How Much Can You Earn in The Eyewear Industry? Confessions of an Eyewear Company Owner

Mark Jackson from Delaware had it all planned out since his student years in college. Back in those days, he opened a small online lens store and got his first valuable experience in the business. Ten years later, after working hard long nights, Mark's mini startup managed to turn into an optical company. Now MjLens owns several optical stores selling sunglasses, frames, and contact lenses all over the US East Coast. With an assortment of almost four thousand glass models most of which belong to world-known brands, it seems like handling the competitors for the company is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel...or isn't it?

TemplateMonster had plenty of questions to ask Mark during our interview. We learned what the gross profit of the eyewear templates business is, how to become an official representative of Ray-Ban, Vogue, D&G and other high-class brands and how to develop a successful business in this tricky industry.

Get cozy and grab a paper and a pen to note Mark’s tips on how to start the eyewear business!

  1. The Story of Mark Jackson and MJLens Company
  2. What You Need to Know About Selling Optics
  3. How to Determine the Pricing?
  4. What's in Trend Today? How to Predict the Demand?
  5. How to Promote the Eyewear Business?

The Story of Mark Jackson and MJLens Company

TemplateMonster: So, what exactly is your business about?

Mark: Our company is a reseller of brand sunglasses, contact lenses as well as frames and lenses for eyeglasses. The most of our sales turnover is done via our website, although we also have optical stores located in such states as New York, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.

TemplateMonster: What turnovers have you reached? How in general would you estimate the profitability of such business?

Mark: About $40 million a month. The sales profitability by gross profit is about 40%, with all the other expenses included - about 10-15%. In general, the eyewear industry is something I would pay attention today if I were about to become an entrepreneur. According to Global Market Insights market research firm, the Eyewear Market Size is predicted to grow to $165 billion by 2022 versus $110 billion in the year of 2016. This means, there’s still a lot of “space” for new and successful startups.

TemplateMonster: What was your job before starting this business? Why did you end up choosing this particular industry?

Mark: So far I’ve been engaged in optics for ten years. It’s not like I chose the eyewear industry on purpose. It all started in college when my close pal Alex offered an idea of selling contact lenses online. At that moment, he was already working in the manufacturing company, so he knew the specifics of such business as well as the holding company’s commercial policy.

TemplateMonster: How did it all start? What was the starting capital?

Mark: We were students in college, barely any money for some substantial capital. Somehow, we managed to convince the supplier to get a 30-days delay. Once customers started to purchase our products, we used this money to pay back for the supplier’s goods. As soon as our first client base was built, we decided to rent a small space in a local mall as the order issuing point. Because of this 30-day delay from our first supplier, we were able to start our business with almost no significant investments.

In 2012, I changed the business concept and started selling glasses. The reason was, the contact lenses market git so competitive that everyone started lowering prices. It was the time of hard dumping in the industry, so I deliberately switched to selling world's leading sunglasses brands like Ray-Ban, Vogue, Prada, Versace, etc.

“I wouldn’t advise young entrepreneurs take loans during the first stages of their business development. First, you learn how it works and how much money it may bring. Gain your experience, collect statistics on your turnover and once you start thinking about the expansion and fulfilling concrete projects - go ahead.”

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What You Need to Know About Selling Optics

