Marchon Canada: A Company on the Move

By JoAnne Sommers

eyeonindustry_marchonIn business, as elsewhere in life, timing is everything. Just ask Félix Sidès, Marchon Canada’s vice president of sales.

Two years ago, Félix, then an independent sales agent, was employed by Sàfilo Canada and in charge of all the company’s retail sales. That’s when Marchon Eyewear came calling. Félix and his father, Iso, were asked to lead the new management team being put together at Marchon Canada.

“The timing couldn’t have been better,” says Félix. “Marchon is owned by Vision Service Plan (VSP), a Sacramento, CA-based eyecare insurance company that was named one of Fortune magazine‘s “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2010. VSP is a company of the future and there was a buzz around Marchon because they were starting to acquire new licenses like Valentino, Ferragamo, Lacoste and Nine West. They offered great positions to both my dad (as vice president of operations) and myself, which made the situation ideal.”

Iso Sidès had spent 31 years selling Sàfilo products in Canada and Félix had worked with his father for 15 years. Both men felt it was time for a change, and, “Marchon offered us an amazing opportunity, a chance to grow a smaller company and take it to the next level,” Félix says.

Marchon Canada was launched in 1995 but January 2011 marked an important turning point with the appointment of Sidès père et fils to the company’s leadership group. Soon after their arrival, Marchon began implementing important changes: lowering its frame prices, refining its selection, improving its discount structure, and establishing partnerships with major optical practices and Canadian retailers.

The company’s sales force also underwent a transformation, says Félix. “We changed about two-thirds of our sales reps, adding young, dynamic people who reflect our philosophy, which is always to be there for our customers and always to find new and innovative ways to create stronger partnerships with clients.”

It didn’t take long for the new approach to pay off. Today, Marchon Canada is growing at the rate of more than 30 percent a year and by the end of 2013, the company expects to be doing more than twice the business it did in 2010.

Much of that success can be attributed to Marchon’s team of 78 employees, including its 30 sales agents. The company has a strong culture based on its people, service orientation and focus on teamwork, Félix says.

“We’re driven by sales and customer service and it is very important that our representatives are happy since they are the first point of contact with customers. We’re passionate about what we do and our employees have become passionate about it, too.”

In fact, Félix says he has never seen such team spirit as exists among the 12 members of the Ontario sales team. It began when Michael Bella, who is well known in the eyewear industry, was appointed Marchon’s Ontario sales manager; he then proceeded to recruit several of his friends in the business to join his new team. “They’re driven by a spirit of friendly competition and have a great dynamic amongst themselves and with their respective customers.”

After he joined Marchon, one of Félix’s first orders of business was to build a team that recognized and addressed the needs of Canadian optical retailers. Here, he was working from a position of strength as the man who brought corporate retail eyewear expertise to Canada and created a separate division that exclusively handled sport and fashion customers. In the past 17 months, Marchon has significantly increased its presence in non-optical specialty stores across the country, including department stores, sunglass specialty stores and apparel stores.

The company recently acquired Dragon Alliance, a leading U.S. sport eyewear and accessories brand in the active youth lifestyle market, which brought with it valuable technological expertise in the field of extreme sports.

“Our goal is to be the major optical and sports eyewear player in the industry,” explains Félix. “We have the eyewear license for Nike and Lacoste, two of the biggest players in the sporting industry, and we believe that it is just a matter of time before Marchon becomes the leader in this field.”

To that end, the company is in the process of launching a program involving 12 Golf Town locations in Ontario, B.C. and New Brunswick that will see them offer a selection of Nike specialty golf sunglasses and Nike fashion items. There are also plans to approach golf course pro shops about selling the Nike sunglass collection, specifically those models that are designed for golfing.

Looking to the future, Marchon Canada plans to move into a new state-of-the-art building in July 2013. The building, which will be sited near the company’s current location in Dorval, QC, will feature a much larger warehouse facility that will service the sporting and optical industries. And within five years, the company plans to be doing at least three times its current volume of business – if not more, says Félix.

Eyecare insurance is expected to play a major role in that future growth. VSP, the U.S. leader in vision and eyecare benefits, currently covers more than 55 million Americans under vision insurance plans for individuals and businesses. The company hopes to cover the same proportion of Canadians – about 5.5 million, says Félix.

“Our strategy is to begin by approaching major Canadian companies and then eyecare practices with the goal of establishing partnerships with them,” he explains. “At present, no one in Canada is doing that so the timing is perfect.”

Once again, Félix Sidès and his team are in the right place at the right time.