Kids’ Eyewear

Kids Eyewear

Lorne Kashin’s father made a prediction when the family opened The Eyeglass Factory, an optical store in Thornhill, ON in 1977: “If you get the child, you will get the family.”

“He was right,” says Lorne, who doubles as executive director of the Ontario Opticians Association. “The children’s part of our business has grown significantly over the years and I’m now fitting the babies of babies I fitted years ago.”

Kashin’s experience illustrates the potential of having a child-friendly practice: done right, selling kids’ eyewear is an opportunity to win customers — and their family members — for life.

Still, doing it right involves challenges, starting with the fact that you’re dealing with two customers: the child and her parent. Both are important and their priorities sometimes conflict.

“Kids, especially younger ones, want colour and lots of it, as well as style,” says Sheena Taff, manager of Vancouver-based Roberts & Brown Opticians. “Parents want durability and functionality. You have to find a way to satisfy both.”

Fortunately, says Taff, many of today’s options are stylish and durable. “We offer over 300 frames in many styles and colours so there’s something for almost every child to get excited about.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge is dealing with parents who have strong, preconceived ideas of what they want. “Kids tend to have a higher plus power and that’s not always conducive to the look parents have in mind.”

There may also be conflicts about style: a parent might want thick, bold, black frames, while their child prefers something more conservative, Taff notes.

“A child’s glasses should showcase their style and suit their personality. Otherwise, they’ll wind up broken or at the bottom of the toy box. I encourage parents to let their children make the final decision, provided the visual aesthetics and technical insertion of the lens aren’t a problem.”

She also stresses the importance of fit. “I sometimes see kids wearing glasses that are too big — perhaps the parent is hoping they will grow into them. Remember that your customers are walking ads for you and your reputation rides on fitting them correctly.”

At the same time, says Kashin, it’s important to be responsive to parents’ concerns.

“Make sure they feel you’re paying attention to them. Respect their budget. And if you disagree with their choice, gently steer them toward a better fit and style.”

Despite the challenges, working with children can be tremendously rewarding, he says.

“It makes me feel good because I love kids. There’s something special in each child I meet, so I find that and focus on it.”

Here’s Looking at You, Kids!

There has never been a better time to sell kids’ eyewear. Children’s glasses today are colourful, fun and affordable, featuring fashion-forward styling and revolutionary technical features that ensure a great fit, durability and ease of wear.

Here’s a look at what’s available from some of the top children’s eyewear manufacturers for 2018.

Alternative Eyewear and Plan B Eyewear


Alternative Eyewear and Plan B Eyewear

Alternative Eyewear and Plan B Eyewear

The Quintessential Nano Vista collection from Alternative Eyewear and Plan B Eyewear offers a host of revolutionary features, including the patented ‘52’ hinge that allows temples to bend and rotate 360 degrees without breakage or wearing down.

Made with thermo-adjustable, patented SiliflexTM material, each frame in the collection includes a mini temple tip strap to keep the frames secure and comfortable, and a full headband strap that is ideal when worn under helmets for aggressive sports such as hockey, motocross and skiing.

Excellent for special needs children, Nano Vista glasses are available with metal core temples for incredible adjustability, and without the metal core for compulsive children who might chew the frames and hurt themselves on metal parts.

Available in a wide variety of colours, shapes and sizes, these frames are also lightweight and easy to modify. Glow-in-the-dark colours help children to be seen and to find their glasses in the dark. Alternative Eyewear is also launching a magnetic clip-on version that features polarized blue-blocking lenses.

All Nano Vista children’s eyewear comes with an unconditional three-year warranty.

 JF Rey

JF Rey: Forest 2520

JF Rey: Forest 2520

World-famous designer JF Rey has revolutionized the technical aspect of children’s eyewear with JUST ADJUST a patented temple design that enables eyecare professionals (ECPs) to quickly adjust the frame’s temple length to suit the changing physiognomy of the child.

Another special feature of JF Rey Kids & Teens glasses is their special flex hinge, which ECPs can easily change in-store. It was developed to prevent temples from becoming deformed and to ensure the frame’s robustness.

The JF Rey Kids & Teens collection uses beautiful acetates and acetate/stainless steel combos in a variety of shapes, featuring tints and graded colours, and original designs that highlight tortoise shells, stripes, spots and checks. There is something here to appeal to every taste.

All of the collection’s frames come with a two-year warranty.



Lafon: CASI6065

Lafon: CASI6065

Dynamic new colours and patterns for youngsters aged 4-7 highlight the fall/winter 2018 collection from Lafont pour les enfants.

The style is playful and colourful, with orange, red and blue car patterns driving happily across frames designed for young boys, while purple hearts and delicate plaid patterns adorn frames for young girls.

Lafont is known for children’s eyewear designs that cater to their specific tastes and physical features. The company pays great attention to detail, bridge fit and lens area to ensure a proper fit.

The collection features frame fronts designed from cellulose acetate and temples reinforced with redesigned stainless steel spring hinges to ensure comfort and flexibility.

With adjustable arms, these frames adapt perfectly to the morphology of young children. Soft, modified rectangles with high lens areas and adjustable temple lengths provide a customizable fit. And the exclusive flex system allows kids to practice putting on the eyewear themselves.

All Lafont pour les enfants frames feature a one-year warranty against manufacturer’s defects.

Match Eyewear


Match Eyewear: FLT-KP-253

Match Eyewear: FLT-KP-253

Kids can express their own unique personalities with the Float Kids collection from Match Eyewear. Bringing fresh, fun styling to grown-up designs that allow kids to emulate their parents and older siblings, Float Kids Eyewear is a trendy and colourful collection for youngsters aged 4-16.

Sturdy and durable to keep up with a child’s active lifestyle, Float Kids glasses are carefully crafted from premium quality materials and components, ensuring maximum comfort, safety and durability for cool, active kids.

Girls’ styles feature soft, feminine squares made of blue, brown or purple acetate, with solid colour fronts and matching leopard colour temples. Masculine square shapes are available for boys in black, green and grey acetate with solid fronts and multi-stripe temples. All styles feature spring hinge temples for a comfortable fit.

All Float Kids glasses come with a one-year warranty.



OPAL: DSC_9483

OPAL: DSC_9483

Young adventurers keen to “master the force” will love the STAR WARSTM collection from OPAL Canada. The collection incorporates the famous expressions, charismatic characters and galactic scenery from the iconic films.

With some models featuring exclusive acetates, these STAR WARSTM frames deliver outstanding quality, which is evident in both their finish and original details. The collection is fun as well as technically advanced, specially designed for aspiring young Jedi. And each frame comes with a case and a branded gift.

OPAL offers Canadian kids several other cool collections to choose from, including the Disney collection for children ages 3-8: boys can choose from Avengers and Spiderman, while girls can select the Frozen or Disney Princess collections.

The Little ELEVENPARIS collection is designed for those ages 8-14, and ELEVENPARIS is created for those 14 and older.

All OPAL Canada glasses for children come with a two-year warranty.



Sàfilo: SA0008

Sàfilo: SA0008

Introducing playful new colours and comfort features, the all-new 2018 Kids by Sàfilo ophthalmic collection features fun and original graphics on styles dedicated to children 3 to 8 years of age.

New elastic straps and ultra-soft silicone tips help to keep the frames in place without compromising comfort, even for extended periods of wear.

Exclusive new clip-on sun-covers with polarized lenses are also available for children ages 3-8, for glare-free vision, clear contrasts, vision of natural colours, reduced eye fatigue and 100 per cent UV protection.

“100 per cent Made in Italy”, the KIDS BY SÀFILO optical collection is made of light, safe, bio-based materials and includes designs for children from infants to 8-year-olds. Soft rubber is moulded over the internal temple and bridge, while high-performance polymers are used for the front and temples. These biocompatible, hypoallergenic, non-toxic and washable materials guarantee safety.

KIDS BY SÀFILO frames are lightweight and stable, thanks to a lower bridge and the temple design, which features a horizontal bend. The enhanced design of the front ensures that the lenses cover the children’s entire field of vision, guaranteeing effective correction.

Every KIDS BY SÀFILO frame comes with a two-year warranty against manufacturer’s defects.



WestGroupe: SFK-189

WestGroupe: SFK-189

WestGroupe presents 16 new styles from its Superflex Kids (SFK) Back to School (BTS) 2018 Collection.

The SFK BTS 2018 collection is far-reaching with both metal and acetate styles capturing all the latest eyewear trends. For girls, acetate is fun and funky with confetti glitter and sparkly plaids, while sporty colours are centre stage for boys. With its mission of making eyewear fun for kids, the new models are available in a wide range of hues from colour that pops to clean neutrals. Colour blocking, a key fashion trend this season, is highlighted throughout the collection.

Two-tone colouring on the metal styles is enhanced with etched patterns ranging from racing stripes to baroque florals, giving the temples a textured feel and 3D effect. In acetate, triple laminations provide a more classic take on the trend, as does the blocked effect of patterned tortoise temples coupled with tonal colour fronts. The collection is well balanced between boys, girls and unisex styles in trending shapes of rectangles, squares and rounds to fit every kid’s personality.

All SFK models have a spring hinge for added durability and comfort and come with a two-year warranty against manufacturer’s defect.


By JoAnne Sommers


Luxury Eyewear: It’s More than Bling


“Luxury is what you don’t see.” – Coco Chanel

There’s more to luxury eyewear than jewels, precious metals and big price tags. Luxury is as much a state of mind as anything tangible.

“Luxury is focused at an abstract level on people’s aspirations and dreams,” says Margaret Osborne, professor in the School of Marketing at Seneca College. “Consumers look to luxury brands to fulfill their social and belonging needs. They want to project an image of themselves to the outside world, reward themselves for their achievements and earn recognition from their peers.”

For this reason, the retailer’s pitch must focus on the item’s intangible benefits, says Osborne. “It’s important to meet the consumer’s self-image with the concept or personality of the brand.”

As customers identify their luxury brand preferences they are sending important signals about their values to sales personnel, she notes. “For example, the Dolce and Gabbana brand personality can be described as innovative, extravagant, stylish and trendsetting. A customer stating a preference for this brand is signalling that she aspires to this “look and feel” in her eyewear, even if her final choice is a different one.”

Another important factor is availability, says Osborne, adding that the most important aspect of a luxury image is exclusivity. “The more available a luxury brand is, the less desirable it becomes.”

Not that tangibles are unimportant. Price is certainly a consideration — some people continue to associate luxury with high cost — but Sue Randhawa, owner of The Optical Boutique in Vancouver puts greater emphasis on outstanding quality and craftsmanship when making buying decisions. “Things like high-end materials, and how and where the product is made become very important.”

When a product resonates with a client, they buy it, she says, “not just because of its looks but they fall in love with the story. That’s why product knowledge is so important in our industry. In some cases, there are years of family history to talk about.

She cites Oliver Goldsmith, whose story goes back to 1926. “We use this information to sell the product. Clients feel they’re buying a piece of history and this adds to their overall experience.”

That experience begins when a client walks into the store.

Your product and service offering must be carefully crafted to support the “white glove” treatment luxury consumers expect, says Osborne.

“From valet parking to personalized greetings to music to sales staff interaction, your supporting environment needs to be perfect. Aspirational point-of-sale material is critical. No courier boxes, plastic lab trays, unpolished mirrors… all supporting merchandising activities should take place out of sight.”

Collections must have presence, so you need to have many different colours and shapes on hand, says Randhawa. “That requires an investment. For example, I have 100 pieces each of Theo and Anne et Valentin.”

Staff training is critical so they can talk about how the frames are made, lens technology and style news, such as who is wearing what in Hollywood, she adds.

“Our approach is always the same – we ask a lot of “lifestyle” questions, discuss their current dissatisfactions and areas they want to address. This usually leads to a frank discussion about wants, needs and budgets.”

Ultimately, the goal is to create a unique experience that will keep customers coming back. “It’s not a transaction — you want to create a relationship with the client. After that, the bond is solid. The feeling I give them is so special that they remember it and they won’t want to go anywhere else.”

Here is a look at the latest luxury offerings from some of the world’s top eyewear companies.

ic! berlin

ic! berlin’s new silk collection marries technical innovation with avant-garde design, says Katie Murphy, director of marketing and communications. “Our eyewear is made for people who appreciate technology and a high-quality product that doesn’t forego fashion.”

The 10-piece, stainless steel collection features limited-edition, handcrafted sunglasses with innovative new colour treatments. ic! berlin’s revolutionary screwless hinge is just 3.5 mm across and uses a patented forked hook to secure the temple to the front. This discreet, elegant feature creates a streamlined transition from front to temple, reflecting the company’s design philosophy: naked and pure.

mod: Bise

mod: Bise

“Bise”, a cat’s eye style for women, features laqueur on the upper half in pink, red or black, with Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) on the bottom.

High-end materials are key to the exclusivity of ic! berlin frames, notes Murphy. Light, durable and flexible, all frames are designed, hand made and distributed from the company’s Berlin, Germany facilities.

Marcolin Eyewear

Classic and modern, discreet, clean and linear: these qualities define the new Tom Ford spring/summer eyewear collection from Marcolin.

The collection represents pure luxury, with handcrafted materials, including natural cotton Italian-made acetates. Combinations of metal and acetate give the vintage-inspired models a modern touch, while refined, innovative materials result in lighter, more comfortable styles.

The collection appeals to men over 30 and women 25+ who appreciate an artisanal approach to eyewear and understand the value of craftsmanship, along with high fashion and cutting-edge design, says Lada Silva, president of Marca Eyewear Group, Marcolin’s Canadian partner.

mod: FT0570

mod: FT0570

Integrating the characteristics of the iconic Tom Ford ‘T’ into the temples and using a 75-step process by hand, help to distinguish the brand. Designer Tom Ford is also an important part of the design process, a commitment that appeals to customers who want a premium brand.

Match Eyewear

The Judith Leiber brand has redefined the accessory category through its cutting-edge fashion and timeless style. The eponymous eyewear collection from Match Eyewear consists of 26 optical styles and eight sun styles, handcrafted in the finest Mazzucchelli acetate, which provides superior-quality optical plastics.

From amethyst to sapphire crystals, each frame is a dazzling sculptural work of art. Adorned with Swarovski crystals made from the purest raw materials, the frames feature unique Italian acetate colorations, such as Bordeaux, Graphite, Orchid and Denim Blue.

mod: JL 3030

mod: JL 3030

mod: JL 3028

mod: JL 3028

The collection’s latest additions take a new design direction for Millennials, using metal embellishments. The JL 3030 is an acetate front sun style with mottled metal design elements on each side of the frame and temples. Keeping with the sleek metal theme, optical style JL 3028 features a multi-dimensional metal globe detail on the temples.

Perfect Optical

A harmonious blend of technology and art, design and inspiration, the Premium Collection from LineArt CHARMANT, available from Perfect Optical, is aimed at women aged 50+. “They’re not necessarily drawn to brands,” says Perfect Optical President Adrian Maas. “They’re interested in the article itself and appreciate the craftsmanship, materials and design that sets LineArt apart.”

