Sunglasses are among the highest profit retail categories. What's more, they are far less seasonal than in the past. Just look at the celebrities who wear them winter and summer. They set sunglasses style and ensure that it is ever changing, giving retailers opportunities for multiple sales and repeat sales to the same customers.
Furthermore, there are suppliers that cater to a wide range of price points, so retailers can assemble assortments to meet their individual markets. Some suppliers cover the full range of prices, and all are willing and able to help merchants pick best sellers at particular market levels.
"We carry different collections at different price points," says Julia L., who heads marketing for Kachina LLC, based in Santa Ana, CA. "Our most popular collections are the Euro-EyeWear Fashion Silver and Gold Collections. Their prices start at $22 a dozen for the Silver and $26 a dozen for the Gold collection. They are packed in two to three assorted colors per dozen and come in great looking gold and silver dozen boxes. These include hang tags with barcodes, a lifetime guarantee for the end customer, and suggested retail price is $19.95 per pair," she says. "We also carry more affordable lines," Julia adds. "We always have a nice selection of 'on sale' styles and a Classic Collection at even deeper discounts."
Kachina LLC launched a new, improved website on January 5, which adds specials for orders placed online. They include free shipping in the U.S., a one year guarantee with a risk free return policy and special discount pricing available only online. For beginning retailers, Guy W., Kachina's CEO, notes, "We offer very flexible starter packs and sample packs. Starting on orders from 25 dozen, the customer can get free displays or free accessories, such as pouches or cases, or a free dozen of sunglasses, depending on the buyer's needs. Pricing varies from $6 per dozen to $36 per dozen, according to the collection, style and quantity," he says.
"Variety is important," says Samuel Huang, manager of Sunny Trading Inc. in Miami. "Different people have different tastes, and a retailer needs to cover all bases. If a consumer doesn't see what she wants, she'll move on," he reasons.
Sunny Trading calls for a minimum of $200 on first time orders, which Huang says, "Provides about 10 dozen units with ample variety. We'll help retailers put together a package of best sellers for their own geographic and demographic market."
CTS Wholesale LLC in Salem, OR allows retailers to begin with just one dozen units, "So they can see the quality," says Kirk Bachelder, a partner. CTS stocks more than 400 styles at any given time for the low to mid levels of the market, and it also carries its own brands, which help give retailers distinctive product and a pricing edge.
Among those proprietary, trademarked brands are Xsportz of sporty styles primarily for men; DE, which Bachelder says, "Stands for designer eyewear and is our fashion brand," and Diamond Eyewear, which consists of rhinestone styles, "popular with women," he notes.
Gerald Wilson, owner of Vanguard Sunglass Co. in Pittsburgh, makes no bones about it. "We specialize in cheap sunglasses," he says. On orders of 25 dozen in as many different styles, he offers some units at $5.40 a dozen, or 45 cents a pair. "This contains an assortment of little, big, medium, round, oval, square, metal and plastic and many colors," he says. The company will provide a minimum order of 10 dozen of these sunglasses at $6 per dozen, or 50 cents a pair. These are primarily targeted to dollar stores.
Vanguard's overall minimum order is $60. "We sell at lot at $12 a dozen," Wilson says, "and our polarized and designer knock off styles wholesale for $18 a dozen. They have tags with retail prices ranging from $19.99 to $29.99 a pair."
Because two 40 foot containers are on the way and Wilson needs to make room in the warehouse, his company is having an inventory clearance of 150,000 sunglasses and 40,000 reading glasses that regularly wholesale for $18 to $24 a dozen, but are now just $12 a dozen. Another 600 styles of designer like units with rhinestones and polarized units are offered at $15 a dozen. On orders of $500 or more, retailers get a free floor rack.
PR Sunglasses in Houston carries more than 1,000 different styles, primarily in the mid price range. Janice Chien, sales manager, says wholesale prices range from $15 to $19 a dozen, and suggested retail prices are generally in the range of $5.99 to $14.99 a pair.
"We have about 20 different display units for sale," Chien says. "They range from a small counter displayer that holds four pair, to large floor displayers containing up to 108 pairs. We help retailers pick out a selection of best sellers in their own market area," she adds. Buyers can order from PR online, and the company also provides a free catalog. The minimum order is $100.
"We feel it's not in the interest of our retailers to offer a set starter pack," says M. Gokhan Sahin, owner of Sunglass Star Inc. in Miami. "There's no single solution that fits all retailers," he observes. "We prefer to spend time talking with a customer about his or her market and goals. Then we'll recommend what sells best where they are."
Sunglass Star serves the middle level market with an average wholesale price of about $20 a dozen. "The first time minimum order is $80, and Sahin says the suggested retails range from $10 to $12.99 a pair. The company's website is updated every week. Retailers can register for free, browse the full line and place orders over the web. For its designer style lines, Sunglass Star provides, "compare to" boxes that refer to the original designer lines. "This increases their marketability," Sahin says. "These lines need to be presented in a way that makes them more saleable, and this is a strategy that increases volume and quick sell through."
Advice on best sellers by region and market level is also available from Fashion USA, which is based in Long Island City, NY. Vincent Kwan, owner, says his company maintains between 200 to 400 styles in stock that wholesale for $15 to $18 a dozen and retail for an average of $9.99 a pair. "We do very trendy styles," he says, "and keep up with the newest designs, which generally begin in Europe. Consumers like the newest, and people buy more than one pair."
