Discount sunglasses are a great item to source online, because the Web makes it easy to browse the thousands of styles out there. Moreover, these high margin, lightweight products are relatively inexpensive to ship. With a wide range of wholesale vendors eager to show buyers their wares, they have every reason to offer deals and information about upcoming models, especially with the latest in retro wear growing in popularity. Here's what they have to say about the most recent sunglass trends, and the business of selling online.
Great L&H Trading began in China and expanded to the United States, and the company's contacts mean that customers can expect extremely competitive pricing. "Since 2001, our company has had many years of experience working on fashion eyewear. We started in the eyewear business in China first," says Linda Li of Great L&H Trading. With that experience, Li has an insider's expertise in stylish sunglasses. "We specialize in plastic and metal sunglasses, and the metal and sport sunglasses are the ones that sell best for us," she says. "We also have a luxury house brand called Christelle Collection that is an excellent seller. I might suggest that colorful aviator sunglasses will be good sellers for 2011," she adds.
The aviator style has been popular for decades, of course, ever since General Douglas MacArthur wore them in an iconic photograph, as he landed on the beach in the Philippines during World War II. Today that look is back, and with the thousands of styles that Great L&H sells, Li should know. "We have more than 100 new styles coming in this season, and ten to 20 coming in each month, including styles for kids, women, and men," says Li. Great L&H Trading makes it easy for vendors to buy at wholesale prices. "We sell by the dozen per style, not by the piece," says Li. "The minimum order must be five dozen." In addition, the company bends over backward to give new customers a break. "First time customers can save with a five to 20 percent discount," she says.
Ecommerce drives 30 percent of the sales at Great L&H Trading, so the company puts a lot of work into its site, which has been live and evolving since 2002. The demand is growing, says Li. "Right now, so many people are going online to source products. Almost everybody likes to buy merchandise online, and they are spending time there to find what they want." She is convinced that what buyers want is to look at samples. "Our biggest strength is the product photography," she says. "We upload images of every single style of sunglasses on the website, and we show more than 1,000 styles with photos from our manufacturer. We are very quick in getting new products online, and we do all the work in-house," she adds. Li uses email to keep in touch with and send product info to her 1,500 customers.
Mylo Bernard, the CEO of People Fashions, also says that retro is in. "Wayfarer styles continue to be strong in a variety of sizes, colors, and patterns," he says. "Cat eyes will also continue to thrive, though varying in sizes and shapes." The Wayfarer, possibly the most popular style of sunglasses of all time, according to Women's Wear Daily, has been a steady seller since its introduction in the 1950s. The cat-eye style has also been around for ages, since it debuted in the 1960s, worn by movie star Audrey Hepburn. Bernard also mentioned square frames as a style to watch, and is eager to offer a complete sunglass solution to his customers. "Our goal is to have the largest selection for fashion sunglasses. We try to be the one stop shop for all the gift stores that are looking for sunglasses only," he says. "We want to provide the lowest prices for our customers to help them maximize their profits, so we can all grow together as a team."
Fully 90 percent of sales at People Fashions come from ecommerce, so Bernard is very aware of the importance the Internet plays in his trade. "The web is really important for our business, because we're selling to all states and other countries as well. Our website is easy to navigate and facilitates online orders," he says, adding that the company's greatest strength is its ability to offer free shipping. "We offer free shipping on orders over $200. That helps customers a lot, because they know exactly how much they are investing, and it provides them with a clear vision of their profits." So far that strategy has paid off for People Fashions. "We have been selling online for three years," Bernard says, "and we get more happy customers each year." One way he keeps them happy? With email deals they can't refuse. "We are really strong with our newsletter," Bernard explains. "There are special deals available that are only for our newsletter subscribers. We make our customers jump on our weekly deals."
At PR Sunglasses, Janice Chien, the company's sales manager, says that retro styles are making a comeback. "The styles that are selling best these days are retro '80s looks, like Wayfarers and aviators. That's what we see as we watch what celebrities are wearing," she says. Nonetheless, fashion does not stand still, and Chien is always on the prowl for the next hot product. "I'm consistently looking for new styles and working to create new ideas with our factories," she says. The Internet is a big part of business for PR Sunglasses, which has been online for four years now. "We're getting increased traffic from the website," she says, "because it makes it easy and convenient for customers to shop and view new products. We also use email newsletters quarterly to let our customers know about new styles."