  1. It’s a profitable business. The markup in the optical industry is generally 100%. The most important part of it is making the right purchase from your supplier, as some part of your goods will remain unsold, and your profit depends strictly on the illiquid goods. To avoid a profit loss, you should constantly analyze your sales performance, predict future trends and in general keep track of the assortment.
  2. The discount strategy is important. Some “leftover” sunglasses models are put on sale. The main task of every sale is to return the spent money and invest one in more liquid goods. If I do discounts, I put a minimum markup on such products, not to say that sometimes I am even in the red.
  3. It’s a seasonal business. Not hard to guess that the peak season for selling sunglasses falls on April and all the following months till the end of summer. As soon as January comes, we already get ourselves ready for the upcoming season, predicting the trends and deciding on the collection. When it comes to optics and lenses, sales tend to grow right before Christmas, New Year and other holidays like St. Valentine’s Day.
  4. There’s a tendency for dumping. Back in 2008, the competition was way lower. During those ten years, there were thousands of new entrepreneurs like me to take over the lenses retail business. As a result, the industry witnessed global dumping, and it got completely unprofitable to sell contact lenses now.
  5. The market is packed with replicas of famous brands. Even though manufacturers are actively fighting the counterfeit products all over the world, the problem still exists. Still, the good news is, and a huge number of online stores selling fakes gets blocked every day. Now, finding fake Ray-Bans will be possible only in the local Chinatown market, which is definitely good news for the optical market and official retailers like me.
  6. Some optical goods are subject to the sales tax. Nontaxable are only contact lens and prescribed eyeglasses. VAT on sunglasses in 14%.

How to Determine the Pricing?

Mark: So, many glasses and frame retailers typically set a higher markup for the newest collections, but it’s not the case for my company. I decided that our pricing policy wouldn’t change depending on the collection.

Our company can install the prescribed lenses - nothing more. We don’t make any examinations, nor do we make any lens prescriptions. The price for the lenses installation is cheaper compared to optical stores as our revenues come from selling frames and we have an opportunity to keep the lens installation price lower. Moreover, lenses at our online shop are significantly lower from ones in the optic store. Optic retailers would charge you 5 or 10 times more of what the product costs in real while we’re limiting ourselves to 2. Once the customer selects the frame, he will immediately see the full price for the eyeglasses with the suitable lenses included.

What's in Trend Today? How to Predict the Demand?

Mark: You wouldn’t be surprised if I say that the most popular brand today is Ray-Ban. About 70% of our company sales have to do with Ray-Ban sunglasses. A couple of years ago, the most popular model was Aviator, now the trendiest one is Round. Ray-Ban is followed by Vogue. This brand makes glasses in collaboration with the famous American supermodel Gigi Hadid and stands for super glam and trendy sunglasses.

To understand which sunglasses models are super demanded at the moment, I run a trial ad to see how many people got interested and clicked on it. That’s why I started to learn basics of the contextual advertising. Then, I may check the search queries to see which models people “google” the most. Every week I gather info from analytics for the brands I sell to understand what customers are looking for now. Once I know, I do my best to supplement the store’s assortment with the necessary models. I contact the brand and manufacturer and negotiate the deal. Years of experience helped me establish a strong cooperation with many world-known brands so that I can easily order any sunglasses model from Italy and get one within 10-14 days.

How to Promote the Eyewear Business?

Mark: As I have already mentioned, my first attempts to do business were made through my own website. Several of my friends were coders, so I asked them to help me out with the site creation. I myself did the site promotion using different online marketing instruments. This even included an SEO-promotion, which back in those days was just a simplified version of what we have now. After all, the world of online-based businesses was ten times less competitive than today. At last, MJLens was one of the few companies on the market to offer a convenient location (the city center) and reasonable delivery and product prices.

When it came to online marketing, I wanted to spend effectively. Because if I do invest, I expect maximum productivity. That was my starting point for learning how to do an SEO-promotion and work with contextual advertising. Currently, I'm trying to spend about 10-15% of the business turnover on promo and ads. Now we are open to so many promo tools and other instruments like GoogleAdwords, Google merchants, and we are actively utilizing Facebook and Instagram Ads.

How do I Attract Customers With an Online Store Website?

Mark: I mean, if you have a terrible website interface, no advertising will help. The commercial success of your online store depends on whether consumers would want to stay on your webpage longer. If you choose the right concept and the optics you’re selling are indeed in a great demand and convenient to purchase online (which can be tricky when it comes to glasses as customers can’t try them on and see if they fit), the rest of it is a matter of technology.