Like Sahin at Fashion USA, Leon Tseng, owner of American Sunshine Eyewear Inc. in Doral, FL, says, "We want to put a package together that will be successful for individual retailers. Trends in sales are very regional and also differ according to a market's ethnicity. Therefore, we tailor packages for specific retail buyers."
Quality, Tseng stresses, "Is the key to return business. Retailers want return business, not returned sunglasses. We guarantee the quality of our products and will replace any pair that doesn't stand up. If a customer buys a pair that is not of good quality, they tell their friends. Good quality, however, works the other way. They bring friends in to the retailer and they also buy more pairs."
His firm caters to the upper middle market, with wholesale prices that range from $20 to $60 a dozen. "The minimum retail markup is 400 percent of wholesale," he contends. The company's website is constantly being refreshed with the latest styles and features a "new arrivals" section. "We put the newest styles on top," Tseng explains, "then list the others in order of the date they arrived."
Mass Vision Inc., in Rochester, NY, carries designer inspired lines, along with private label units, such as its Element 8 sports collection. "We add about 15 new styles every week," says Anthony Masiello, owner, "and we update our website everyday. It's a wholesale only website and buyers can by online." For the designer inspired lines, Mass Vision will sell boxes and labels that show customers the comparisons. "These grab the customers' attention," Masiello says, "but when it comes right down to it, it's the sunglasses themselves that close the sale."
There is no minimum order, but retailers must take at least a dozen pair of the same style in a selection of three to six different colors. His firm offers a number of packages, including three mixed dozens. These mixed dozens, at a wholesale of $30 a dozen, according to Masiello, include 12 different styles each. "If a retailer buys three mixed dozen, he has 36 different styles, ample to satisfy nearly any customer," he points out.
Mass Vision also offers hot seller packages of five dozen pair to 100 dozen pair at a discounted price. "We pick the styles," Masiello says. Another package contains 60 pair in a counter displayer that holds 48 pair. "It wholesales for $200, and the return is generally between $500 and $600," he reports.
"Our high quality silver and gold dozen boxes are very popular with the flea market vendors, and cart people prefer our 6 piece counter displays," says Guy W. of Kachina LLC. His company also provides a selection of other popular counter and floor displays.
Based on more than 20 years of experience in the sunglasses industry in Europe and in the U.S., Kachina has successfully predicted the fast changing fashion trends year after year, claims Julia L. "For this year, our new 'red hot 2009 Euro-Eyewear Sunglass Collection' draws its inspiration from designers such as Ray-Ban, Carrera, Ed Hardy and Chanel to name a few. The 2009 trends include big and medium size 60 percent plastic and 40 percent metal frames in rectangular, round and octagon shapes, some with cut out patterns," she continues. "Aviators and Ray-Bans are still going strong. White and red colors are continuing moderately into this year, with an increase in clear lens. Black, brown and demy are still the ruling colors, with some animal and ethnic influence," Julia adds.
Masiello also names Ed Hardy styles patterned after that clothing designer's tattoo patterns, Wayfarer style, which harkens back to the Blues Brothers, and Coach. "Medium frames are the most popular now," he says, adding, "The really big ones are on the way out in much of the country. Shutter shades were a very popular novelty last year. But they are waning," Masiello adds.
"The Blues Brothers styles of the 1950s and 1960s are back," agrees Chien of PR Sunglasses. "And aviator styles with metal frames are consistently good."
"Plastic frames outsell metal by a ratio of 65 to 35 percent," says Tseng of American Sunshine Eyewear. He agrees, "The medium size frame is now in the forefront. The really big ones were on top two and three years ago."
"Polarized lenses are very popular with people," says Bachelder of CTS Wholesale. "Once primarily popular with men, they are now gaining ground with women, too." He says, "The big plastic styles still being worn by celebs are still also selling well."
Huang of Sunny Trading reports that both the medium and large size frames are now popular trends. "For women, plastic is still on top. The best selling color is basic black. Red and white also do well with women. For men, black and tortoise are the best selling colors. Polarized units are a popular mainstay," he adds. Like others, Huang reports that style trends differ from market to market. "On the coasts, New York and Florida, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the bigger frame styles and louder colors are the most popular. In the middle U.S., styles are more conservative and colors are less wild."
The following were interviewed for this article:
Leon Tseng, owner
American Sunshine Eyewear Inc.
1509 Northwest 82nd Avenue
Doral, FL 33126
Toll Free: 866-250-5205
Kirk Bachelder, partner
CTS Wholesale LLC
3525 Brady Court Northeast
Salem, OR 97301
Toll Free: 800-796-3486
Vincent Kwan, owner
41-43 37th Street
Long Island City, NY 11101
Toll Free: 877-534-8889
Guy W., CEO
Julia L., director of marketing
1640 East Edinger Avenue # L
Santa Ana, CA 92705
Toll Free: 800-550-1231
Anthony Masiello, owner
Mass Vision Inc.
315 Halvern Cove
Rochester, NY 14622
Toll Free: 877-609-9968
Janice Chien, sales manager
7596 Harwin Drive
Houston, TX 77036
Toll Free: 800-777-7656
M. Gokhan Sahin, owner
Sunglass Star Inc.
2489 Northwest 20th Street, Unit #A
Miami, FL 33142
Samuel Huang, manager
Sunny Trading Inc.
8900 Northwest 33rd Street
Miami, FL 33172
Toll Free: 800-327-0032
Gerald Wilson, owner
Vanguard Sunglass Co., Inc.
2908 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Toll Free: 800-433-1325
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