LineArt uses a patented laser welding process called braising to create a laser weld at the juncture of two pieces of metal; this helps to ensure the frame’s strength. All frame temples are made of Excellence Titan, a titanium alloy that retains titanium’s strength and durability, yet is hypoallergenic and highly flexible with superb memory function.

Vivace, the latest design line in the LineArt CHARMANT collection, is a contemporary interpretation of elegant understatement, characterized by its sleek temple design: two fine, parallel lines produce a smooth, streamlined look.

mod: XL2113

mod: XL2113

Vivace models project feminine flair and a touch of luxury and are very comfortable to wear. The colourful upper rim of XL2113 VIVACE forms the striking highlight of the full-rim frame, made of the finest titanium. All colour versions have gold-plated temples.

Prisme Optical

The French-made Charriol collection from Prisme Optical Group makes a bold statement about those who wear it, says Prisme President Richard Stortini. “These are people for whom brand is important. Charriol frames are easily identifiable, thanks to the «C» logo engraved on the outside of each tip. They’re noticeable, not discreet, and definitely not for everyone.”

Designed for people 50+, particularly wealthy men who want to celebrate their success, the eyewear is primarily composed of black acetate with gold or silver details on the side.

mod: PC7501

mod: PC7501

mod: PC71002

mod: PC71002

Style PC7501 C3 is a men’s frame in black acetate, with the signature Charriol cable in monel. PC71002 C1 is a luxurious style for elegant women in Tortoise. Made from acetate and monel, it features Swarovski crystals adorned by hand.

Selective in its distribution, Charriol offers independent opticians an alternative to more widely available luxury brands. All Charriol frames are identified by an individual serial number and come with a worldwide guaranty card.

Spectacle Eyeworks

Two stunning new stainless steel styles, featuring 3D-inspired patterns and multi-dimensional effects, come to us from Spectacle Eyeworks. These elegantly edgy designs exude a refined boldness that is sure to intrigue even the most discerning audience, says Director and Chief Designer Mehran Baghaie.


mod: KHAi

mod: Khai

“I wanted to create something that would intertwine the strength of geometric lines and angles with multi-faceted, slightly textured patterns and contouring,” said Baghaie. The result: Khai and Karl, two understated, yet striking creations that give life to the designer’s vision.

These German-made frames feature diverse dimensions, tactile elements, and rich, earthy hues. Each is available in seven colour options, including a burgundy jewel tone and metallic pewter. All frames include a signature case and two-year warranty.


New to the luxury eyewear segment, WestGroupe is proud to offer the ZEISS Eyewear collection. Featuring 14 optical styles (seven men’s, four women’s and three unisex) for those with a sophisticated eyewear palate, the collection maintains the high quality and integrity of the ZEISS brand.

The materials of choice are titanium and TX5, a state-of-the-art material for premium plastic frames. They create ultra-light frames, combined with great strength and transparency.

Rich, saturated colours range from classic neutrals to high-fashion shades, coupled with gold and silver accents for a touch of opulence. Custom-integrated spring hinges, titanium temple tip caps, and titanium nose pads enhance the brand’s luxury appeal.

mod: ZS-10007

mod: ZS-10007

For women, ZS-10007 features a modified square shape that is easy-to-wear in TX5 material. Titanium double-wire-style temples create an airy, lightweight look and are finished with titanium inlays at the end piece.

ZS-20004 is a men’s style featuring a tonal gradient TX5 front with matte finish. A titanium inlay connects the end piece and temples for a signature design detail. An integrated spring hinge provides additional comfort.


Glamorous, enchanted, classic: that’s Jimmy Choo, the women’s luxury fashion eyewear brand from Sàfilo.

The 10-piece SS18 ophthalmic collection offers an unparalleled level of product distinction, using exotic materials, luxurious detailing and Swarovski crystals.

Styles are offered in metal, with a star pattern, acetate (with and without glitter) and combination frames. A new material used in the collection is an exclusive, ultra-fine Swarovski crystal embellishment.

mod:  JC 200

mod: JC 200

The highlight of this season’s collection is a rounded aviator shape (Jimmy Choo JC 200) in a thin, lightweight metal construction with star cutout detailing along the side of the temples for a sophisticated, playful look.


mod: Priya

mod: Priya

There are 11 new sunglass styles in the SS18 collection, some of which feature ultra-fine Swarovski crystal embellishment. The ‘Priya’ sunglasse feature a signature glitter finish on the temples. Shiny metals and sleek acetates are also used on certain styles.

Jimmy Choo eyewear is designed for women 25+, who are passionate about fashion and appreciate timeless and iconic luxury accessories with exceptional Italian craftsmanship.

Marchon Eyewear

Classic styles married to French allure define the Longchamp collection from Marchon. Wearable and fashionable with easy styling, the collection’s 13 optical and 12 sun styles are perfect for the active woman 30+.

The collection includes a large offering of metal frames, plus thin-profile acetates with iconic details and rich, eye-catching colours. Gold elements at the hinges, leather detailing in the temples and gold horse emblems on every acetate frame exude luxury.

The collection is available in a wide range of shades and bright colour combinations. A finished marble effect on select frames creates an elevated look and feel.


From the Roseau collection, the LO617S features a feminine cat-eye frame made of acetate, with beautiful marble-effect colours, highlighted by gold metal temples and comfortable acetate tips. The Roseau collection utilizes a bamboo-style hinge, taken from the namesake line of bags. Chic and modern, the Roseau line adds a level of sophistication to the full collection.

By JoAnne Sommers

Design in Three Dimensions: 3D Frames Signal a Shift


Exciting…fun…expensive…not up to snuff…marvelous: descriptors and opinions abound when it comes to 3D printing of eyewear frames.

3D printing is poised to significantly change the traditional manufacturing landscape. It could mean far less outsourcing to other countries as, over time, it becomes cheaper to print frames close to the place where they are ordered. And if 3D printing becomes the predominant method of manufacture, there will be no need for retailers to carry much, if any stock, because frames can be seen on the face via virtual 3D images and custom designed with software at the dispensary. 3D printing of frames has the advantage of generating almost no waste, in contrast to working with sheets of metal or acetate, which does the opposite. In addition, with 3D printing there is no need to over-manufacture products that may not sell because frames can be printed on a just-in-time basis. Finally, mass-customization becomes a reality with 3D printing, presumably making customers happier.

This feature brings you the best of what is currently available in Canada. We cover three manufacturers and four designers, all of whom use 3D printing for all or part of their work. In some cases, 3D printing results in far lower costs, such as when manufacturers use it for almost-instant prototyping; in other cases, the costs can go through the roof, as with 3D printing in titanium. One thing is for sure—this technology stands to shake up the industry big time.

Patrick Hoet, owner and designer for his eponymous brand, Hoet, based in Bruges, Belgium, took a pioneering position with 3D printed frames beginning in 2011. When he couldn’t attract partners he used his own assets to fund research and development, eventually launching the titanium 3D Hoet Couture collection at Silmo 2014. His daughter, Bieke, followed with a polymer 3D collection the following year.


Mod : DS9/ Patrick Hoet

Mod : DS9/ Patrick Hoet

Known for premium-quality artisanal frames, Hoet says that titanium printed in 3D is as good, if not better than traditionally manufactured frames. The polymer (nylon) used in the Cabrio collection has the advantage of being lighter and stronger than acetate, while also withstanding the ageing of acetate caused sweat and chemical agents. “However, colour possibilities and surface quality are somewhat diminished, for the time being,” he notes.

As a designer, Hoet says that 3D printing is “thrilling and challenging: a game changer. It’s like being a kid with his first Lego blocks—it’s not easy to master, but then it wouldn’t be as much fun if it was.”

Hoet helped to develop, and designed the initial frame collection for a 3D printing solution partnership between the Leuven, Belgium firm Materialise and HOYA Vision Care. The Yuniku project, which gives the eyecare professional the opportunity to create custom 3D frames made to order with personalized lenses, is not yet available in North America. He also created a 3D sports eyewear collection for Seiko called Seiko Xchanger.

His experience with 3D printing has made Hoet a big fan of the technology. “Waste is significantly reduced, while creating a product that is completely adapted to the needs of the customer. 3D printing will have a very positive impact on our ecological footprint. I have grandchildren and I want to leave them a better world.”

Sàfilo Group has developed a trend-setting collection, Oxydo Eyewear, in which frames of gold, ruthenium and palladium are enhanced by surrounding, lattice-like architectural structures created with 3D printers. Aesthetics and innovation meet in this striking collection of four styles, entirely Made in Italy. Multi-dimensional and quirky, Oxydo designs are wearable sculptures, one of which was created by New York-based artist Francis Bitonti.

mod: O.N 1.5 /OXYDO

mod: O.N 1.5 /OXYDO

Sàfilo also uses in-house 3D printing to develop prototypes for almost all of its brands. Vladimiro Baldin, chief product design and creation officer, says: “We currently use 3D printing on prototypes. Design ideas are embraced, refined or abandoned based on the look and feel of a prototype. To hasten and sharpen that crucial decision–making, we brought the 3D printing process in–house. Thanks to this, we can produce whole product prototypes in full colour, even with multiple materials, textures and gradients in as little as a few hours, speeding up the process of product development tremendously.”

Baldin sees a bright future for 3D printing: “There are huge opportunities, which consist in constantly refining the materials used, giving rise to products that are unique and tailor-made. And this is key in driving a future of customization. Currently, 3D printing systems are less cost-efficient than traditional mass production techniques, such as metal cutting or plastic injection moulding, but they are set to become better and cheaper over time, radically lowering barriers to entry for start-ups, no matter how small their production runs.”

Oliver Goldsmith, owner and designer of his eponymous London-based company, jumped on the 3D bandwagon with alacrity. “I was very excited by the fact that one can reproduce spectacles that would be impossible by traditional methods,” he says.

Goldsmith worked with Belgium-based 3D printing company, Materialise. “It took over a year to reach the point where I had some production samples in hand, as I had to educate them on the fine points of eyewear design, including six base toric curves for the lenses to fit correctly, getting the bridge fittings to be super-comfortable and joint angles according to the height of the temples being fitted to the fronts.”

Goldsmith and Materialise reproduced four models from Goldsmith’s father’s designs from the 1950s, including SATAN, which he enhanced with a finish that can only be done with 3D printing. The collection is for demonstration purposes only, however, as Goldsmith feels the perceived quality is not yet at the premium eyewear level. “While the actual quality is excellent, 3D printing cannot yet achieve the beautiful colours and colour combinations available in acetate. They are working on water transfer coatings, but this is still in the experimental stages. Also the look and feel in the hand are not the same.”


With the slogan, 20th century design meets 21st century production, Goldsmith’s first 3D collection will be used for window display and publicity purposes. He is hopeful, however, that he can bring a 3D collection to market as materials improve and prices come down.

Specsy is a Toronto-based 3D printing company with a turnkey printing solution for eyecare professionals. Founder and Product Development Manager, Milan Madhavji, a dental radiologist, has been manufacturing high-precision dental products since 2010 for his company, Canaray. He decided to turn his attention to the eyewear industry and launched Specsy in 2017.


Madhavji developed a solution that covers all the bases for ECPs. He explains: “They don’t need a web presence or even a computer or technical know-how to use the Specsy system. We provide what they need to give the customer a customized 3D printed frame, including an iPad equipped with the necessary software, 3D camera, brochures for customers, and a short training manual for opticians that includes information like how to set a lens in a 3D printed frame and how to adjust the shape. Engaging with a customer is as simple as taking her picture, bringing it up on the iPad and helping her select from a variety of frames, which are viewed on her virtual picture. Everything can be done in under five minutes.”

Specsy frames are currently available in a proprietary polymer material. All frames are printed at their Mississauga plant and the turnaround is approximately five days. The company will soon introduce a new printer to create metal frames, as well as software that will allow for increasingly sophisticated customization.

Specsy should be available Canada-wide by March, after which they will launch in the U.S. All manufacturing will remain in Canada, says Madhavji.

WestGroupe, always on the hunt for new processes and technologies that will enhance product and improve service, has been using 3D printing for prototype development since late 2016. Beverly Suliteanu, vice president, product development and creative director, says the learning curve was not without its hiccups: “It took us a bit of time initially to determine the proper setup parameters for metal frames due to the thinness of some of the parts. When separating the 3D frame from the support base, we initially had a lot of breakage by the nose pad guard arm and some of the thin filigree detailing. It was a process of trial and error to determine the proper setup to ensure the 3D prototypes were perfect.”

Due to the fact that there are limitations on the type of colouring and detailing one can have in a 3D printed frame, WestGroupe chose their printer based solely on the need for rapid prototyping. “Knowing that we wanted to better evaluate fit rather than design, we chose a printer that made economic sense for us,” says Suliteanu. “It has offered a great return on investment and most importantly, it has improved the products that we bring to market.”

Rapp Optical designer Shilo Rapp, trained as a goldsmith, loves 3D printing technology. “It has completely transformed the design and fabrication process and I regard it as an extremely useful tool for anyone creating anything, including eyewear,” he says.

Before getting into eyewear design, Rapp freelanced for many jewellers in Toronto, providing them with 3D models for complex custom orders. “While completely eliminating the wax carving and mold maker, these ‘virtual’, though geometrically accurate, computer files would go to 3D printers and eventually become a physical object, ready for metal casting, polish and diamond setting, which is pretty amazing,” he says.

As a designer, Rapp still prefers to transform raw materials manually. “To me it is more fun to use my hands. However, we will continue to employ both the modelling and 3D printing technologies in our design process, prototypes and mechanical fixture making. Our latest collection of combination frames, while not 3D printed, were conceived and designed using 3D modelling software. And, over the years we have utilized the technology in the same way a jeweller would: adding embellished components to our frames, though mostly for one-off pieces.

“As for 3D metal printing, there are some truly amazing examples in the eyewear sector, but for us the technology costs are still high, especially in our preferred material titanium, and would catapult our products into an astronomic price range. When it comes to 3D printed polymers, I have to say that the warmth, along with colour, texture and pattern available in acetate is still unmatched compared to 3D printed frames, though maybe not for long. Whatever happens, we will be ready!”

Colin Redmond, designer for and owner of Niloca Eyewear (see our designer profile of Redmond in the November/December 2017 issue), is an undisputed expert on 3D printing. Educated as an industrial designer, he also has a degree in polymer science. Redmond, based in Melbourne, Australia owned a 3D printing company—Plastic Ink—serving all manner of industries from 2005 – 2010.


Redmond says that while 3D printing technology is getting faster and more reliable, the polymer science is lagging in improving materials. The biggest issue is maintaining climate control, as fluctuations in temperature, humidity, air chemistry, air pressure and even light, affect the printing, forming and fusing of layers.

Producing consistently perfect A-Class surfaces is the big challenge for 3D printing. “The material deficits result in surface finishes that aren’t great. If there is a slight blemish on a large object like a car hood it wouldn’t really show, but on a frame it is obvious. There are tricks to hide the blemishes, but that’s accepting defeat and selling a lesser product. I wouldn’t want to do that to my clientele,” says Redmond.