"The best selling trendy styles are those with large frames and embellishments," says Deborah Crable, general manager of Shark Eyes Inc. Her main focus is on what's new in the marketplace. "There are some unique styles coming up," she says, although she also mentions that, "some of the basic styles from the late '80s and '90s are coming back." Another important sales trend, she says, is that business is picking up in general. "Considering how the economy has been, we can't complain. Everybody is buying on price, and everybody wants the best quality for the lowest price."
Bucking the trend toward ecommerce, Shark Eyes customers are not clicking to make purchases through an online shopping cart. "We sell mostly to wholesalers and distributors, and they sell to the retailers," Crable explains, "so our customers want volume discounts, and that means they want to negotiate over the phone." As a result, the company site is important as a source of product knowledge. "Our site's greatest strength is the pictures that show colors and packaging," she says. On the other hand, her middleman customers are not particularly interested in social networking, so the company has not devoted energy to Facebook or Twitter, for example. However, email is a useful tool for connecting with customers. "We email fliers with specials and descriptions of new items." However, the company has so many new products that she says the best way to find out about those is through the website.
On New York's Avenue of the Americas, Michael Starotoli, the marketing director for Solar Fashions Inc., is proud of his company's record as a trendsetter with longevity. "We've been wholesaling here in New York for over 20 years," he says. "Right now, what's very big, and what we see big for the next season for women, is cat-eye styles. Those are actually up and coming, and they will do very well for our customers." As styles come and go, Solar Fashions keeps track of what's hot and what's not. "We stay up to date with all the new trends and fashions," says Starotoli. "We get new styles in to our location every two to four weeks. We're always getting new shipments in." In addition, the company is diligent about dropping the poor sellers. An initial order from a manufacturer will be for a range of colors, for example, but Solar Fashions adjusts the mix as time goes by to weed out the poor performers.
Over the last year, the company moved from a pictures-only website to one featuring full service ecommerce. "We just recently hit the web about a year ago with a shopping cart website," says Starotoli. "Before that it was just photos of our styles." Since it has launched, the company has attracted a lot of smaller retailers seeking deals online. "On the website we get a lot of boutiques and smaller shops, as well as people selling on the web." Starotoli admits he would welcome new high volume buyers such as department stores, but the low prices he offers online appeal strongly to the independents. "Our pricing compared with other wholesalers is considerably better," he says. In addition to low prices, Solar Fashions puts its complete wholesale pricing online as a convenience for shoppers. The site shows actual wholesale prices on a per dozen items basis, without registration required to see them. "Our prices are one of our strong points," says Starotoli. "I don't want shoppers to have to go through more work just to see prices. I don't need to waste buyers' time by making them register."
From the heartland in Nixa, MO, Moda Collection's president of operations, Greg Mace, is looking into the past for hot sellers tomorrow. "Aviators are very popular still," he says, "as well as Wayfarer sunglasses, women's larger jeweled frames, and logo brands." Looking ahead, Mace thinks branded styles and Wayfarers will be big hits this year. "All our styles are tested on the market in many regions of the United States before they are accepted into our collection," he says. "This is the best way to keep only the best selling sunglasses in stock." The company continues to innovate, he explains. "We recently designed six different brands that have been selling well for us. We are always expanding our line, and we doubled our styles over the last year." Business, even during the downturn, has remained good. "Because we are a manufacturer and a distributor, we have actually seen an increase in sales," says Mace, citing a recent doubling of Moda's revenue.
The Internet is vital to this success. "We have a top producing site," says Mace. "We have images of every single pair of sunglasses, and when you go to our site you can see the very best images on the market. It's very important to show your customers a detailed, crisp image. They want to know exactly what colors they are buying, as well as any detailed logos on the sunglasses. We offer it all, so it's easy for our customers to make the best buying decisions."
For more information:
Great L & H Trading
29 W 30th Street, Suite 601
New York, NY 10001
Toll Free: 866-454-8500
1034 S Herbert Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90023
Tel.: 877-211-0248 or 562-392-5671
7596 Harwin Dr.
Houston, TX 77036
Toll Free: 800-777-7656
Shark Eyes Inc.
2240 E. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Toll Free: 877-405-3937
Solar Fashions Inc.
866 Avenue of the Americas, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10001
2145-B Bristol Ln.
Nixa, MO 65714
Toll Free: 888-308-6632
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