Suppliers Reasses House Brands

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Like retailers, eyewear suppliers too, have reassessed the way they approach their proprietary brand offerings, as consumers have become more sensitive to the attributes of a frame beyond its brand name. Ultimately, they say the most significant change affecting house brands at this moment has been the change in purchasing attitudes among today’s consumers.

“Typically, the person who seeks a proprietary brand is willing to go against the grain,” said Jim Sepanek, Signature Eyewear’s vice president of business development. “Not being afraid to take a chance with a lesser known brand requires an independent, original thinker. It’s not always about price point.” In addition to the Dakota Smith and Calligraphy house brands, Signature will introduce Rough Justice in the spring.

“It’s the sophisticated consumer that really gets it,” stated Joe Tallier, vice president of global sales for OGI Eyewear, which include the Ogi and Seraphin collections. “They are looking for more quality and value. There are just too many brands and people have become pickier. They want to know that the product they’re buying is worth the money they are paying. They are looking for something that differentiates them and that is exactly where house brands, like ours, come in.”

 
“Today, accounts are flooded with an endless stream of brands. As a result, accounts have become more discriminating when selecting product,” said Dick Russo, executive vice president of Safilo. “Safilo’s trade brands play an equally important role within our portfolio. While we do see greater interest in some of our house brands that are more price sensitive, our customers look to these brands offered by Safilo as trend right, high quality merchandise that may appeal to a consumer who is not motivated by brand identity. We see opportunities in these brands going forward because of their intrinsic value that so many of our customers have grown to appreciate.” Safilo’s proprietary brands include Elasta Chesterfield, Adensco and Denim.

Mike Hundert, CEO of REM, which has launched three house collections over the last two years: Lipstick, Surface and Popcorn, explained, “Name brands continue to be important for most retailers since they get attention and give credibility to the overall store’s image as a quality eyewear retailer. At the same time, house brands are included since they offer similar quality, features and benefits at more compelling price points. We must understand this is driven by the new openness of consumers who today no longer gravitate immediately to a name brand, but instead look at the balance of cash and cache, of symbols and performance.”

“Brands bring consumers into stores. However, once the consumer is in the store, there is increasing interest, by the account and the consumer, in proprietary brands because they provide value to the consumer and profit to the account,” agreed Signature’s Sepanek. “Many times, proprietary brands provide a high fashion content at more reasonable prices allowing the account to acquire the product at prices that provide them favorable margins. Because buyers are focused more on value, proprietary brands have played a more significant role at Signature. But value doesn’t mean a lack of fashion,” he added.

The recession, it seems, did not diminish the consumer’s desire for style but focused their demand for quality and whittled away their patience for product that offered no more than a fancy name.

“There is more of a desire for technology stories, focus on design and quality as well as a good color story,” confirmed Wayne McGee, president of the McGee Group, which produces the Totally Rimless house collection. “House brands are becoming more important as brands come and go as they provide more stability and flexibility. As channels of distribution and brands expand, some can become diluted. Focusing on design and other factors within the mid-tiered price point and house brands will remain a need regardless of the brand name.”

Jeff Stern, brand executive/vice president of Marchon, added “The biggest change in our house brands has been the transition to more aggressive styles and colors over the last couple of years. Today’s house brand line, when laid out, is more interesting and exciting than ever with respect to design and coloration. These collections not only offer basic styles, but also great designs that could go head to head with many of the fashion brands which we see in the field, at a fraction of the cost.” Airlock, Flexon and the newer U-Turn are just a few of Marchon’s house brands.

“Our business is mostly house brands and our customers know us for our great quality and great pricing,” said Lori Feldman, vice president of product development for i-dealoptics, which produces the Casino and Suntrends collections, among others. “Our goal with these collections is to create beautiful product that is the same as the licensed designer brands without the constraint of the royalties. With our brands, consumers get the same styling, the same look for less than $150 frame and lens. It’s a higher end looking frame at a lower cost.”

Across the board, the retailers that Vision Monday spoke to agreed that house brands will continue to present increasing opportunities going forward.

“The priority of a large population of consumers is the comfort and performance of the products they choose. The brand badge, according to surveys, has become a far lower priority in their selection process, making the market for house brands of high quality a vibrant opportunity,” concluded REM’s Hundert.