Despite the challenges, Redmond will release three 3D printed collections in June 2018. Something to look forward to!

As you can see, 3D printing is not yet an unalloyed success or necessarily cost-effective. The promise is great, however, and given the esteem accorded to the professionals covered herein, you can be certain of the best of the best in their 3D printed creations.

Success with advertising: Retailers share their gains

SuccessWithAdvertisingBy Paddy Kamen

It’s no secret that many retailers are struggling in the current market; news about retail woes is rampant, with major closures including Target and Future Shop.

John Torella, senior advisor, marketing, with the J.C. Williams Group in Toronto, says, “The good news is that more shoppers are looking for a meaningful relationship. They’re tired of mass, undifferentiated service. But you have to deliver and that means doing all the little things well.”

Further, you cannot ignore the fact that we are in an era of multi-channel e-commerce. Fortunately, new media is an economical way for smaller retailers to get their message out, adds Torella. “Bricks-and-mortar are still crucial, but you need both because the customer wants both.”

This feature gives you a glimpse of what’s working for six optical retailers, from the new retailers – like Allyson Tang, to the experienced and well-established, like Josh Josephson – and from large chains to smaller ones and the single location store.

We also cover three major manufacturers who are advertising direct to consumers. This is a trend that supports retail. And as we see from the recent news, retail needs all the help it can get these days.

→ Dr. Allyson Tang, Optometrist
Takeaways: Mobile Signage, Website


Allyson Tang is the newest practitioner (in business for 1.5 years) and among the youngest (age 29) to be covered in this feature.

With a small marketing budget, Tang initially focused on direct mail, relationship marketing and her website.

DrTangEyecareDirect mail proved to be a costly mistake says Tang. “I distributed flyers through the local newspaper and Canada Post. It cost almost $2,000 for 10,000 flyers. If you repeat this every few months it can really add up. And I didn’t get much in the way of results.”

In contrast, Tang’s website ( has been an excellent investment. She paid a website developer to create her site and social media accounts with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Tang writes the content herself and posts weekly to her website and social media. “I estimate that 30 per cent of our patients find us through an online search.”

Tang will update her website soon. “It will cost around $600. Keeping our website up-to-date and mobile-friendly makes it easy for people on the go to find us.”

Tang has also attended local service group meetings (Lion’s Club and Rotary), visited neighbouring merchants and bought booths at business-to-business expo events (costing less than $200). The Vaughan Business Enterprise Centre offers networking meetings and marketing workshops in which she participates. The Centre also gave her a start-up grant of $5,000, which she used for equipment purchases.

The strip mall in which Tang is located has a mobile sign that merchants can rent for 21-day periods. She first used the sign last summer to advertise a promotion. “It cost around $300 and we captured five new patients with an average sale of $250, so the return on investment (ROI) was good. I have pre-booked the sign for our next high season.”

→ IRIS The Visual Group
Takeaways: Direct Mail, Email, Live Chat


IRIS is a national chain with 163 stores. Direct mail is one of IRIS’ most effective advertising channels, according to Executive Vice-President Daryan Angle. “We mail to our existing customer base and also send offers to specific postal codes. These give us a very measurable return. We market extensively to the AirMiles® database through our affiliation with them, which is another excellent channel.”

Angle points out that every market is different. “You cannot take the same approach in each region. For example, TV advertising is relatively inexpensive in Quebec compared to the rest of Canada, and in some markets radio is affordable. While we have promotions that everyone participates in, we look carefully at how best to leverage that promotion in individual markets.”

“People often can’t say with certainty when you ask them what drew them to your location,” says Angle. “With direct mail we can track the return through bar codes. We also send time-limited email offers to existing customers. These are low cost and have a very high return.”

Iris_DossierIRIS recently implemented customer surveys to assess the likelihood that a customer will recommend IRIS. Customers are encouraged to fill out the survey at the point of sale, and are also selected randomly and approached by email.

The IRIS website ( has a live chat service for booking appointments, as well as their ‘Ask a Doctor’ feature. The website also has a pop-up questionnaire; upon completion the visitor receives a $50 gift certificate toward a purchase. This is an excellent way to capture useful consumer information and provide an incentive to visit IRIS stores.

“The more helpful information you give customers, the more effective your website will be in connecting you with future customers or reconnecting with existing ones,” says Angle.

→ Karir Eyewear
Takeaways: Social Media, Product Placements


DaytimeTorontoNamita Karir is managing optician at Karir Eyewear Yorkdale in Toronto. The business, featuring artisanal eyewear, was founded 34 years ago and has grown to three locations. Namita, at age 29, is right at the heart of the online generation.

Karir Eyewear advertises twice yearly (their November sale and again on Boxing Day) in major newspapers. “However, we primarily use our website and social media to establish a presence,” says Karir.

A public-relations firm helps Karir keep current by feeding her material to use in social media posts. “I try to personalize each one. We keep our Facebook page very current and I also Tweet regularly.”

Keeping website and social media content fresh, visual and up-to-date is key for Karir. “You have to keep putting in the effort and giving people variety. They are doing their research and it’s your job to keep them excited. Boring simply won’t do.”

Lightbox posters help to attract new customers to Karir Optical’s two downtown Toronto locations. They also send four email blasts to existing customers annually. One of those advertises their annual trunk show, which is a huge draw. “We typically offer an exclusive product or a meet-and-greet with the designer. For example, last year we featured the renowned Israeli designer Ron Arad, who was in town to give a lecture.”

Their PR company also pitches the Karir brand to fashion media outlets. “They get us product placements in fashion magazines, and interviews. This is an excellent spend for us because it builds our brand.”

→ FYidoctors
Takeaways: Google Ads, Facebook, Aeroplan

FYidoctors is a Canadian chain with 190 clinics nationwide and another 100 Vision Source franchise locations. They are now converting all their clinics (except in Quebec) to the common FYidoctors banner.

“In the early days our clinics were each responsible for their own advertising, with access to central resources. Now our advertising initiatives are centralized, while still having local budgets to meet local needs,” says CEO and President Alan Ulsifer.

FYIFacebookFYidoctors is focusing on online advertising. “We have experimented with magazines, newspaper and radio,” says Ulsifer. Three things have risen to the top for us: Facebook, Google Ads and the Aeroplan loyalty program.

“Our Aeroplan relationship lets us communicate with Aeroplan’s 5.5 million members through email and other mediums, to let them know about new products and promotions. This generates the most referrals,” says Ulsifer.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is also helping FYidoctors build their business. Ulsifer explains: “Two years ago we had fewer than 15,000 visits to our website each month; now we get 175,000. That is resulting in patient visits.”

The company has done a comprehensive analysis of online ads from YellowPages and Google Ads. “We found that Google Ads was far more effective,” says Ulsifer.

FYidoctors recently launched a new vision screening mobile app that is building excitement around their brand and will be bringing it to their other databases and all existing patients through email and text blasts.

“We now have a good sense of best practices for our clinics,” says Ulsifer.

“We’ve created the team to manage our advertising program and we make the necessary investments to stay current. You can market all you want and get people through your door but when they arrive, will they make an emotional connection with your brand? We really hope we have achieved that.”

→ Josephson Opticians
Takeaway: Follow your demographic

Optometrist Dr. Josh Josephson sold his private practice 20 years ago and took charge of the optical stores that have been in his family for 80 years. He now divides his time between his six Toronto locations and other business and professional activities.

Interestingly, given the huge changes in advertising over the past 20 years, Josephson hasn’t changed his advertising approach much.

“We’re still in most of the same media and that’s because our clientele is reading those media. Most of our targeted demographic, professionals and entrepreneurs – in fact, anyone who appreciates uniquely designed fashionable eyewear – read the Globe and Mail and Toronto Life magazine. That hasn’t changed.”

JosephsonAlthough the retailer maintains a more-than-respectable website, Josephson says it is harder to reach his specific demographic through online advertising. “Online is more for a mid-or-low market demographic.”

The goal for the website is to help potential clients familiarize themselves with the products Josephson’s carries. “Those who seek out something different or are looking for knowledgeable care hear about us from friends or do their research online before coming to the store.”

Josephson and staff members handle their own creative advertising. “We worked with some advertising firms in the past but we do a better job ourselves. We learned along the way and developed a style. We don’t sell anything that is mass-marketed but instead work with hands-on designers who move the market forward in terms of fashion.”

Josephson advises newcomers to optical retail: “Find local media that present well and get yourself in there as much as you can afford. It’s about building awareness over time, with consistency. Advertising is not simple and learning to make it effective involves a lot of trial-and-error.”

→ Eye Health Centres
Takeaways: Being ‘On Call’, Fridge Magnets


Diana Monea, O.D, has been in business for 34 years and operates three locations – two in Calgary and one in Regina.

She well remembers the ‘bad old days’ of direct mail, print ads and printed newsletters and is happy to be well beyond that now. “New media works better and is less costly.”

EyeHealthCentresWith a strong website ( and superb social media presence, Monea has never looked back. “We have a web designer who keeps the site current for us. And every associate in the store is responsible for one social media posting each week. Every Wednesday we send out a Tweet and an Instagram post. We use these for sharing information about new products. We also regularly post staff wearing new product. Word of mouth is our best referral source. After that it is our website, and from there it is about equal for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.”

Monea’s patients can book appointments online. And the doctor is always available to her patients via email. “One of the things that has really helped build word of mouth for us is that patients can email me 24/7. I receive emails from patients on vacation who have run into a problem with eye infections, for example. If I’m away, one of my associates is on call for email enquiries. I give patients a magnetized business card so they can keep my contact info handy. That’s a great little advertising device!”

Advertising direct to Consumers: Manufacturers prime the pump

Over the last 20 years, there has been a distinct increase in the number of eyewear and lens manufacturers advertising direct to the public. In this article, we’ll look at three of these: Transitions Optical, Essilor and WestGroupe.

Transitions lenses have become one of the most recognizable consumer brands in the optical market thanks to consumer advertising.

Transitions_AfficheTransitions Optical is spending some of its ad budget on a younger audience these days. “Our research showed that even though the technology behind Transitions® lenses has improved, some younger consumers claim they don’t prefer them because they have an outdated perception of the product,” says Isabelle Tremblay-Dawson, senior marketing manager, Canada.

Online advertising, TV advertising and social media will combine to help tell a glamorous story about Transitions® Signature™ graphite green lenses to this younger age group. As Tremblay-Dawson points out: “Our Chromea7™ technology story presents an opportunity for us to connect with a younger audience – particularly single vision wearers. We’re partnering with actress Laurence Leboeuf to tell this audience – who are trendy, ambitious, status-conscious and who value technology – about the new colour choices available and the technology advances this product offers.”

“Essilor has been advertising directly to consumers since the mid-1990s, and our investment has increased substantially since then,” says Robert Menes, vice-president of marketing and communications for Essilor Canada. “We started out with smaller initiatives such as ‘brought to you by Crizal’ on the UV report on the Weather Network, leading up to complete national campaigns. Last year we piloted two additional campaigns on Xperio and Varilux.”

Menes says, “Because of our advertising, people walk into the retail experience with awareness; either they ask for the products or they recognize them when the eyecare professional (ECP) brings them to their attention. Advertising definitely helps drive consumer demand and acceptance.”

Essilor measures the response to every campaign through market research. They do brand recall surveys (i.e. asking, ‘Have you ever seen an ad for this product?), and awareness surveys (i.e. ‘Tell me about the lens brands you are aware of ’), and also measure web traffic and can see how many viewers are looking for local ECPs, for example.

Once consumers come into the store, ECPs can reinforce Essilor’s advertising by showing video loops of the TV advertisements on in-store monitors. Essilor also supports individual ECP advertising with pre-formatted content for Facebook, print ads and radio.

WestgroupeBoardsWestGroupe began direct-to-consumer advertising in 2011 for Evatik, their frame collection for men. “Our national outdoor campaign included billboards and transit shelters across the country,” says Beverly Suliteanu, vice-president of marketing and product development. “Although consumers may not have gone to the ECP asking for Evatik, many did recognize the name when they were shown the collection.”

WestGroupe has websites for each of their three proprietary brands: Evatik, Fysh UK and Kliik denmark. Each site features engaging videos. “All of our websites are designed for both consumers and the trade and have components geared to each audience,” says Suliteanu. “The videos are a great way of creatively telling our story.”

Each brand also has its own Facebook page and is supported by social media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram. “It’s all about engaging with those who connect to our brands,” says Suliteanu.

“Consumer advertising supports our retailers and increases sell-through of our brands,” notes Suliteanu. “There is a definite synergy in that. Without the distribution, the consumer would not be able to purchase our products and, without consumer awareness, it would be much harder for the retailer to sell our products.”


Men’s Eyewear Fashion is Right on Trend

FeatureMenBy Paddy Kamen

Men’s fashion is hot like never before, with three weeks in January set aside for men’s-only fashion weeks in London, Paris, Milan and Florence. Not to be outdone, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver have their own men’s fashion weeks later in the year. The London show, which starts the season, is only six years old, confirming the trend as a relatively new one.

Nic Screws (correct spelling) is the style director at She spent January jetting around to the various shows and reporting on the trends she found. Keep in mind that these shows feature designer apparel, not eyewear. However, Screws noted that accessories are very hot for men this year. In one of her key ‘take-aways’ she writes: “Luxurious basics can make a statement just as strongly as weird conceptual items.”  And further: “Four-word summary of the entire journey: Buy a big scarf.”1 She also showed pictures of trending footware from the streets of Paris in bold, saturated colours – again supporting her statement about luxury basics.

Eyewear is the ultimate accessory because the face is the first point of contact in interpersonal interactions. When, as Screws points out, “dressing down to dress up,” is the new aesthetic, eyewear can bring a note of distinction, elegance and identity that speaks volumes about the man. Smart eyewear retailers are noticing and taking advantage of this trend.

Amin Mamdani, owner and founder of Squint Eyewear, a high-end optical retailer with stores in Toronto and Oakville, caters to urban professionals with a largely artisanal selection of frames. He says that whereas eyeglasses used to be mainly about fit and function they have become part of a man’s wardrobe. “Men are taking more time selecting eyewear. They look at it as more of an accessory and fashion item than they did in the past and they’re much more open to colour and different shapes.”

This change seems to be an extension of trends for men in grooming and apparel, Mamdani says, “Men are definitely taking greater care of their personal needs in grooming, styling and appearance, and are generally much more particular than ever before. I see it as an urban thing. More products are available for them and they absorb them into their lives and the change becomes part of their thinking.

Val Weide agrees. Weide is an optician and the practice manager for Village Optical, a large optometric office in Winnipeg with a family orientation. “I see many more interesting options for men in apparel these days. I recently saw a men’s apparel ad with the subject wearing a silver metallic suit – not for everyone, certainly! Shirts have colourful accents and different prints. The changes in eyewear are definitely an extension of those trends.”

