How Online Eyewear Startups Are ‘Owning’ Owndays With Lower Prices

The optical industry in Singapore once belonged to the realm of mom and pop stores. Then Owndays hit Singapore like a truck,

In 2016, just three years after opening the first outlet in Plaza Singapore, the brand reached $ 36 million in total sales in Singapore. Today the franchise has more than 28 stores across the island.

Owndays Changed Optical Retailing to Singapore

When Owndays hit Singapore, it changed the landscape of the eyewear industry.

Traditionally, glasses that cost over $ 400 a pair took up to two weeks to prepare.

In contrast, the brand’s S $ 98 to S $ 198 fixed price system for its prescription lenses took just 20 minutes to create and outperform existing business models.

Its contact lenses, which sell for S $ 30 for a box of 30 pairs, are also significantly cheaper than those of brands like Acuvue, which sell dailies for around S $ 58 for a box of the same number.

Optical companies struggled to keep up with Owndays’ pricing, and the trend towards trendy eyewear shifted the industry into a subsisting industry with a faster turnaround.

Owndays Store
Image Credit: Owndays

Currently, the Japanese retailer has more than 180 outlets in 10 different countries around the world. In 2017, Owndays achieved worldwide sales of S $ 140 million.

In 2018, Owndays sold an average of 6,000 pairs of glasses per week in Singapore, with a fifth of its customers purchasing at least two pairs of the brand’s glasses each year.

Singapore remains prime real estate.

According to a 2017 report, the industry is expected to reach sales of $ 400 million in the near future.

Demand is unlikely to stop growing anytime soon, as the population ages and the number of people with myopia increases.

Owndays faces retail problem

Owndays’ maniacal foray into retail may seem reckless given the retail collapse of the past two years, but physical stores accounted for 87% of global retail eyewear sales in 2019.

According to a research article, consumers’ preferences for personalized experiences have drawn them to retail channels for their optical purchases rather than to online channels.

Although Owndays has been relatively low-key about its activities since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it’s no secret that retail prices have resulted in store closings.

Singaporean malls are becoming ghost towns and landowners have been dragging their feet in giving tenants property tax cuts despite government subsidies.

Singaporean companies cited high rental costs as the main problem.

covid optical store
Image Credit: Frasers Property

Local brands have sprouted

Two relatively new startups on the local scene, Foptics, Two Of A Kind and Monocle offer eyeglasses and contact lenses at very competitive prices.

Foptics offers frames and prescription glasses for as little as S $ 35.90 a pair. Monocle, another local brand, offers quality eyeglasses and frames for as little as $ 85 a pair.

In contrast, Owndays offers prescription glasses and frames at a fixed price, between S $ 98 and S $ 198 for your first pair.

However, you can take advantage of 50% off your second pair and any pair thereafter. Yet at $ 98 a pair, the cost of a pair of Owndays still can’t compete with prescription glasses and frames under $ 40.

Ownday contact lens prices also cannot compete with Two of a Kind. Two Of A Kind sells daily contact lenses for S $ 21 per box, while Ownday contact lenses cost between S $ 30 and S $ 40.

Combined, these three online optical brands offer a range of high-end, affordable eyewear and outperform Owndays on price.

Online brands can set competitive prices

But Singaporean brands won’t face the same kinds of retail costs as Owndays.

Foptics, Two Of A Kind and Monocle are all brands of optics approved and licensed by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).

Each brand has opened only one retail store in Singapore in order to comply with business regulations for optometrists.

Retail outlets are mainly used to offer customers the opportunity to test their eye diplomas.

They are also useful physical touch points to make customers feel more comfortable buying from a brand online.

If you already know your eye degree, you don’t have to go to the physical point of sale. Simply notify the store of your online degree or visit it once and have the lenses delivered to your door.

During a pandemic, where retail hurts, having a single physical store is a much smaller responsibility than Owndays’ outlet network.

It also lowers overall costs, allowing Singaporean brands to price their products much more efficiently.

foptics glasses delivery
Image Credit: Wah So Shiok

As people stay at home, more and more consumers are turning to online stores.

In Southeast Asia, e-commerce sales rose 96% in the week ending May 11, and experts agree the trend is set for the foreseeable future.

This can also apply to the eyewear industry.

Can Owndays survive a pandemic?

While the odds don’t seem to be in Owndays’ favor, this Japanese retailer still has a lot to offer.

Owndays is not only the leader in retail eyewear, it is also the leader in fast fashion eyewear.

Owndays has over 1,500 models in its inventory, selling everything from ultra-flexible eyewear designed for sports to transparent eyewear popular among young people.

Online brands have a much more limited collection. They also don’t offer the same speed as Owndays, where you can collect new glasses in 20 minutes or less.

It’s incredibly practical and incredibly hard to beat. Most brands online only deliver the products after 3-7 days.

Ultimately, the wide array of style choices draw consumers in, and no one will ever say no to cheap, quality eyewear.

Featured Image Credit: Owndays / Wah So Shiok

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Jothi Venkat

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