Here’s Why It’s Easier to Sell Sunglasses Online

You’re in the market for a new pair of designer sunglasses. You take a look at your local big-box department store and the boutique in the mall. You also take a look online, ultimately settling for a pair of sunglasses from a company you’ve never heard of before. You place your online order, work your way through the shopping cart application, then sit back and wait for them to be delivered to your door.

Selling sunglasses online is pretty straightforward for a retailer. The same cannot be said for prescription glasses. That’s not to say prescription eyewear is not available online; it actually is. But making money is extremely difficult. So what’s the difference? Why is it so much easier to succeed selling sunglasses online?

The Warby Parker Example

Warby Parker is a pretty big name in designer eyewear. The New York-based company was founded in 2010 as an online retailer. Its founders were all students at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and part of the Venture Initiation Program. They went into their venture fully convinced they could succeed selling exclusively online.

In the early years, the company’s marketing strategy was based on painting their competition in a negative light. They made a concerted effort to set themselves apart as a brand-new company not tied to Luxottica. They also boosted their own image by donating eyewear to countries in the developing world, commensurate with their sales volume. With a moderate amount of effort, Warby Parker became the darling of the eyewear industry.

Interestingly enough, even after raising hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital, the company never turned a profit while they remained exclusively online. It wasn’t until they opened their first New York store in 2013 that things began to change. That first store suddenly became dozens of additional brick-and-mortar stores in strategic locations around the country. That’s when the profits started coming in.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Warby Parker struggled in the early days due to one simple principle: when it comes to prescription eyewear, one size does not fit all. Prescription eyewear is a very personal thing for obvious reasons. As such, customers prefer to visit brick-and-mortar stores where they can speak to opticians in person. They want a location they can go to when adjustments need to be made. They know that when they purchase their glasses from a brick-and-mortar store, they will be properly fitted.

None of what the prescription eyewear customer needs, other than the glasses themselves, is available online. Warby Parker’s online success today is still tied to their brick-and-mortar stores. Even if you buy glasses from them online, you can still visit a brick-and-mortar location for adjustments, fittings, etc.

Sunglasses Are Different

Moving on to sunglasses, they can be sold exclusively online because consumer demand is different. Sunglasses don’t have to be properly fitted for you to see correctly. They don’t need to be adjusted to keep them fitting properly.

Olympic Eyewear is a Salt Lake City company that does business as a wholesaler of designer-like sunglasses. Their retailers sell the more than two dozen brands Olympic produces both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Yet the company doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar outlet of its own. All of their sales are made online.

Retailers can sell sunglasses exclusively online because people don’t need the same kinds of services they would require from a prescription eyewear dealer. It’s as simple as that. For that reason, the neighborhood optician is never going away. We will always be able to buy our prescription eyewear at brick-and-mortar stores.