Weide sees an enticing change in colour options for men’s frames: “We’re not just getting the basic browns and blacks but beautiful dark greens, and matte finishes. There is a fine line between having a frame that is stylish and one that’s outlandish. We find our male patients gravitating to colour accents on the temples or tops of the frames as opposed to a vivid colour for the whole frame. Multilayered acrylics are also very popular.”

Weide’s best-selling collections for men are Evatik from Westgroupe, Rebel and Lightec from Lanctôt, and Ray-Ban.

Mamdani sees olive, sky blue, midnight blue, chocolate and slate grey as the leading colours for men right now. “We’re also starting to see frames made of metal or plastic inmidnight black with a bit of gold embellishment. It’s a very urban look.” His best-selling collections are DITA (“An incredibly strong line for men, designed in Europe and made in Japan.”); Mykita and Mykita Mylon (“German-made, high-tech with great comfort in blues, greys, greens, and they’re adding more colours.”); Bevel (“Great titanium, split colours and very well-fitted.”); and Lindberg, a leading Danish framemaker.

Are men more technically inclined than women when it comes to frames? “Definitely, yes,” says Weide. “I’ve heard of men taking their glasses home to weigh them because they want the lightest possible pair.” Men are also more goal-driven when it comes to selection in Weide’s experience. “We find that most men like to have three or four pairs to choose from, and to get in and out of the dispensary quickly.”

Mamdani cautions retailers to keep an open mind when selling to men. “Be aware that they don’t all need or want the same thing and don’t pigeonhole them as wanting basic, functional eyewear. Educate them about different shapes and colours and how these factors change their look and show them everything you have that is current.”

But how many frames are available for men? Weide notes that for every man’s frame in a sales rep’s case there are still four or five for women. Thankfully, that’s beginning to change, with designers and manufacturers stepping up to the plate with collections aimed squarely at this growing, fashion-oriented market.

KliikWestgroupe is a case in point. Creative Director and Vice President of Product Development Beverly Suliteanu says that while their Kliik and Bertelli collections have been 85 per cent oriented to women, they are now working towards placing more emphasis on the men’s segment. “For Westgroupe, the men’s category is our fastest-growing segment. We have greatly expanded our Evatik men’s-only collection with a focus on more colour and intricate detailing. Our best-selling models tend to be those that have a bold accent colour or design feature like an orange temple stripe or a green or blue inlay.”

Is a focus on men part of a trend toward distinct products for the sexes and away from unisex? Suliteanu says, “While unisex models are still available, most current eyewear styles are designed for either men or women. The unisex styles tend to be much more basic, both in shape, detail and colour. The need for a distinct men’s offering is what caused us to create Evatik. Rather than designing a few men’s frames within the Fysh collection, we created a collection designed for and marketed to men. We are constantly monitoring men’s fashion trends, in order to quickly capitalize on new colour and design details that resonate with today’s man.”

MarcOPoloRonor Brand Manager and Communications Director Jenny Tzelardonis, says, “Men are wearing a lot more nicely tailored clothes made specifically to fit a man’s body. Anything that is designed with a purpose will inevitably fit and feel better. The added comfort is something men seek, and that includes eyewear! Smart companies have understood this and are dedicating designs exclusively to male wearers.”

Ronor’s Marc O’Polo collection was created exclusively for men by the design team at Eschenbach’s headquarters in Nuremberg, Germany. “Marc O’Polo is exclusively masculine with a customized fit for the male wearer. This means the ultimate in comfort,” says Tzelardonis. “The designs are pure, reduced to the essentials, with a great emphasis on fine materials and finishes.”


Headline_StaagPaul Storace, president of Plan “B” Eyewear, knows what makes men tick: “All it takes is one pretty girl to tell a guy she likes his glasses and he will never be without them. Men are like that.”

Plan “B” is moving more seriously into the men’s market with Staag Spectacles, a luxury brand made from block and beta titanium and Mazzucchelli® cured acetates to ensure outstanding quality. Storace assures us that they are not trendy, “but super-classic with an ’over built’ philosophy that includes the best-quality hinges and superior paint. They appeal to men who know what’s what.” This bold, unique and masculine collection features colour techniques and finishes that are among the most advanced in the industry.

Headlines is another men’s collection from Plan “B”. The new HL 253 model in an acetate and titanium combination makes a strong statement in a cool, light blue that looks great against all skin tones and with all eye colours.

MichaelRyenKnowing that men come in all shapes and sizes, CENOCO offers the Michael Ryen collection in an extensive size range. “We designed the original collection in 2008 to satisfy the need for larger-than-average men’s frames that don’t sacrifice style for size,” says spokesperson Tyler Soloway. “Since then we’ve expanded to meet the needs of all men, including pieces that are much smaller. We use high-quality metal and plastics in both modern and vintage styles and we’ve been successful with the contemporary market, as well as with men who prefer a more traditional look.”

The Michael Ryen collection reinvents iconic looks and classic shapes and boasts high-end details in materials such as titanium and Mazzucchelli acetates. Every frame boasts spring hinges to ensure a comfortable fit.


FaconnableFaçonnable has become one of the world’s most celebrated apparel brands and Prisme Optical Group is proud to carry their men’s eyewear collections. “The brand is not about ostentation,” notes Prisme President Richard Stortini, “but rather about instinct, authenticity and elegance.”

There are three lines within the Façonnable collection: the vibrant, trendy and affordable Jeans, aimed at those 18-35 who enjoy casual living; New Vintage, which reinterprets the past with authentic detailing; and Progress, with a modern chic and neo-traditional look. Stortini loves Façonnable because it is classic but stylish, and features impeccable quality. “This is a designer label, but less well known than some other designer brands that you find everywhere.  It gives eyecare professionals an alternative because we have a more selective distribution.”

RJX114Zyloware Eyewear launched the Randy Jackson frame collection to give every man a stylish and masculine look. On-trend shapes and colours in sun and ophthalmic wear are key features of this collection. The Randy Jackson Limited Edition X114 is a full-rim zyl with a masculine cat’s-eye shape with attractive rivets on the front and temples. Colours include a deep olive and tortoise combination, and black over crystal. Another excellent choice is the Randy Jackson Sun S922P, which features metal nose pad arms and snap-in nose pads to accommodate a variety of patients. (See the Randy Jackson designer story on page XX of this issue.)

Everyone recognizes the iconic Stetson hat, a symbol of rugged masculinity, created in 1865 by John B. Stetson. Zyloware brings Stetson’s emphasis on comfort, durability and individuality to life in the Stetson eyewear collection for men. There is  a wide array of styles and sizes, including the thin profile Stetson Slim 316. This is a full-rim, contemporary rectangular frame with stylish zyl temples, metal rivets and a stainless steel core wire for maximum comfort. This style easily accommodates progressive lenses.

ZegnaErmenegildo Zegna, a leader in luxury men’s clothing and accessories, has joined forces with Marcolin to present the first Ermenegildo Zegna Eyewear collection. Launched late last year in Milan, this Made-in-Italy collection is distinguished by craftsmanship and attention to detail.

Ermenegildo Zegna is aimed at sophisticated men who value distinctive styling and the highest quality. In the optical collection, the rectangular-shaped EZ5005 stands out, with contrasting lines and varying levels of transparency. Sunglass knockouts include the easy-to-wear, geometrically oriented EZ0009, with a variety of temple choices, including tapestry effects, leather inserts or wood detailing. The EZ5005 is an intelligent-looking, rounded frame with transparent, coloured temples on which the brand’s chevron logo can be seen. Materials include titanium, leather and wood, with nuanced colour schemes and exquisite detailing in every piece.

RetroSpectacle Eyeworks created the RETRO collection for men who like to make fashion part of their look. “I don’t think the older generation identifies with a frame as much as the younger or young-at-heart man does,” notes Mehran Baghaie, director and chief designer. “Whereas the ‘hipster’ guy understands that glasses are part of his look and identity, the older generation grew up not wanting to wear glasses at all, let alone making them part of his look!”

Baghaie, who was nominated for Silmo d’Or awards in 2002 and 2003, doesn’t hesitate to take design risks, while still creating frames that men love to wear. He recently introduced four new models to RETRO, in designs that keep the geek-chic trend very much alive. The new models – Harvey, Mac, Marcello and Sandra – are cool and confident, while also fitting men at different ends of the size spectrum.

“I wanted to bring a fresh, new perspective on the geek-chic look and design and was inspired to create new, more funky shapes and colours,” says Baghaie. The result is colours that are rich without being intrusive.  “Dimension, not distraction,” is RETRO’s philosophy and each evocative new design is available in six colours.

RudgerThe Robert RÜDGER brand was created in 1989, making it an early leader in the men’s-only market, especially in Germany, Holland and Switzerland. The brand is making a comeback on the international stage, thanks to an agreement with Italian eyewear company Area98.

The new collection of 15 styles includes a re-imagined key design from the 1990s, the RR001. Attention to detail is imperative, with materials that include titanium, horn and wood. Model RR001, for example, combines titanium and wood for lightness and style, with a vintage front featuring two off-centre circular lenses joined by a single metal bridge, and completed by adjustable temples in beta-titanium with a wood sublimation coating. Understated, elegant and full of personality, Robert RÜDGER is now establishing a presence in North America.

JFReyMen are very much part of the aesthetic at JF Rey, always a company for its creative edge. New frames offer wave-inspired styling for men in exclusive Mazzucchelli acetate. Beta-titanium hinges give the temples a natural flex, which easily adapts to the curve of the face. Colours are creative and very masculine. Watch out for the JF 1267, 1268, 1269 and 1270!


CremieuxMood Eyewear acquired Canadian distribution of the Crémieux collection at Mido 2014. “I wanted a masculine collection with a preppy look and when I saw Crémieux I knew I had found what I was looking for,” says President André Bélanger. “I strongly believe this is the look that men will embrace for years to come.”

Bélanger adds: “The Crémieux design style has a Harvard look but with French refinement and the eyewear collection reflects that: it is bold but classic, with rich, warm acetate that is refined and elegant. The collection will appeal to men with very different aspirations and interests, including the man who has a vintage frame but wants to replace it with something bolder to make a statement or the gentleman who feels more at ease in a more seductive/intellectual style. Men are embracing fashion but it needs to be functional and practical and I think Crémieux knows how to satisfy their needs and aspirations.”

Men’s eyewear is hot, colourful, cool and in demand. Now is the time to upgrade your collections to include the latest design and colour trends for your male clientele. And keep in mind the words of Paul Storace: “All it takes is one pretty girl to tell a guy she likes his glasses and he will never be without them. Men are like that.”

  1. Read Screws summary of the shows at:

Don’t let sports eyewear pass you by: your patients need it!


By Paddy Kamen

Physical fitness rules in western pop culture, where professional athletes are superstars and the girth of film actors is under constant scrutiny. Do these cultural values translate into increased physical activity for the average person? It’s hard to know, but there are definitely more sports-equipment stores in Canada than ever before.

The focus on fitness products in the retail world creates an excellent business opportunity for eyecare professionals because ever-cooler and more technologically advanced equipment is the name of the game. Both amateur and professional athletes need eye protection and you are the perfect retailer to provide it.

You’d best start out by asking your patients if they play sports. According to Pat Salamat, Canadian vice president of sales for Liberty Sport, this is the first of the Three I’s: Inquire, Inform and Introduce. After you ask ‘Do you play any sports or engage in solo fitness activities?’ it becomes almost a duty of practice to inform patients of the risks to vision inherent in their sport, and/or the path to better performance through improved optics. The reason this becomes a duty is that over 100,800 Canadians end up in emergency rooms each year as a result of sports-related eye injuries. You sure don’t want a tennis-playing patient claiming that you didn’t let her know that the second-leading cause of sports eye injuries in Canada is racquet sports. Not only should you inform her, you can also introduce the solution if you carry a good selection of sports-specific eyewear.

This feature gives you an overview of the best of the best in sports-protection eyewear. And the cool factor leads the way: just look at this stuff – it’s gorgeous!

LuisGarneauThe Louis Garneau company, founded by renowned Canadian cyclist Louis Garneau (with over 150 racing victories globally), knows a thing or two about sports eyewear. Perfect for winter sports, their Nordic Shield, with lift-up lenses that are also interchangeable, offers tremendous versatility, depending on the activity chosen and the prevailing light conditions. The nylon frame resists impact and varied temperatures.

The Course Kit from Louis Garneau is another example of versatile sports eyewear for the all-round athlete. Worn by Quebec-city-based 2014 Ironman Kona, Hawaii winner, Pierre-Yves Gigou, the Course Kit is extremely lightweight, with vented lenses and a frame that helps to prevent fogging. This amazing eyewear works in every light condition and at all temperatures. Cyclists, cross-country skiers and triathletes find it indispensible.

CocoonsBecause not everyone can invest in prescription goggles for winter sports, Live Eyewear presents their stylish Cocoons® fitover snow goggles. “It was time for us to bring our experience in the fitover sunwear category and attention to detail to the table,” says Kieran Hardy, Live Eyewear president. “The public trusts in the Cocoons brand as a global leader in fitover eyewear. Because we consistently deliver the best in fitover performance, quality and value, our new goggles will reward loyalty to the brand.”

Cocoons goggles come in a wide variety of styles, each featuring a dual layer, anti-fog lens system with air apertures to eliminate condensation on the internal lens surface. The high-contrast orange lenses offer a glare-blocking silver mirror finish, delivering superior visual acuity.

« These Cocoons retail at a great price point, so there’ll be no question that you’re equipping your customer with the best in technology combined with unparalleled value,” adds Hardy.

Gotti_GoggleDesigner Sven Götti, who hails from Switzerland (another land of snow), turns his keen design aesthetic to light, flexible snow goggles in white, black and yellow, each featuring coloured, mirrored, double-glazed lenses. An anti-fog design for optimum ventilation make these helmet-compatible goggles consistent with their sophisticated finish and dynamic look. We wouldn’t expect anything less than perfection from this prominent Swiss company.

VuarnetOlympic gold medal ski champion, Jean Vuarnet, lends his name to the famous Vuarnet brand, known for superior eyewear and mineral lenses for all sporting activities.

“Our bestselling lens, Skilynx, was created in 1960 and used by Jean Vuarnet when he won the Olympics in 1960,” says Marketing Director Kristin Wells-Kelly. “This lens is ideal for all winter sports. We also offer the PX 5000 lens in limited sport frames for mountain climbing and all sports executed in extreme light conditions.”

All Vuarnet mineral lenses are manufactured in their factory in Meaux, France, just outside Paris. Mineral lenses are known for exceptional optical quality: “The optics are much better than polycarbonate and they have a very hard surface, making them resistant to scratching. The 16-hour chemical plating process guarantees that they are shock-resistant as well.” says Wells-Kelly.

Vuarnet has released an updated version of the aviator-style GLACIER sports sunwear made of Mazzucchelli acetate and ultra-light metal with inserted rubber. The leather side shields with a magnetic metal structure allow the shields to be adjusted for better eye protection. The side shields are also removable to meet the needs of city life. Combine the GLACIER with the SKILYNX mineral lenses and you have a match made in heaven.

