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Eyewear chains adopt Uniqlo model for expansion in Asia

News, 13 September 2017
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TOKYO: While eyewear remains a luxury purchase for many Asian consumers, Japanese discount retailers, including Owndays and Zoff, see an opportunity to enter the market with a streamlined model similar to that of Uniqlo.

Tokyo-based Owndays opened its third Lab store in a mall north of Bangkok in August. Its model aims to take the sleek model of other Japanese companies in order to sell pairs of glasses for as little as 1,000 baht (USD$30), around half the price of its other more expensive stores, Nikkei Asian Review reported.

Taking a similar stance to the apparel retailer Uniqlo, and its parent company Fast Retailing, which “unifies the entire clothes-making process from planning through design, production and retail”, making only a limited selection of popular items, Owndays, too, will seek its competitive advantage through consolidation.  

The model keeps costs low with streamlined production and minimal sales staff. This would constitute a significant departure from the mostly small and medium-sized manufacturers in the Southeast Asia region.

With its offer of in-house eye testing and quick service on glasses orders, the company is eyeing an expansion of its overseas operation to 200 further overseas locations.

Meanwhile, the unified production and sales model will also enter Hong Kong through Zoff, which has recently signed a franchising contract with Convenience Retail Asia, part of the Fung Group. By 2021, the Japanese company plans to open 35 locations.

Elsewhere, in Europe, a similar trend has formed, with a range of direct-to-customer brands vying for a piece of a new market: fashionable frames at compelling prices.

Luca Solca, head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas told Bloomberg’s The Business of Fashion magazine that a “large number of brands are choosing to offer good quality eyewear at more compelling price points”. It is a departure from the traditional model which has, to date, been dominated by a number of licensing giants.

The largest of these new DTC brands, Solca continued, “are even opening physical retail stores in an attempt to further boost customer awareness and move mainstream.”

Overall, the global eyewear market is not only ripe for disruption, but also offers a significant opportunity for a disruptor. By 2021, according to Euromonitor data, the market is expected to be worth $136 billion, an increase of 8% from 2016.

Data sourced from Nikkei Asian Review, Fast Retailing, The Business of Fashion; additional content by WARC staff

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