Fashionable and functional -- sunglasses serve as both a fashion accessory
and as an all-important eye protector. They appeal to just about everybody,
including movie stars and sports heroes. This demand has made a strong yet
very competitive market, forcing new entrepreneurs to be very business-savvy.
The eyewear industry is as diverse as the frames it sells. Successful retailers
carve themselves a niche in order to stand out from the many players in the
But becoming a successful sunglass retailer takes a specific business plan.
There is a lot of competition out there.
"To be honest, the eyewear industry on the web is extremely competitive,"
says Laura Bradbury. She is the manager of a site that sells eyewear. She
says there are many players and that new ones are coming on to the horizon
The key is finding a unique edge.
"There is always an opportunity for the entrepreneur if they can offer
something new and desirable to the consumer, especially if it can be protected
by patents," says Jim Pritts. He is the president of a consulting business
to the sunglass industry.
"We started selling contacts and sunglasses online in 1995, one of the
first!" says Bradbury.
Bradbury believes that one of the biggest issues a prospective entrepreneur
would face today is the supply issue. Establishing a network of suppliers
who will give you a good price on the products you sell is very important.
She recommends that anyone starting up in this business have a supply network
firmly in place.
Kelly Anderson is the CEO of an online retail store. He believes that an
online store is practical, especially when cash flow is small.
"The Internet offers a worldwide customer base. With our busy lives, more
and more people are finding less time to shop. The Internet provides a quick
and easy solution to this problem. Being strictly Internet-based saves on
overhead costs. Because we are not dependent on 'walk-in' business, we do
not need a high-priced retail storefront."
He also understands, however, why others choose the storefront option.
"Many consumers like to 'see it, touch it, feel it' before they purchase,"
he says. "They also like the instant gratification of walking out with something
after they make a purchase."
Starting a brick-and-mortar store does take some strategizing as far as
location is concerned. According to Pritts, there are two major areas where
sunglasses are sold. "Most sunglass stores are in major metro upscale shopping
malls, where people shop, although there are many where people also use them
-- ski resorts, marinas."
Anderson stresses that the biggest investment needed to break into the
Internet business is time. "Research is the key element," he says.
"To be a successful Internet business, your employees must be Internet-savvy.
If you do not do the research and keep up with the ever-changing features
and applications, you will fall short of your competition."
But once again, finding your niche is important. "You must find a market
which is not being filled," says Anderson. "The opportunities are so wide.
You could start a business with under $1,000, depending on the type of service
or product you would like to provide."
Pritts is confident that sunglasses will always be in demand. "Sunglasses
have been used for centuries to protect the eyes, and will without question
continue to provide the means of delivering both fashion and protection benefits
for many, many years to come," he says.
Knowledge of the industry, strong supply networks, and a unique edge are
all ingredients to success in the sunglass industry. The entrepreneur who
can tap into a specific niche with a competitive spirit might have what it
takes to make it.
Why sunglasses are so important
Visit a virtual retailer
Survival Optics Sunglasses
Visit Anderson's online sunglass store