RudyProject_AgonRudy Project shines with their new ImpactX-2 lenses in Clear to Laser Red and Clear to Laser Brown. These photochromic lenses light your way with 65 per cent better photochromic performance, 25 per cent faster activation and activation behind car windshields. Best of all: they are unbreakable and so protect the eyes in the event of falls or other impacts.

Comfort and perfect vision are aligned in the new high-performance Proflow™ Carbonium from Rudy Project. Developed with input from professional athletes and biometric engineers, this eyewear gives cutting-edge advantages to athletes, including a patented ‘flying’ temple design, which permits minute adjustments for maximum comfort and works together with the all-new Dorsal Stabilizers™, a system which ensures perfect alignment and directional stability for most head shapes, thus preventing the glasses from pitching down and placing excess pressure on the nose and ears.


RandyJackson_ProflowAlso from Rudy Project, the Agon is an ultra-technical glass, worn by the 2013 Tour de France® Green Jersey winner, Peter Sagan. Available with interchangeable lenses, the Agon features adjustable temple tips and nose pieces that secure the glasses with a precise and custom fit. An aerospace alloy is used in their manufacture. The half-rim structure guarantees a broad field of vision and air circulation is ensured by adjustable ventilation slits on the lenses.

Both the Proflow Carbonium and the Agon are Rx-able, via digital backside surfacing and can be made with no-line bifocals. Congrats to Rudy Project for constantly pushing the envelope in favour of athletes.

SundogSundog Eyewear is leading the pack with TrueBlue™ lens technology, as worn by world ultramarathon champion Ellie Greenwood and LPGA Superstar Paula Creamer. This blue light-filtering technology is based on the research of physicist and inventor Dr. James Gallas, whose company, Photo Protective Technologies (PPT), is a leading innovator in photoprotection using melanin. Sundog has signed an exclusive global agreement with PPT for the next generation of melanin lenses.

TrueBlue lenses have demonstrated proven results in golf, running and fishing. Athletes will appreciate superior glare reduction, maximum visual clarity, enhanced definition and improved performance. The eyewear frames that hold this lens technology include Bolt, Clutch and Prime. All frames are made with Max Flex RILSAN® and use Megol temple tips and adjustable Megol nose pads to provide non-slip comfort. Check out Sundog for guaranteed performance at a price point that won’t break the bank.

Spy_AnglerSpy has the ultimate outdoor package for people who enjoy fishing, made of Grilamid® with polycarbonate toric lenses. The new Angler shows up with Trident™ polarization, Hytrel™ nose pads and temple tips, and small temple openings handy for attaching a cord. This virtually indestructible eyewear is oversize, and definitely masculine.

Spy_BravoBravo is another first for Spy, a mid-size snow goggle that rocks the slopes with high-performance features like a one-handed lens changing system, a free bonus lens, scoop venting and anti-fog coating, along with silicone ribbing on the strap to keep the goggle in place on the helmet.

Both the Angler and Bravo are available with Spy’s new Happy Lens™ technology. In addition to enhancing colour and contrast, the Happy Lens induces positive physiological and psychological changes by blocking short-wave blue light and UV rays, while allowing in the sun’s long-wave blue light. Exposure to long-wave blue light is associated with increased alertness and positive mood. Spy has a patent pending on the technology behind Happy Lens. As one of the oldest independent eyewear brands in North America they are proud to be constantly innovating.

MauiJim_SwitchMaui Jim’s PureAir styles have been extremely well received by everyone who has tried them for climbing, fishing, racquet sports and running. They also work well for more rugged sports, especially those that require undistorted views through ultra-clear lenses or need the great visual definition and depth perception that comes from the use of three rare earth elements in the PolarizedPlus2 lens technology. The Grilamid TR90LX frames are light, thin, flexible, durable and easily fit under helmets. The frames have performance features like embedded rubber in the temples and adjustable rubber nose pads that enhance stability and performance.

Also from Maui Jim, the Switchback full-wrap eyewear is receiving stellar reviews from cyclists around the globe. This is Maui Jim’s first style with easily interchangeable lenses. Superior ventilation and incredible comfort are augmented by the gripping fit that make the frames stable for both cyclists and runners. The Switchback comes with a PolarizedPlus2 coloured lens and a clear lens, with other lenses available.

CostaHardcore fishermen started Costa back in 1983 in order to create sports sunwear that truly met their needs. Today, the company they founded is going strong, making the clearest sunwear for fishing, boating, biking and running.

The Hamlin model from Costa was named after esteemed Captain Ron Hamlin, who is known for releasing more than 25,000 billfish in his career. These co-molded Hydrolite frames, designed in his honour, offer a lightweight but durable fit.

The Inlet, also from Costa, is made from durable nylon, with spring hinges for a snug, custom fit. Both the Inlet and the Hamlin perform best with Costa’s patented 580™ lens technology, which blocks yellow light from entering the eye, creating razor-sharp colour enhancement and achieving the highest polarization level possible. The lenses eliminate reflective glare and protect against harmful UV rays. Available in 580G (glass) or 580P (plastic), lens colours include gray, copper, blue mirror, green mirror and silver mirror. Costa also offers a specialty sunrise lens colour, ideal for low light situations.

LibertyLiberty Sport Eyewear is a name well known to both professional and amateur athletes in a wide variety of sports. Pat Salamat, says they focus on sports protection and sports performance sunglasses. “With the number of sports-related eye injuries increasing we offer the widest range of sports protective goggles that surpass ASTM (formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials) standards. From hockey to baseball and soccer, we have them all covered. Not only are they safe, but they are now considered cool gear.” 

Liberty’s performance eyewear for motorcycling has been very positively reviewed in the biking press. “We use technology which includes Dry Eye cups for bikers who suffer from this condition. They prevent wind and debris from irritating the eyes,” notes Salamat.

Switch Vision, another offering from Liberty, is an interchangable lens model that comes with both polarized and low-light amber lenses, which are attached to the frame with magnets. Salamat says these are perfect for the varied light conditions one encounters in outdoor sports, including hiking, rafting and biking. Replacement lenses for specific sports such as skiing and golf are also available and can be purchased separately. Switch was very well reviewed by the Colarado Mountain School, which offers courses including rock climbing and ski mountaineering.

Every frame that is sold by Liberty is Rx-able.

MarchonMarchon brings two exciting brands to the sports-specific eyewear category with Dragon and Nike. Dragon’s optical collection is inspired by athletes and designed for the sophisticated consumer with a passion for action sports. Their sponsorship roster has grown to include some of the best surfers, snowboarders, moto riders, and wakeboarders in the world. For surfers like Shane Dorian, there’s nothing to compare to Dragon’s Made in Italy floatable sunglass collection, specially formulated from lightweight, low-density, injection-molded thermoplastic material.

“Dragon’s floatable shades are designed to stay afloat in the ocean, pool or lake,” says Kristina Simeone, marketing manager for Marchon Canada. “Complete with Performance Polar and oleophobic and hydrophobic lens coatings, Dragon’s H20 Floatable sunglasses are the answer to never losing your shades in the water again.” The collection features three styles, in 10 colour-options.

Also from Marchon, Nike’s Young Athlete Suns offer the same quality and performance expected from Nike Vision but in kid-sized versions of the most-coveted adult styles. The collection features Carl Zeiss optics with an advanced lens technology developed specifically to protect young eyes from damaging sun rays. The frame technology focuses on durability, grip, coverage, adjustability and ventilation, making this eyewear perfect for the young soccer, baseball, tennis or basketball players in the family. Models include Spirit and Mercurial.

HilcoC2 Rx sports goggles from Hilco take the prize for eye protection on the field or the court. Offering an expanded field of vision – up to 20 per cent better, thanks to their V-Port technology – the goggles also provide superior ventilation and comfort. Athletes must be able to depend on visual clarity and comfort, both of which are found in spades in the C2 Rx, but the important extra bonus is protection for those sports where balls are flying fast and hard: baseball, lacrosse, tennis, basketball, soccer, squash and racquetball. The Hilco C2 Rx is approved by ASTM for ball speeds of up to 60 mph.

The C2 Rx is available in a wide choice of colours, sizes and wearing options, with fully adjustable temples with an interlocking strap. Hilco says they ‘think wide’ and they have certainly covered all the bases with this sports goggle.

A well-known sporting goods company once said, ‘Just do it!’ Putting aside any brand reference, I suggest that you ‘do it’ by making sports-specific eyewear part of your commitment to patient safety, comfort and satisfaction. This strategy will also strengthen your relationships with your patients and their understanding that you ‘get’ eyewear in a way the sports equipment retailers do not.

Ownership and Opportunity: Who’s squeezing who in optical retail?

By Paddy Kamen


Many players are vying for a piece of optical retail as the ownership and opportunity landscape continues to change.

In the past 20 years Canadians have seen huge changes in the overall retail landscape. Department stores that were once institutions, like Eaton’s, have disappeared, and The Bay (a.k.a. The Hudson’s Bay Company) with its iconographic Canadian symbols, is now U.S.-owned. Walmart dominates most communities of any size, while independent hardware, drug and bookstores are becoming a thing of the past. Chain stores dominate most sectors. Then there’s Internet shopping, with Amazon doing so well that they’re looking into creating drones to deliver parcels more efficiently than mail and courier services. It’s a brave new world, indeed.

Optical retail has not escaped these changes, although it is perhaps behind the trends rather than leading them. This article analyzes the current optical retail landscape and muses about the future. We ask: what types of ownership and partnership structures currently exist? Where is the growth? Are independents on their way out? How do consolidation and vertical integration affect other players? How will Internet retail shake out? And what does all this structural change mean for eyecare professionals, especially new graduates from opticianry and optometry programs?


Incumbents and New Players Vie for Market Share

What is driving the changes in optical retail? Margaret Osborne, acting chair of the School of Marketing and Advertising at Toronto’s Seneca College, says that two fundamental and opposing forces are occurring simultaneously. “Internally, ownership of the industry has consolidated considerably over the last 20 years. Vertically integrated incumbents with enormous market power now dominate the industry. The other major development is that new, external entrants are advancing. Here I include grocery retailers and mass merchandisers, as well as private equity firms who are attracted by the healthy profit margins (58 per cent, according to Statistics Canada) combined with the reality of an aging population. Today, only 65 per cent of eyewear sales originate in traditional optical goods stores and how long that will last is anyone’s guess.”

Incumbents Integrate and Consolidate

Vertical integration, whereby companies buy their suppliers or distributors, is very active within the industry. Luxottica and Essilor have been integrating for years. A newer entrant, FYidoctors, an optometrist-controlled chain, has its own lab and distribution and develops house brand frames.

Dossier-AlanIntegration is not necessarily apparent to the consumer, but the fact that Luxottica owns

LensCrafters, Pearl Vision andSunglass Hut, or that Essilor controls a majority of the optical labs in Canada may constrain opportunities for the traditional eyecare professional (ECP) owner-operated shop.

In 2013, the top four players (not necessarily retailers) accounted for approximately 44 per cent of total market share. The growth of the giants shows no sign of stopping anytime soon, and ongoing acquisitions and competitive activity will lead to increased concentration. According to an IBISWorld Industry report, the top four companies in the Canadian industry by market share are: Luxottica (20.4%), Sàfilo (17.3%), New Look Eyewear Inc. (4.6%), and Laurier Optical (1.5%)1.

However in optical retail alone, Alan Ulsifer, CEO of FYidoctors estimates that his company has approximately 12 per cent market share and that Iris2 has 10 percent. Ulsifer says that FYidoctors is second only to Luxottica and that, “We expect to be the leader soon.”

Consolidation refers to companies buying their competitors. For example, New Look recently purchased Vogue Optical and Greiche & Scaff, while FYidoctors purchased Vision Source in 2013.

Grocery retailers are one example of external entrants advancing steadily into the optical sector. “Beginning with market share of two per cent in 2008, largely based on over-the-counter readers, they now hold 8.5 per cent and can be expected to achieve double digits in 2015,” notes Osborne.

Smaller Players Find Ways to Thrive

Smaller players are responding to industry integration and consolidation in various ways. One response is to band together; another is to fill a niche that still holds value for the owner and the public.

The banding together approach is exemplified by FYidoctors, a Calgary-based company that launched in 2007 with 13 optometrist-owned stores and now has 115 locations nation-wide.

Alan Ulsifer, CEO of FYidoctors, says there were two main drivers for the creation of the company: “We didn’t have the strength to compete with the larger chains in terms of our buying power. We also realized that the industry in the U.K. and U.S. was moving from an independent, medically driven model to a corporate box-store mentality. We saw an opportunity to bring together likeminded people and create a brand that pays attention to what the customer wants, while focusing on medical care and diagnostics. Consolidation in any industry is an opportunity to build value and create a strong brand and that was attractive to us, too.”

FYidoctors offers owners either a franchise option under the Vision Source banner or full membership under the FYidoctors brand. Under that brand, the company is buying up existing optometrist-owned retail locations at the rate of about two per month. Those who join the company may choose to acquire shares that give them a direct say in company decisions. There are opportunities for shareholders to participate through advisory committees and the board of directors. “No single person controls the company,” says Ulsifer. “No decision can be made to sell without two-thirds of shareholder approval.” Although FYidoctors is like a chain in many ways, the ownership model is more akin to a cooperative, according to Ulsifer.

The Vision Source arrangement is strictly a franchise wherein the owner pays a fee for services but remains independent. Vision Source retailers have access to FYi’s exclusive brands, as well as practice management solutions and access to group pricing discounts. “This gives us another model to appeal to more optometrists,” notes Ulsifer.

Dossier-ChristineBretonA different approach is seen in Opto-Réseau, a banner organization operating in Quebec since 1996. Executive Director Christine Breton (no relation to Envision magazine publisher Martine Breton) says the banner helps independent practitioners compete: “The industry has changed so much and everyone who wants to thrive needs the specialized services and structure that our group provides. Storeowners have to be up to date in terms of management, store design, business technology, optical equipment and consumer product. Owners need to know where they are going and how to get there. That’s where we come in.”

Those who join the group retain store ownership and may also become shareholders in Opto-Réseau. The original store name remains on the signage, with the Opto-Réseau logo beside it. “We make it easy for them to succeed by providing the infrastructure, right down to a monthly newsletter they can send out to their clients. And our buying power means they have more competitive pricing than they could achieve on their own,” says Breton. Banner members can participate on the administrative council and various committees. Opto-Réseau differs from a chain in that individual storeowners personalize their policies and procedures.

“We help them to grow in a strategic way and the profit stays with them. They pay us a monthly fee and this is probably the lowest fee in the market,” says Breton.

Another option for those who prefer to be completely independent is to join the Opto-Réseau buying group to take advantage of group pricing. Currently there are 95 stores in the buying group, including 69 Opto-Réseau banner stores.

Niche Strategy for Independents

Those who choose to start up as owner-operated independents, or who want to remain so, face considerable challenges. Margaret Osborne says that a differentiated strategy is essential to keep profit levels stable or, ideally, rising. High-end, artisanal frames may be a sound approach in this day of integration, consolidation and Internet marketing. Expenses for optical retail are increasing by an average of 7.2 per cent annually3, so while high-end niche independents may continue to do well, discount bricks-and-mortar shops are in a vulnerable position because the Internet channel is growing.

