As we head into Spring, retailers and consumers alike have warm weather on the brain. Vacation season and the summer months are not far out of reach. As a retailer, now is the time to start stocking up on warm weather staples, particularly sunglasses. Not just for fashion retailers and mall kiosks, sunglasses are a profitable addition for all retailers. Sunglasses are a necessity for every consumer whether for fun, fashion, sport, or health reasons. More than 95 million pairs of sunglasses are sold in the United States each year, with that number consistently rising. By 2020, the entire industry is expected to hit $140 billion. As a retailer, you can’t afford to miss out on this segment of our industry. Whether sunglasses are a staple in your store, or you are looking to incorporate them for the first time, Independent Retailer has tips and trends on how to maximize sales for your individual store.
Trends for the Ages
In 2016, we saw a rise in retro style sunglasses, such as updated aviators with exaggerated frames for a more dramatic look. Mirrored lenses also saw a rise in popularity. For 2017, fashion tastemakers Vogue and Elle predict playful designs will steal the spotlight. Colorful tinted lenses are big this year, especially in shades of bright blue and pale yellow. Rounded cat-eye frames are the new silhouettes of the season, offering a refreshing take on the classic look. These trendier styles will do especially well with apparel, accessory, and general merchandise retailers that cater to a teenage and young adult demographic.
In addition to these bolder trends, traditional styles are still as popular as ever. Samuel Huang, vice president and purchasing manager of Sunny Trading with over 30 years of experience in the sunglass industry, says, “Retro is still in, people are still looking at new styles that are based on traditional styles. A lot of designers are taking whatever’s been done successfully in the past and kind of tweaking it a little bit.” Albert Ye, owner of Eason Eyewear, also with over 30 years of experience, confirms Huang’s statements. “Classic styles will always sell well. People in the United States are usually more conservative when it comes to fashion, so the classic styles will always be a safe bet.” Classic aviator, wayfarer, and oversize frames will continue to dominate the sunglass market with their safe, recognizable silhouettes that are flattering on many face shapes.
Quality over Price
Over the past few years, consumers have shifted their behavior when it comes to sunglass purchasing. More and more, shoppers are prioritizing quality over the price tag. In the past, people have settled for inexpensive, poorly made shades. They are great impulse buys but do not last very long. Since sunglasses are items people use daily, they are looking for shades that have a longer life expectancy and better UV protection.
Since virtually every consumer wears sunglasses, and every consumer is different, there is no one-size-fits-all style for sunglasses. The key is to find the selection that best suits the needs of your customers. Apparel and accessory stores will want to have a large selection of budget, mid-range, and higher-end glasses with a mixture of contemporary and classic styles. Outdoor and sporting goods stores would find success with mid-range quality glasses with durable frames and polarized lenses. Toy stores can offer colorful, printed, and patterned budget level shades for children. Gift and souvenir shops should tailor their selection based on their location. If near a beach, UV protection is most important. Select mid-range glasses with 100% UV protection and colorful frames. Zoos, aquariums, and theme parks can offer thematic glasses such as animal prints. Convenience stores and community retailers can offer a wide selection of budget and mid-range shades. Novelty and party glasses are popular buys for holidays and celebrations. For example, American flag prints sell very well for Independence Day. Since sunglasses aren’t typically a planned purchase, any brick and mortar retailer can take advantage of these impulse buys. Of the 95 million sunglasses sold each year, only about six percent are purchased online. Customers see them in a store, try them on, and take them home.
Merchandise for Success
Once you have selected the right shades for your store, it’s important to merchandise them the right way. A common mistake retailers make is in the presentation. Since sunglasses are impulse purchases, consumers are not likely to search them out. Your display has to be prominent and impressive to grab attention. Having a few pairs lying around will not lead to sales. The display needs to look like it belongs and that it has a presence. Customers need to feel comfortable interacting with the display and trying on different pairs. Mirrors surrounding the display are essential. Not only will it boost consumer confidence to purchase the glasses because they know that they look good, mirrors also encourage shoppers to test pairs outside of their comfort zone.
Another common mistake is not stocking enough variety. Every consumer is different. Their face shape is different and their styles are different. This means as a retailer, you need to have many different types and styles of glasses to suit your shoppers. It’s easy to discount certain shapes, colors, or frames because they do not suit your personal taste. Branching out from just the basics to include bright colors, tinted lenses, novelty glasses, and prints will help ensure you have something for everyone.
Since sunglasses are an impulse purchase, it’s important to have employees that are able to facilitate that purchase through recommendations and problem-solving. Sales associates should be knowledgeable about the different styles, price ranges, and have a general idea of what styles look best on certain face shapes. Most importantly, employees should feel comfortable and confident having conversations with shoppers about the display, encouraging them to try on different pairs, and upselling sunglass cases and chains.
Another important aspect of your sunglass display is security. While these are a very profitable item for retailers, their popularity, size, and value make them susceptible to theft. However, when setting up your display and training your employees, there are a few basic precautions you can take.
First, make sure your sunglass display is not near the door or exit. Many retailers have a standup display at the end of their checkout counter by the door. This position is great for having customers notice your display; however, shoplifters can also easily pocket a pair or two without being noticed. If you are going to have your display near the register, make sure it’s on the side that’s furthest from the door. Ideally, your display will be on a prominent wall or near the center of your store surrounded by lots of mirrors. These mirrors not only encourage customers to try on the glasses, they also give you extra visibility to monitor shopper behavior.
Second, employees should be proactive and aware. Just like a distracted employee is a green light for shoplifters, one of the best deterrents is having them feel like they are watched. If your employees talk to and assist each customer while they are on the store floor that will help deter theft.
If your store is very large or your layout is such that it is impossible for employees to have their eyes on customers at all times, you may want some extra security. Again, the biggest deterrent for shoplifters is feeling watched. If this is not possible with an employee, you can set up cameras for the same effect. Real security cameras can be a large investment, but there are many very affordable yet realistic dummy cameras you can install. Make sure they are placed in prominent areas where potential shoplifters will notice them.
Over the decades, sunglasses have evolved from a statement fashion accessory used by a small percentage of the population to a daily necessity for all Americans. Whether being worn for health reasons, improved performance in sports and outdoor activities, safer driving, fashion, or a combination of the above, sunglasses are used by men and women of all ages. With some thoughtful selection and proper set-up, sunglasses can be a profitable addition to all retailers. For ordering details and further assistance on customizing a selection for your store, visit our various partners’ websites.
Experts with over 30 years of experience in the sunglass industry founded Eason Eyewear, based in New York City. They offer fashion sunglasses, sport sunglasses, kids, and polarized sunglasses.
Tel.: 718-628 – 8882
Got Shades International
Founded in 1983, Got Shades International offers a large selection of quality classic and contemporary styles are mid-range price points. They pride themselves in offering high quality glasses for the best price.
Tel.: 909-718 – 7866
Sunny Trading, Inc. has over 30 years of experience in the industry and a 50,000 square foot warehouse. Their enormous selection of trendy styles ensures they can offer sunglasses for any occasion, demographic, or season. They attribute their success to their knowledge of the industry and ability to manufacture their own sunglasses to stay on top of the latest trends.
Tel.: 305-591- 3065
Topper International Liquidators
Topper Liquidators offers below-wholesale rates on authentic designer sunglasses including high-end brands. Additional quantity discounts are available for bulk orders.