Why it matters:
- An aging population and a rebounding economy are expected to boost demand for premium eyewear in the coming years, after a pandemic hit.
- Against that backdrop, LensCrafters plans to roll out flagship stores in major cities featuring its proprietary, cutting-edge lens and eye exam technology and designer frames from Armani to Versace.
- Amid the ever burgeoning $4.5 billion wellness economy, the new flagship stores put the eye doctor ‘more and more at the center of everything we do.’
Eyewear retailer LensCrafters is taking a fresh look at its stores and reimagining them as showrooms that deliver a premium shopping experience and a community destination for vision care expertise.
It has unveiled two flagship stores in New York City which will serve as models for other flagships it expects to open in other major cities.
The remodeled New York stores showcase more of its proprietary, premium designer frames and cutting-edge lens and eye-exam tech, leveraging its relationship with parent company EssilorLuxottica.
“We want to create something that can present this amazing product in the best way, while providing the customer with an overall comprehensive journey,” Alfonso Cerullo, general manager of LensCrafters, North America, told CO—.
The move comes as consumers place a heightened focus on their health, fueling the rise of the $4.5 trillion global wellness economy.
[Read more here
on how the pandemic changed the wellness economy.]
If we want to provide the customers with a high-quality experience, you cannot separate the vision care from the eyewear.
Alfonso Cerullo, general manager, LensCrafters, North America
LensCrafters new stores also reflect the path LensCrafters has been on since 1983, when founder E. Dean Butler opened his first “while you wait” eyewear store in Florence, Kentucky.
In 1995, Luxottica, an Italian eyeglasses manufacturer which today makes frames for Prada, Armani, Versace and other high-end luxury brands (and owns Pearl Vision and Target Optical), acquired LensCrafters in a $1.4 billion buyout.
Then, in 2018, French lens maker Essilor International SA acquired Luxottica for $24 billion, creating a merged company, EssilorLuxottica.
After a pandemic hit, leaning into the rising demand for premium eyewear and eyecare
While store closings and stay-at-home quarantines during the pandemic hurt LensCrafters and other eyewear retailers in 2020, an aging population and a rebounding economy are expected to boost demand for premium eyewear in the coming years, according to a 2020 report by research firm IBISWorld.
EssilorLuxottica, with LensCrafters and its other retail chains, is the dominant eyewear retailer in the United States, with a 20% market share, according to IBISWorld. The Essilor-Luxottica merger gives both companies greater opportunities for market penetration and will allow Luxottica to position its stores as premium retailers, the IBISWorld report said.
The merger gives LensCrafters stores access not only to Luxottica’s dozens of brands of top designer frames and sunglasses, but cutting-edge lens technology for features like transitional lenses, or blue-light lenses, with Essilor.
LensCrafters has approximately 1,000 stores in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
LensCrafters’ goal, Cerullo said, is to be “the trusted expert of the community that we serve.”
[More here on why merchants are investing in physical retail.]
Investing in digital eye-exam tech to boost Rx precision
The retailer has made a number of technology investments in recent years to enhance its eye examinations.
It began implementing Clarifye, a digital eye exam that allows for more precise prescriptions, in 2013, and last year began installing lens simulator digital devices that let customers see how different lenses — such as transition lenses or blue-light filters — work with their individual prescriptions.
LensCrafters increasingly is putting the eye doctor “more and more at the center of everything we do,” Cerullo said. “If we want to provide the customers with a high-quality experience, you cannot separate the vision care from the eyewear,” he said.
Ideally, he said, a customer journey would start with an eye exam in the optometry area, then transition to the retail part of the store, where sales associates can help the customer select frames and fit them.
For the New York flagships, LensCrafters sought to customize each store based on the surrounding community. One store, located on 23rd Street in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, is designed to reflect the residential neighborhood surrounding it, and be a welcoming place where customers are likely to shop leisurely throughout the day and on the weekends.
The other store in Midtown on 49th Street and Third Avenue, typically populated by office workers, is designed to efficiently handle peak busy periods in the early mornings, lunch hours and at the end of the workday.
LensCrafters plans to open another flagship in San Francisco, with more to follow in other cities.
The flagship stores, Cerullo explained, are a way for LensCrafters to lean into the multi-faceted optical universe it is part of.
“We want to be the showroom of EllisorLuxottica,” he said. “When you are at LensCrafters, you can find the best of the Ellisor and Luxottica Group.”
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Published March 22, 2021