Internet Retail

Internet retail presents both an opportunity and a threat to ECPs, according to the results of Breton Communications 2012 survey of the three Os. When asked to identify the greatest threat to their business, 68.7 per cent of respondents chose the Internet.

Question100 At the same time, the Internet was the most popular choice among those who specified where they think future opportunities in the industry will arise.

Internet retail sales still account for only a tiny portion of eyewear sales in Canada. The first year for which there are stats on this channel, 2008, shows a market share of 0.3 per cent, a figure that rose to 1.2 per cent in 2013 . Nevertheless Internet shopping is a growing trend4.

One of the most intriguing consolidation developments of 2014 was the purchase of Coastal Contacts by Essilor. Coastal had international sales of $196-million in fiscal 2012 5.

Dossier-MarcTersigniIn an interview with Envision magazine, Essilor Canada President Marc Tersigni explained that the company is implementing changes in the way Coastal interacts with consumers. “Our goal is to have Coastal become more educative. The millennial shopper is the biggest wave coming, as boomers are retiring and spending less. This shopper is educated via the Internet, and Coastal will now be part of that, with a clear recommendation that consumers have their eyes and vision checked by professionals. The last thing on our mind is to devalue bricks-and-mortar. The Internet is a viable way to attract people to bricks-and-mortar and educate them. We see possibilities to create a stronger industry for all.”

Tersigni envisions bricks-and-mortar locations using an Internet shopping channel to serve customers for whom the store-based product offerings are not sufficient. “I can see the first pair (being) purchased in the store, with the Internet channel used for the second or third pair and for sunwear,” he explains.

Tersigni has taken the step of introducing leaders in optometry and opticianry to Coastal’s management in order to create understanding and  defuse potential points of conflict. He is also creating an advisory panel to help determine a path forward.

FYidoctors has also ventured into the Internet space with strategically branded product at competitive prices. They require active validation of the customer’s Rx, an approach which Ulsifer says addresses the concerns of professionals. “We won’t provide eyewear for children under 10 and we won’t do eyeglasses with prism. When a person places an order we will have an optician do PD and segment height virtually with specially developed software. Any complex prescription submitted will be followed up with a phone call.”

Will this Internet service be competing with FYidoctors stores?  No, says Ulsifer: “The Internet service is more of an outlet concept, so the product on the site is very different than what is available in the stores.”

Opportunities for Eyecare Professionals?

As consolidation, integration and Internet sales channels continue to roll out, eyecare professionals of all kinds will be affected. Will there be fewer opportunities for them?

Dossier-MargaretOsborneAt the extreme end, Margaret Osborne sees few well-paid, full-time positions for opticians, as chains and independents alike focus on labour costs. “Market saturation could lead to some opticians being paid by the piece, while those with the best sales, service and skills will be employed across multiple channels.  Sixty per cent of opticians are now working in traditional optical retail stores. We should be prepared for the landscape to be very different in 10 years.”

Osborne notes that the rate of new opticianry grads may contribute to the loss of viable full-time jobs because retailers look to labour costs as one place to eke out savings.

Alan Ulsifer likewise posits that there are too many optometry grads coming into the market. “The University of Waterloo created a bridging program to help grads from other countries upgrade, which is bringing in more than 40 extra grads a year. At the same time there are more qualified optometrists coming to Canada from the U.S. and it’s becoming easier to obtain a license to practice here. On top of that, older professionals are not retiring at the same rate.”

Optical retail is indeed a graying industry. Breton Communications 2012 survey found that 67.2 per cent of respondents were aged 40 or older and just 31.7 per cent were younger than 39. This reality makes many traditional ECP-owned optical shops potentially available to companies hungry to expand their market share.

“Increasingly frantic” is how Margaret Osborne describes the current cycle of acquisition and innovation by both incumbents and new players in the optical industry. “The dynamic and provocative nature of the tactics of the power players is creating pressure points for everyone. I contend that an industry shakeout is imminent. A new landscape will emerge in the next few years.”

  1. TURK, S. “IBISWorld Industry Report 44613 CA Eye Glasses & Contact Lens Stores in Canada.” IBISWorld Canada. IBISWorld Inc. December 2013. Web. 6 August 2014.
  1. Iris executives were unfortunately unavailable to be interviewed for this story to the sad and untimely passing of their founder Francis Jean.
  1. Optical Goods Stores (NAICS 44613): Retail Revenues and Expenses.” Industry Canada. Government of Canada. 15 July 2014. Web. 6 August 2014.
  1. « Eyewear in Canada. » Euromonitor International. December 2013. n.p. Passport GMID. Web. 6 August 2014.
  1. SHAW, H. “Online Retailers Turn Back to Bricks and Mortar to Boost Sales.” Financial Post. National Post, 11 March 2013. Web. 6 August 2014.


Types of Optical Retailers

Let’s be clear about what each term means as we analyze optical retail trends.

Chains: A group of more than four retail outlets owned by one firm/individual typically operating under the same name. Chain stores usually have similar interior design, operating policies and products. E.g. Hakim Optical, Iris, New Look Eyewear. Many department stores are chains.

Banners: This can be a confusing term. ‘Banner’ refers to a type of branding with a specific name, appearance and policies. For example, Loblaws owns several banners, or brands, including Superstore and Zehrs. Luxottica operates under different banners (LensCrafters, Pearl Vision) with LensCrafters corporately owned and Pearl Vision operating as franchises. However, the term is also sometimes used to mean an independently owned practice that is affiliated with a chain or central office. The owner pays fees for the right to use the banner (brand) and to participate in centralized buying, marketing, professional programs, etc. Owner autonomy varies greatly depending on the banner. E.g. Opto-Réseau.

Franchises: A franchise is a business where the owner (franchisor) sells the rights to the business’ name, logo and model to a third party operator (franchisee). Franchise agreements can differ, but often the franchisee has limited control over product selection, suppliers, store design, layout, location etc. E.g. Iris (some stores), Pearl Vision.

Cooperatives: Employee (or provider) owned corporations that act like a chain but are owned by many versus one individual. These companies have more complicated governance structures to ensure all shareholders have a voice. E.g. FYidoctors

Independents: Practices that are owner-operated by an eyecare professional. According to Statistics Canada, independents operate three or fewer stores, while more than three constitute a chain.

Mass Retailers and Department Stores: These stores sell a variety of goods and may have an optical department within the store. E.g. Costco and Walmart.

Supermarkets: Increasingly, large supermarkets are diversifying beyond food and beverage products into clothing, appliances, housewares, electronics and optical goods.

Optical Lenses: Quality Control Can Trip You Up

By Paddy Kamen


When a client walks out of a retail optical store wearing his new glasses, and trips and sprains his ankle, is anyone to blame? This is not a Zen koan but rather a question designed to get you thinking about quality control in a new way.

In this very real example, the gentleman sued both the dispenser and the laboratory that finished the lenses. Ralph Chou, Professor Emeritus at the School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of Waterloo, acted as an expert witness for one of the defendants in the lawsuit. “This was an incredible case of bad luck, combined with poor quality control,” says Chou. “The dispenser had accurately read and interpreted the prescription. The job went to the lab and at that level, they entered the cylinder axis wrong. The lens went through the production process and was made perfectly in accordance with the wrongly keyed-in information, and the dispenser did not verify the finished lenses. I pointed out to both defendants that each was at fault: one for the transcription error and the other for not verifying.”

Errors in lens manufacture, surfacing and dispensing are potentially serious and could result in injury, bodily discomfort (e.g. headache or neck problems) or poor performance at work – potentially affecting a wider circle of people.

How can optical professionals, who have a responsibility for the integrity of the end product, minimize errors? Quality control (QC) is the answer. But is it happening where you work?

At the retail level, quality control begins with a standard against which you measure the lenses that come into the store. The standard indicates an acceptable margin of error in filling the prescription. If you don’t use an agreed upon and well-established standard, you won’t know what the range of acceptable deviation from the Rx is. Are your professional staff checking every lens (even plano – more about that later) using established standards? If so, what standards are you using?

Common practice in Canada is to use the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. Chou says this practice developed because most eyecare professionals (ECPs) learned about ANSI standards from American-published textbooks. The relevant ANSI standards for dress ophthalmics are ANSI Z80.1 (for lenses) and ANSI Z80.5 (for frames).

Why don’t Canadian ECPs use a Canadian national standard for dress ophthalmics?  It isn’t for lack of trying; two internationally respected Canadian professionals have devoted a collective 50 years of their volunteer time to trying to correct this situation.

Ralph Chou is chair of the Canadian Advisory Committee (CAC) for Technical Committee (TC) 94 SC6 of the International Standards Organization (ISO). This committee develops standards related to eye and face protection. He also chairs the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Technical Committee on Industrial Eye and Face Protection, which has published standards for industrial eye and face protectors. Chou has been involved with standards for vision products for over 20 years.

Toronto-based optometrist Josh Josephson chairs the CAC for ISO’s Technical Committee 172 SC7. This committee develops standards for ophthalmic optics (contact lenses and lens care products, spectacle lenses and frames, intraocular lenses and ophthalmic instruments). Josephson is Canada’s appointed expert at the ISO meetings held internationally. He was originally appointed to this committee in 1984. Chou also sits as an appointed expert on this committee.

Both Chou and Josephson would like to see the ISO standards for dress ophthalmics adopted by all ECPs in Canada. Why do they prefer the ISO standards to the ANSI standards? There are four main reasons:

  1. Canadians are represented on ISO technical committees so this is in the interests of Canadian ECPs and consumers.
  2. The rest of the world is going the ISO way, including Europe, which adopts ISO standards as they become available and makes them legally binding.
  3. The optics industry is international, with most of the manufacturing done outside of North America. International standards are better suited to this global marketplace. Further, if a manufacturer wishes to export their product to an ISO member country, their product is only acceptable if it meets the ISO standards. All ISO standards have been approved by all ISO “P” member countries, which includes almost every country in the world.
  4. Having one uniform standard would help to avoid errors in the case where a lab uses one standard and the ECP uses another.

Josephson has been using the ISO standards in his six Toronto-area stores since they were created. When finished lenses arrive from the lab they are checked by the in-house lab manager before cutting, edging and mounting them into the frame. The lab technician then rechecks the lenses. When the finished product is delivered to one of the Josephson stores the lenses are checked again by a licensed optician. “Checking should consist of verifying the prescription and the optical centration at the very least,” says Josephson.

There are serious client and business risks associated with inadequate or incorrect quality control. Aside from a lawsuit, which could devastate your business, there is also the matter of negative word of mouth when dissatisfied customers complain to friends, family, colleagues and neighbours. “The ECP is the final line of defense to make sure patient gets the right lens,” says Chou.

Chou strongly recommends checking on even plano lenses, based on an experience he had in 2005. He and a colleague in Australia ordered a large quantity of plano lenses from various manufacturers for a research project. When doing his due diligence by confirming that the lenses received were what he had ordered, he found that while the thinner lenses were generally fine, the thicker ones had a high error rate; many were not plano at all. He published an article on this in the professional journal Clinical and Experimental Optometry.

Tony Civello, president of Toronto-based C&C Optical Laboratories says that the quality of lenses he receives from manufacturers has improved dramatically since the time of Chou’s research in 2005. “It’s like night and day in the last ten years. Now when I do my final inspection for quality control I seldom find errors.” Civello attributes this to the superior technology used in lens manufacture today.

An important point for ECPs is the level of training achieved by the staff doing the quality control. Civello says that the better trained the staff is, the better your quality control will be. He feels strongly that optometrists, working together with an optician and the optometric assistant comprise the ideal practice team; even then, additional laboratory training is highly recommended. “This kind of exacting work requires highly trained individuals who will ensure that the eyewear prescribed by the ECP is the eyewear the patient gets,” he explains.

Josephson says that only licensed opticians or optometrists should quality control any product prior to dispensing and that the standards must be used consistently and observed exactly.

Chou agrees and he wonders how many optical retailers actually verify the parameters of lenses they receive. “That’s how I was trained and I know we teach it, but how many actually do it? I don’t know, but I’ve seen a couple of instances over the course of a few years in which there was no quality control and that tells me I’m looking at the tip of an iceberg. When it comes to liability for inappropriately made lens prescriptions, adhering to a standard and having the documentation that confirms you did it is your first line of defence. But you have to use it consistently in order to have credibility should someone sue you.”

Tips for Optical Retailers

  1. Hire qualified people to do your in-house quality control and make sure they are well trained. Make sure everyone knows about it, and use it on every lens that comes into and leaves your place of business.
  2. Keep accurate records of your quality control process on each lens.
  3. Ask your professional association to require a specific standard (preferably ISO) for your profession, if they don’t already.
  4. Make sure those doing quality control have their own vision appropriately corrected. Josh Josephson had an experienced and reliable LAB person begin making QC errors. Upon investigation, Josephson realized that the chap needed to update his own prescription. How ironic!

What’s New in Lens Designs and Technology?

Smoother transitions in progressives and improved peripheral vision are two of the key features to watch for in new ophthalmic lens designs. Let’s have a look at what’s new from our leading lens manufacturers along with some sunwear manufacturers who create proprietary lens materials.

Dossier_HoyaHoya has three new lens categories on offer. The iD LifeStyle 2 is a freeform progressive. The vertical and horizontal components are split between the front and backside of the lens. There are two styles: the Clarity is best for a newer progressive wearer and the Harmony offers greater precision in the near-portion for the mature client. With even distribution of power changes, the lens provides smooth interaction between far and near vision when multi-tasking.

The Hoyalux ARRAY is an affordable and versatile freeform design in a full backside progressive design and anti-reflective (AR) technology. Available in a wide range of materials, including a polarized option, the ARRAY provides the best visual acuity, optimized for every patient.

The Recharge EX3 is an enhanced-contrast lens that reduces blue light by 10 per cent compared to conventionally treated AR lenses. This lens helps to reduce symptoms of digital eyestrain, while also being oil-repellent for easy cleaning. 

With the recent introduction of the Stylistic™, Essilor becomes a company knownDossier_Essilor for sun lenses. Stylistic is designed for large and wrap frames, in single vision and Varilux progressive designs.

“Before the Stylistic it wasn’t possible to have perfect corrective vision in the really large frames, because there wasn’t the diameter capability,” says Julie Cornish, senior brand manager, sunwear. Stylistic benefits from Essilor’s W.A.V.E Technology2™, which manages higher order aberrations for great contrast and image sharpness.

Stylistic is available in clear, Transitions or sun lenses in a wide range of base curves, and is further enhanced when combined with Crizal® for maximum UV protection.

In another innovative move, Essilor has partnered with Transitions Optical to develop the new Transitions® SignatureTM VII lenses in a graphite green colour. This lens echoes the 1950s when green was applied to sunglasses worn by U.S. Navy pilots to help them track objects against a variety of outdoor backgrounds.

