors.”

Mani Vaghedi is clearly a man on a mission: to make the establishment of an on-trend optical shop stress-free and affordable. He’s done so much more than simply create a new shelving system. Kudos to Frame Displays Canada!