Here are five criteria to help you determine whether your online retail shop is customer-friendly:

  1. “Not heavy” and easy to browse through. Look at how most online stores look like today - simple and minimalistic. Stores with glasses or contact lenses aren’t the exception - they shouldn’t be overloaded with graphic elements and ones that are hard to download. Remember that people might not have a good Internet connection.
  2. The simplicity of the ordering process. Any store must have a convenient search and categorization system. The person shouldn’t click more than four times to make the purchase, or they might change their mind. Test the time one needs to make a purchase at your website and see how much it will actually take.
  3. Rich contact info. People might want to reach you any time, so make sure your contact info (phone, email, Skype) is in the open. It’s just not good to use the "Contact Us" web form for customers to send their emails. Also, make the information about the delivery, refund, payment and guarantee terms visible. Always send clients all the details of their order: let them be sure they filled in everything correctly. In case it’s not, give them a chance to correct their oversight.
  4. Maximum info about the product. Do not limit yourself to a vague description of the products’ characteristics. Do not copy text from the manufacturer's website or other online merchants. Users are more interested in reading the latest information about the product, not to say most search engines tend to lower the site rating if they detect a duplicated content. If you are just starting, hiring a copywriter doesn’t make any sense, so If you have problems with writing text, at least describe the product in your own words. Allowing customers to leave reviews is highly preferable as it helps you kill two birds with one stone: first, real customer feedback increases the company’s trustworthiness and second, it helps you create unique content in a natural way.
  5. Maximum of photos. If you’re going to sell expensive sunglasses, make sure you not only list the model’s characteristics but also include a broad info on the history of the brand and provide as many photos of one from different angles. The thing is, a lot of people refuse to make online purchases just because it’s impossible to touch and try on the good. All you can do is provide them with as much visual content (photo, video, and 3D) as possible, put a virtual fitting room for “trying on” sunglasses and frames and make detailed descriptions about each model.

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Launching an Online Eyewear Store with TemplateMonster

TemplateMonster: What do you think of ready-made e-Commerce templates?

Mark: I mean, it’s a perfect solution for newcomers with no substantial starting capital. When it comes down to a super tight budget, you literally have no money to make your first purchase from a supplier. Who really cares about an expensive web design studio? Unfortunately, I never knew about TemplateMonster and ready-made web solutions in general, so I just improvised on the go. But those who wouldn’t want to hurt their budget, time and minimize risks in the development process, this is just great!

First, you wouldn’t need to think of the website design, set the functionality or select developers. Just imagine - no need to learn the coding language and mess with a code every time you want to make changes. Another one is that templates help you create a quick and a relatively inexpensive foundation for the e-Commerce startup like I did back ten years ago. Whether it’s a retail online shop selling eyewear or something else, creating a website will take you no longer than 1-3 days. So yeah, templates make a lot of sense, at least in the beginning...

TemplateMonster: Would you recommend TemplateMonster for launching an eyewear website?

Mark: Definitely. You guys are awesome. I’ve looked through your WooCommerce templates and was impressed by the number of their offered functionalities. Fully-responsive, stylish and super trendy. You know, like the sunglasses I sell! (laughs)

Woostroid - Multipurpose WooCommerce Theme


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Torino e-Commerce WooCommerce Theme


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Luxidor - Accessories and Apparel Fashion Elementor WooCommerce Theme


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Sephora Multipurpose Store WooCommerce Theme


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TemplateMonster: Give your final advice to all beginners in the eyewear business.

Mark: Opening an eyewear business, whether online or as a physical store, is a promising and economically feasible step in the rapidly growing eyewear market, although the online project has significant advantages (one of them is less capital investments) over a similar offline one.

Contact lenses and sunglasses are the top products to be sold. I recommend that you facilitate virtual fitting rooms because they definitely increase sales. Launching an optical online store involves creating a website, and the best way to do so is to use a ready-made template!

Visit our website for the best e-Commerce templates from TemplateMonster.

Questions? Ask them in the comment section!

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Julia Minnie

Meet the girl who writes better than she talks. Spent 5 years on master's degree in modern German communications and on content writing. Web trends hunter, passionate traveler, Reese's lover. Facebook

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