Providing the truest colour representation for more natural vision and enhanced contrast, graphite green is the result of Essilor’s research. Combined with Transitions Chromea7™, this new lens is a winner indeed, and available exclusively via the Essilor network. This tint will appeal to the young urban adults who adore retro fashions.

Dossier_BolleBushnell brings the Genus from Serengeti to the sunwear market with a lens that is 75 per cent lighter than glass and 10 per cent lighter than polycarbonate. Made from Trivex material, built with NXT technology, this lens is also photochromic and polarized.

Bushnell also supports cyclists with a wide field of vision on the Bollé® 6th Sense and Breakaway. The shape of the lens on the 6th Sense is designed to adjust to the cyclist’s position by extending the vision area vertically, while also extending protection to the eye. Both models hold the promise of no-fog on the lens, ever. This hydrophobic, oleophobic and photochromic lens can be produced for prescription wearers while being lightweight for all-day wear.

Transitions Optical employed its Life360™ product development model to create Dossier_Transitionsthe Signature VII lens to be highly responsive in a number of real-life lighting situations, including extreme temperatures. An exclusive dye – Chromea7 – allows the lenses to be more reactive to indirect and reflected sunlight. They become even darker on hot days, combining outdoor performance with indoor clarity. Transitions tested the new technology and found that eight out of 10 clear lens wearers rated the Signature VII lenses as better than their regular clear lenses. The improved colours of these lenses are also an asset: the grey tint provides true-to-life colour and the brown is the best contrast-enhancing lens Transitions has ever offered.

And don’t forget that clients want to be kept up-to-date on the latest technologies from Transitions: 62 per cent of consumers agree that knowing about technology improvements would make them more likely to purchase Transitions lenses. With the improved benefits and features of Transitions Signature VII lenses, the time is now to let clients know how their visual experience can be improved with Transitions.

Dossier_KaenonKaenon has created its own proprietary SR-91® lens material, which is polarized with their proprietary Glare 86® film. This lens is guaranteed for life against the cracking or splitting of the lens at drill-mounts, or the delamination of the inner polarizing film and the lens material.

The Kaenon SR-91 lens comes standard in all frames and is available in Rx. Kaenon’s unique tints – grey, copper, brown or yellow – maximize light transmission levels and improve visibility in any weather conditions or at any time of day.

And new from Kaenon is the Black Label collection, which features their darkest grey G12 lens.

Kodak Precise™ PB progressives control the surface power at virtually every pointDossier_Kodak on the lens. This fixed-corridor, backside lens gives a smooth power increase, with all viewing areas coordinating for a wearing experience that is closest to having perfect vision without glasses. Peripheral distortion is a thing of the past. This lens is also available in a short corridor design for small fashion frames.

Kodak Unique™ is a variable corridor, backside digital progressive that provides greater peripheral clarity and improved image quality in the principle viewing areas. The patient’s frame shape, monocular PD and fitting height are all used as data points for selecting the best corridor length. The Unique is available in more than 50 lens materials, for virtually any lifestyle or occupation.

Kodak lenses are available through Centennial Optical and Riverside Opticalab Group.

Dossier_SmithSmith Optics recently introduced the new ChromaPop™ Polar Blue Mirror and ChromaPop Polar Bronze Mirror lens tints to their collection of scientifically advanced polarized lenses. ChromaPoplens technology helps the brain recognize true colour, faster, regardless of lens tint. Both the fashion and sport needs of clients are addressed in different frame styles with plano or prescription lenses available. ChromaPop is especially designed for people playing and working on and around the water, giving them unmatched visual clarity.

Nikon’s Presio Master FP and SeeMax Master AP lens designs push the Dossier_Nikonboundaries of ophthalmic lens technology, resulting in a lens that virtually eliminates distortion in the area that typically generates the greatest discomfort: the periphery. Patients love having a wider usable lens area and noticeably sharper fields of vision.

Moving into the dedicated sun lens market, Nikon brings Radiance FP to the market. This dynamic lens offers the protection and comfort of polarization for almost any prescription and frame. Fashion and function combine with both grey and brown lenses available in single vision or progressive designs.

Dossier_Seiko‘Ultra-personalized’ describes the Seiko Superior lens from Plastic Plus, where company president Paul Fabish says, “I’m wearing the Superior and it definitely has the ‘wow’ factor.”

The three designs are: Superior B – a balanced, blended design; Superior N, with near-zone priority; and Superior F, with far-zone priority. The Superior is 25 per cent flatter in profile than other free-form designs. “I wear the Superior B and the majority of dispensers will use this design exclusively.  But the N is perfect for a draftsman and the F is great for landscapers or drivers.”

Maui Jim introduces the PureAir™ sunglasses collection, featuring MauiPure® lensDossier_MauiJim technology, for sunwear so light it feels like air. Billed as the world’s clearest non-glass lens, PureAir are the lightest lens in any Maui Jim sunglass, with patented PolarizedPlus2® elements to virtually eliminate glare and protect the eyes from all UV rays. Pure, vibrant colour is on view through the PureAir lens, as a result of the lens composition, which includes three rare earth elements, along with other proprietary treatments. Waterproof and oleophobic coatings add to the clarity of the lenses. Available in plano only.

Dossier_ShamirShamir presents the Shamir Duo™, a revolutionary new bifocal design that completely eliminates the distinctive line that previously defined bifocal lenses. « By introducing a Freeform® design, we are able to improve the optics and the cosmetic features, allowing for a variety of materials and treatments, » said Martin Bell, vice president of sales and marketing. « This makes the Duo superior to standard bifocals. »

A natural, distortion-free visual path is realized in the Duo. No longer do bifocal wearers have to give away their age with the look of their lenses.

Also from Shamir, the Attitude III® is a highly functional lens available in two progressive versions – Sport or Fashion – as well as single vision. The Sport design helps the wearer see the ground clearly several steps in front of them, in the intermediate zone (great for runners). Full near vision is also present. The Fashion design was created for large fashion frames, with an intermediate zone that enhances the viewing of tablets and smartphones, along with fully functioning near and distance zones. All Attitude III lenses are available in base curves up to +10,00 with fully corrected optics.

From Totally Cool to Utterly Tragic: Emotions Drive Kids

By Paddy Kamen


In today’s world, where self-image, appearance and a sense of self-worth are inextricably intertwined, shopping for eyewear is inherently tied to self-esteem. After all, our faces are more than ever our ‘calling cards’. In less than 100 milliseconds, people form opinions about us, based largely on our facial features. Eyewear can say so much about who you are, or who you imagine yourself to be.

So the eyewear purchase is inherently emotional. Is this truer for children and youth than it is for adults? Objectively, yes, for the young brain is nowhere near as developed and is, in fact, ruled more by emotion than the adult brain. According to research conducted at the McLeanHospitalBrainImagingCenter in Boston, MA, adults have greater activity in their frontal lobes than do young people. The frontal lobes help us control impulses and are the areas where cause-and-effect relationships are processed. In contrast, the young person’s brain shows increased activity in the amygdala, the more primitive region that is associated with emotional arousal and impulsive decision-making.[1]

Having said that, we’ve all seen adults driven by impulsivity and emotion, as well as children who seem wise and capable beyond their years. Some parents have as much, or more, emotional energy at stake when buying eyewear for their children than do the kids themselves. Parental emotion could stem from not fully accepting that the child needs glasses, or centre on the cost of the eyewear, or it could have to do with how the brand of the eyewear reflects their idea of the child’s identity.

Margaret Osborne, acting chair of the School of Marketing and Advertising at Toronto’s SenecaCollege, notes that the brand allegiances of parents certainly influence purchase decisions. “The parents are making the decision, and I’ve been surprised how many parents have brand allegiance and want their children wearing specific brands. They see the children as representing them in terms of fashion, image and style. They may want the eyewear to reflect their hopes for the child’s career, so if a kid is good at hockey they want a brand that reflects athletic success, or if they are very focused on academic achievement they want the eyewear to enhance an image of seriousness.”

Some children also come to the optical retailer with pre-existing brand allegiances. “I’ve seen quite young children identify with logos,” says Osborne. “When they see signage for brands they recognize they can be pretty insistent, much like shopping in the cereal aisle of the grocery store. This happens more often than I would have expected.”

Namita Karir, managing optician at Karir Optical Yorkdale in Toronto, says brand allegiance is strong with teens. “I cannot believe how many teens know Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Chanel and the other designer labels. But most name brands don’t offer a selection of frames for smaller faces so it becomes challenging to give them what they want.”

Keep in mind that store allegiance may in fact be much stronger than brand loyalty. Richard Allan, vice-president of sales for Optika Eyewear, says that parents are likely to bring their children to the ECP they have purchased from themselves. “Having a good selection of children’s eyewear in the store enhances the trust parents have that you can provide for the whole family. They will be more confident with their purchase because of this allegiance.”

Allan is launching Soho Kids this spring, a new collection for children ages 5-11 under the popular Soho brand.

POP: Does it Help or Hurt?

Does point-of-purchase (POP) material promoting licensed brands affect the amygdalae of children, making them hard to work with? After all, the “I want, I want, I want” mantra from a child can be intense.

Sheldon Donksy says yes. “I have pulled down a lot of brand-specific POP because I don’t want kids to get overly invested in wearing a specific brand name. The child can become very unhappy if we can’t fit them with a particular brand. » Donsky is a children’s eyewear specialist who co-owns two stores in Toronto (College Street Optical and College Optical at the Hospital for Sick Children) in addition to Credit Valley Optical in Mississauga.

Marc Spinnewyn, owner of Spinnewyn Opticians in Ottawa, doesn’t think POP makes much of a difference. “Unlike shoes or clothing labels, kids are really open to whatever eyewear looks great on them, regardless of the brand. House brands are very competitive in this sector.”

But Pina Serrani, optician and owner of Jones Optix in Dundas, ON, loves branded POP. “It helps my business because kids can relate to it. I haven’t had a problem making my child clients happy; if one brand isn’t working for them then maybe Disney Princess will. While not many eyewear brands are engaging kids via celebrities, Candies does that with pop artists. If kids feel cool wearing their glasses because of a superhero brand, then I’m all for it. Having said that, I am happy to sell house brands as long as they meet the child’s need for improved vision, quality, fashion, and looking great.”

Because parents are, generally speaking, more rational than kids, most of them have more than just emotion behind the purchase decision. For example, buying sunwear for kids can be driven by fear of the damage caused by UV exposure. But when the sunwear is both cute and super-protective, as with the Cébé Junior line of sunwear from Bushnell, both parents and kids can feel good about the decision.

What are the key emotional needs of children and young people?

According to Margaret Osborne, the need for peer acceptance drives choice. “Many tweens hope that the right look in eyewear will have a positive effect on their social and status needs. Others go about the purchase with fear as a primary motivator: they are terrified that they will make the wrong choice and that others will make fun of them. That is a really tough situation for the professional and the client. The ECP needs to establish credibility with children before they can trust that you are helping them find something that is not going to cause embarrassment.”

Beverly Suliteanu agrees. The vice-president of product development for Westgroupe designs the Superflex kids collection. “Most children and youth feel insecure about wearing glasses so one of the most important things for us is to design eyewear that kids feel good about wearing. The quality and price is there for the parents but we focus 100 per cent of our styling to appeal to the kids. Our styling cues are based on what their entertainment role models are wearing.”

Serrani adds another level of depth to this discussion: children who have a high Rx depend on their glasses and grow attached to them. “They have an emotional need for vision and I’ve seen them resist getting a new pair. Change can be hard on these kids, whereas those with a lower Rx may be functional without their glasses and change is easier for them. Then, too, parents can also feel emotional for many reasons when their child is getting a first pair of glasses. You have to be sensitive to these complex emotions.”

Make it About the Child

One way to establish credibility with kids is to let them know you are familiar with their pop culture and have plenty of experience creating happy child customers. Osborne suggests that ECPs pay attention to the key influencers in the child’s life, like parents and siblings, the “cool kids”, friends, teachers, coaches, and celebrities.

Specific suggestions from Osborne include:

  • Try to identify their personal positioning and offer eyewear to support it.  For example, “hipsters” gravitate to Ray-Ban, “jocks” to Oakley, “fashion girls” to Michael Kors.
  • Ask the child to describe someone whose look they like.
  • Ask for a description of any “glasses-gone-wrong” scenarios to avoid.
  • Help create a picture of how this eyewear look will work in the child’s world – in the classroom, playing soccer, at the movies, on the bus.
  • For youth, provide meaningful and positive cues like “urban hip”, “haute hippy” and “ugly beauty” that they can incorporate in their worldview.
  • With children, play off kidvertising campaigns. Know the latest jingles for products they already want – translate the appeal to the brands you have on hand.

While most children just want to fit in with the crowd, you will find that a few of your child customers are trendsetters with the confidence to wear a strong and perhaps unusual frame. Michael Bohbot is president of Bo Optik, a company with several collections for children and youth. He says only 10 per cent of people in any age group are leaders. “The 10 per cent set the trends, while the rest follow. We have pieces for both the leaders and the followers within all our collections.”

Kids Just Want to Have Fun

According to How Cool Brands Stay Hot by Joeri Van den Bergh and Mattias Behrer, shoppers younger than 20, “… are not only more emotional in general, their interactions with brands is (sic) also more coloured by their feelings… youngsters expressed 20 per cent more positive emotions for clothing and mobile brands than other generations.”

Van den Bergh and Behrer found that happiness and surprise are the most valued emotions with this demographic and that humour often goes hand in hand with surprise.

Sheldon Donsky enjoys using humour with kids. “I try to make finding the right glasses the most fun thing they have ever done and I’m sure some of them think I am nuts.” They may think so, but they do come back, as Donsky’s thriving business attests.

Marc Spinnewyn adds, “Buying eyewear is not like going to the dentist – it can indeed be fun. When I sense kids are open to humour I engage them in trying on goofy-looking glasses.”

Event marketing is a big trend in retail and Colin Kramer of Rada Eyewear has just the props to make an event come to life for young shoppers.  Rada Eyewear holds licenses for Disney Princess, Spider-Man, Iron Man and The Avengers. Kramer says, “We’re active with trunk shows at optometric practices and opticians’ opening days and show days, and strive to create a fun environment when we come.” Indeed, a large superhero or Princess standup could add an element of surprise to the optical store. Having dress-up costumes on hand for the young ones can also spark engagement.

Can rapport with children be learned?

“It’s measurable in patient satisfaction,” notes Bohbot. “Conduct surveys and ask if the parents and kids are happy with the service they got. And yes, while some people have a real gift, you can get better at it. I’ve seen people do phenomenally well with kids’ eyewear because they invest in the dispensary and hire people who genuinely like kids and build rapport with them. Children love others very easily but you can’t fool them with false camaraderie. That’s the emotional part: having an attitude of ‘we’re here to help you’. If the kid feels important, that is 75 per cent of the sale. Then it’s just a matter of finding the right product.”

Margaret Osborne says that you’ll know from watching a child’s face when you’ve hit the right note. “If you watch young people choosing their eyewear, you see their strong and immediate reaction to the look and feel of the brands they select (and those they reject). When the product supports key emotional needs you will see obvious delight.” 

Delight is something kids specialize in. How lovely that eyewear can spark this wonderful emotion!



The Experiential Store 

Evoking positive emotion in the children and young people who visit your store is essential if you want them to tell their friends about you and to come back. And one of the best ways to begin the positive experience is to have a dispensary that appeals to kids on the physical level.

Margaret Osborne is a registered intern optician (awaiting her license), who also has an MBA degree and 20 years of senior retail marketing experience. Osborne, acting chair of the School of Marketing and Advertising at Toronto’s SenecaCollege, points out that the children’s section of an optical store is often its least appealing area. “Young customers are more sensitive to the lighting and more affected by lack of mirrors at their level. They often have trouble reaching the product, and can be inhibited by sterile or clinical fixtures. Imagine if the eyewear area of your store was as accessible as LEGOLAND®, or as interactive as a game store.  Why not try out digital displays, and user-friendly fixtures that encourage touching, and experimenting? Why not cross-merchandise branded items like t-shirts and ball caps? Bundle some licensed school supplies or games with aligned brands. Offer contests or a gift with purchase to establish a comfort zone for each young client. Help them send out selfies wearing novelty costume items and sporting their final choice of eyewear.”

Pina Serrani, proprietor of Jones Optix in Dundas, ON, is a children’s eyewear specialist who has created an attractive area of her store for her youngest clientele. “I want them to be comfortable, to be themselves, to be kids. I do expect them to jump on the furniture and touch windows and mirrors and try things on. I do what I can to make it positive and fun, like having a box of toys and kid-level displays.”

Anyone who is serious about serving kids must offer a wide selection of frames in bold and beautiful colours and the latest fashions or shoppers will vote with their feet and look elsewhere. “Consumers with children are used to having a wide selection of merchandise from which to choose in every other sector,” points out Michael Bohbot, president of Bo Optik in Toronto and a consultant on optical retail environments. “If you have a poor selection, they won’t take you seriously. And keep in mind that selecting that first pair of eyeglasses can be emotionally difficult for parents and the kids. If you are half-committed to them, they will sense it.”

Serrani agrees. Sales to children and youth comprise about 50 per cent of her business and she always has about 200 children’s and youth frames in stock. “I have a wide variety of frames from size 34 up, fitting infants to teenagers and also adults. I see a lot of kids grow up. They get married and still come in to purchase as adults, so they must have had a good experience here when they were kids.”

In addition to fabulous, colourful displays, try appealing to kids by having the latest high-tech hardware for them to interact with. Osborne recommends having tablets in the store that young shoppers can log into and access videos of their peers trying on glasses. Games that give shoppers a chance to guess which pair of in-house frames a celebrity is wearing could enhance the pleasure of being in your store.

Tapping into the existing interests of 8-12-year-old girls is easy using Instagram and Vine to create lookbooks while they are trying on glasses. “Recent surveys suggest that Instagram is the favourite app for this demographic,” Osborne explains. “They can connect with their friends while shopping and have a lasting memory which reinforces their purchasing decision.”

Ottawa-based optician Marc Spinnewyn marries an old fashion t-shirt give-away (it says, “I Bought My Glasses at Spinnewyn”) with Facebook. “We take photos of the kids in their new eyeglasses, wearing the t-shirt and post them on our Facebook page. The parents appreciate the t-shirt and the kids love being the star of the show. We often have other kids in the same family ask for the t-shirts, too, which we are happy to share with them.”

Music, scents, video monitors showing favourite youth musicians… every little thing you do can make a big difference in the young person’s sense that you care about them and their world. If you make shopping for eyewear a wonderful experience, you can bet they’ll be back, because… who doesn’t want to feel good one more time?


1 TALUKDER, G., (March 20, 2013) Decision-making is Still a Work in Progress for Teenagers. Retrieved from:

Sparkle, Sizzle, Hot…and Cool Sunwear Challenges Eyecare Professionals

By Paddy Kamen

featureThere’s nothing like a pair of new sunglasses to lift the spirits and create a sense of fun or mystery. For one thing, sunwear speaks of summer, everyone’s favourite season. For another, you can align yourself with the stars – those of the Hollywood (and Bollywood) variety – all of whom wear sunglasses and are keen to outdo one another by rocking the latest eye candy.

There is clearly a market for sunwear, but when sunglasses are available from the drugstore, novelty shop, train station or street vendor, what is the eyecare professional to do?

Choosing your stock with care, educating consumers and merchandizing sunwear with flare are the keys to success. Whether you’re an independent, a chain, a boutique or a big box retailer, there’s plenty of opportunity in the sunwear market.

Diana Monea, owner of Eye Health Centres in Calgary and Regina, sees plenty of opportunity in this segment. “For starters, as multifocal contact lenses improve and become more user-friendly, non-ophthalmic sunglass sales for the boomer-generation are increasing.”

Currently, 70 per cent of Monea’s sunwear sales are plano, but the percentage of prescription sunwear sales is rising due to a concerted education and merchandising effort, for Monea leaves nothing to chance.

“Success with sunglass sales means consumer education from the cradle to the grave,” she says. “We educate new parents about proper UV protection for their children. Many parents don’t know that 30 per cent of damage to the eyes from UV occurs before the age of 18. And we make sure that adults know about the disastrous effects of long-term UV exposure to the eyes. From the patient in the chair to the optician selling the eyewear, we emphasize eye protection with proper sunwear.”

Monea has her staff place new sunwear in highly visible store locations, along with attractive and eye-catching POP from fashion magazines. “We’re always on the lookout for new merchandising ideas and like to attend classes at professional conferences to gain new insights into how to properly position products to grab attention and instill desire. We have POP showing on our in-house TV, as well as brochures at every desk and in the examining rooms.”

What is selling best for Monea? “Designer labels are a big hit for those 15 to 40, but after that age practicality becomes a bigger issue.”

Amin Mamdani, owner of Squint Eyewear in Toronto, sells premium, artisanal brands. “While licensed sunwear still dominates, I find that premium brands are gaining momentum. We carry sunwear that is special and unique,” says Mamdani. “But it is essential to present a selection and cater to different demographics.”

When you think about stock selection, keep in mind that some of the smaller manufacturers and distributors offer the retailer a reasonably priced, quality product that won’t be found on every street corner. Cendrine Obadia, president and lead designer of Zig Eyewear, notes that when the majority of retailers carry the same brands, prices tend to fall because price is the main differentiator. “Retailers need to sell different products to stand out and to give consumers more choice,” she says. Several manufacturers in this category, all with attractive sunwear offerings, are covered in the product section of this feature.

Another excellent differentiator for the optical store is sports-specific sunwear. There are many excellent brands in this segment. Mamdani carries adidas RXO™. “There’s an adapter inside the lens that provides the correction, or the sunglasses have prescription lenses,” he says. “These are safe, lightweight sunglasses, ideal for runners, cyclists, boaters and skiers. We also carry ski goggles and a vast selection of polarized performance lenses.”

Charles Dray is the owner of 11 Key West Boutique stores in Quebec. His stores sell sunwear and watches exclusively. West says the number of people buying sunwear for sporting activities has increased substantially in the last 10 years. “The new lens and frame technologies have taken the sun-sport market to a whole new level. This segment is growing by leaps and bounds and people are looking for sun protection for all kinds of sports.”

Who is Presenting Your Sunwear Products? 

Design Trends in Sunwear   Namita Karir, managing optician of Karir Eyewear-Yorkdale in Toronto, watches fashion trends closely to see how they become reflected in sunwear design. “I find that clothing styles have been pretty consistent with the "Mad Men" classic and retro fashions. In line with these fashions, sunwear is currently chunky and features classic colours. I notice a revamping of older shapes. For example, Oliver Goldsmith is re-releasing shapes that were created in the 50s and 60s.”  As for sunwear frame design and colours, Linda Mulford-Hum, director of product development for Centennial Optical, is seeing sunglasses in soft matte feminine palettes, the return of round shapes in metal and plastic, flat tops with a strong brow emphasis, the return of the top-brow for women, and rimless fronts with beveled edges in angular silhouettes.  Colour is the dominant trend, according to Amin Mamdani, owner of Squint Eyewear in Toronto. “Even men are looking for colour rather than the traditional tortoise and black. We’re seeing every shade of blue and a lot of green. Colour is big and lens colours that complement the frame are in demand as well.”   One of the benefits of working in the industry for over 30 years is that you get to see trends recycle. Diana Monea, owner of Eye Health Centres in Calgary and Regina, has been an optometrist since 1978. “I love fashion and enjoy seeing the trends come and go. The 1970s saw huge frames with decals on the lenses in rhinestones, with initials and gradient pink-brown tint frames larger than a patient’s face! Then sunwear went to shields with a mirrored finish. Now we’re enjoying big, black, bold and in-your-face sunglasses with leopard prints in every colour.”  Fashion trends speak volumes to a public eager to sashay in style, whether its industrial punk or socialite pink. To each their own!Staff training is, without a doubt, one of the most important drivers of sunwear sales. Beverly Suliteanu, creative director and vice-president of product development for Westgroupe, says, “It requires expertise as well as knowledge to effectively sell sunwear. The dispenser needs to ask questions about the customer’s lifestyle, and how she will use her sunglasses in order to effectively convey the need for prescription sunwear. Staff must understand and talk about the various lens and coating options that are on the market; they must also be able to communicate the benefits of purchasing good-quality sunwear versus cheap, sub-standard sunglasses.”

Georges et Phina portent des lunettes director Daniel Laoun says, “In my experience, not enough emphasis is given to training staff. For example, polarized lenses have gained widespread popularity in recent years and are marketed to everyone. However, an individual who uses their smart phone constantly may prefer to forego this option since polarized lenses make it harder to see the screen. And more often than not, the lens tint is chosen to match the frame colour, yet is should be chosen according to how the client uses their glasses. For example, when a client chooses a black frame, grey lenses may seem the obvious choice. Yet brown lenses are typically better for activities requiring contrast, like driving or golfing. While aesthetics are important, visual comfort should always be the top priority.”

The Upsell 

Sunwear is a retailer’s dream when it comes to upselling and multiple sales. Namita Karir is the managing optician at Karir Eyewear’s Yorkdale location in Toronto. Says Karir, “Sunwear is always an upsell but if you do it once, you never have to do it with that customer again. In two years when they replace their frames, they will also replace their sunglasses.” Interestingly, Karir sells more plano than prescription fashion sunwear. “We sell a lot of sunglasses to our contact lens-wearing customer base as well. Those people feel they won’t get much use out of a sunglass if it is prescription.”

Monea points out that one pair of sunglasses cannot possibly meet the needs of the active person. “The upsell makes perfect sense. Just as one pair of shoes won’t meet all your needs, so with sunwear!”


Feast your eyes on the magnificent sunwear offerings from our leading manufacturers and distributors. You can rock the casbah with any one of these pieces – and your clientele will be glad you did!

The value-priced One Sun collection is rolling out 35 new models this season, each of them Rx-able. This collection is ripe for the upsell, making it easy for consumers to obtain quality, handmade acetate and stainless steel frames for a song.Bollé leads the way with sunwear for cycling aficionados. The Breakaway and 6th Sense models are designed with a keen eye for aerodynamics to maximize airflow. The wide field of vision on 6th Sense facilitates peak performance in a riding position. Temples and nosepieces are adjustable.
Sun collections from CENOCO include Cinzia, Michael Ryen and Scott Harris. The Bottlecap from Cinzia puts a new spin on the cat’s eye, with a playful bottle cap motif on the corners. The Michael Ryen MR-SUN-O4 aviator brings a fresh look with sculpted acetate temples.  Sunwear from Vera Wang, BCBG and Nicole Miller all benefit from the Canada-wide distribution of Centennial Optical. The Vera Wang Anu is special with smoky crystal acetate, as is the BCBG Fascination, which brings back the top bar for women. This piece features gorgeous acetate in browns and mauve.
New sunwear styles from Claudia Alan include the Rx-able Hunter. This wayfarer style features an etched bamboo temple with an eagle design by renowned First Nations artist Corinne Hunt. The Harmony, also Rx-able, features native designs with metal temple embellishments.Designed by Gerhard Fuchs, the Silhouette Futura 2014 is a reinterpretation of the 1974 cult eyewear frame. This Futura is still futuristic, and much lighter and more comfortable, thanks to Silhouette’s technological innovations. The frame is elastic, with no screws or hinges.
Tag Heuer’s new LRS sunglass collection is sporty yet chic, marrying comfort to aesthetics, and inspired by motor racing. Men who are looking for a sporting yet elegant sunglass can call off the search.Protective sun technology for those who play hard outdoors is Liberty Sport’s specialty. Switch is the world’s first Magnetic Interchange Lens System™, with high-energy magnets embedded in the lens and frame. It’s easy to switch lenses and yet they stay put, whether the wearer is snowboarding or mountain biking
Denim pioneer G-Star RAW tests new boundaries with its vintage sunwear with straight-cut lenses. The lens style of more than 100 years ago looks very modern today. Created for both men and women and offering superior craftsmanship and trendy, visible construction details, they’re so hip!The Adrienne Vittadini collection from Match Eyewear is sure to spark interest from ECPs and consumers alike. Examples include AVS108, with translucent, marbleized temples and solid coloration on the front, and AVS102, which will help any wearer to get noticed: in red and black for dramatic effect.
The MauiPure™ collection features trendy, fashion-forward frames and the crispest optics next to glass, with an abbe value of 52. The polarized lenses are made of lightweight, impact-resistant, highest-grade optical resin and feature added colour enhancers, bi-gradient or gradient mirrors, and backside anti-reflective coating.Several new models in the Seraphin collection stand out, including the vintage Coolidge Sun with a keyhole bridge, oval lenses and silver rivets, and the Grace Sun, an oversized hexagon shape in warm neutral tones.
All Mizyake Sunwear models are elegant and fashion-forward. Made from stainless steel and high-quality acetate, the collection is fully Rx-able. Excellent pricing, timeless designs and vibrant colours combine to create a perfect offering for eyecare professionals.Very much aligned with fashion trends, Sàfilo’s sunwear offerings for the new season are exciting. Romantic and feminine soft pink is seen in models from Gucci, Dior and Carrera. Bold, striking colours for both sexes are found in Marc by Marc Jacobs and Kate Spade New York.
Smith has a broad collection of plano and sun Rx styles that includes men’s and women’s fashion, metals, eight-base wraps, interchangeable action sport models, and even an ANSI-rated collection. Smith brings fashion and sports-specific sunwear to every consumer.The quality and styling of both the Evatik Sun and Elizabeth Arden Sun collections provide consumers with stylish sunwear that is easily Rx-able. Frames are six-base curves and made from high-quality stainless steel and handmade acetate.
Cendrine Obadia brings stunning design to her latest sunwear models. There’s a lot going on in Ziggy S 1377, and it all works beautifully. Also check out her innovative, chunky Ziggy S 1379 in black and white and the very cool Ziggy S 1378.