Without losing their utilitarian nature, sunglasses have moved to the forefront of fashion. They are also shedding seasonal slumps and offering retailers healthy volume year round.
Because sunglasses typically carry a high profit margin, merchants have good reason to take another look at this category. The outlook is rosy, according to suppliers.
While increasing health consciousness and (some say) an intensifying of the sun's UV rays related to climate change, are prompting more consumers to never leave home without their shades, fashion dictates that one pair is not enough. Like all full fledged fashion accessories, sunglasses are now required to complement different outfits and events.
That means consumers are buying sunglass wardrobes, with different designs for different occasions. In addition, like all fashion accessories, sunglass styles change, calling for new additions as new designs come online.
That's one reason why Kachina LLC, a supplier based in Santa Ana, CA that covers the gamut of pricepoints, introduced its 2008 collection with the tagline, "Why Wear Anything Else in 2008?" Julia Lemke, marketing director, says her company, "keeps its fingers on the pulse of what is hot in the world of fashion accessories."
"Our clients know that when they received the new 2008 catalog, it was filled with only the trendiest and fastest moving styles," she adds. Those clients include major department stores, catalog companies and a wide variety of other retailers, including independents.
The lines are manufactured overseas exclusively for Kachina. Guy Weizmann, VP, says that allows the company to offer high quality sunglasses, with pricing and styles to fit every vendor's needs, as well as their budgets. All units in the line have UV400 protection, he notes.
When it comes to the latest fashion, Lemke says the large frames of 2007, "are still going strong in 2008, with beautiful detailing and logos on the temples. Red and white
frames are new and hot as well, and so are the smaller plastic frames."
Among the lines in Kachina's collections are the Classic, Silver and Gold collections, and a new, exclusive upscale brand called Plizz from Europe. The company has also added a sexy new line of Bikinis. Last year's Bikinis did so well that Kachina sold out in the beginning of the season, Lemke reports, and she notes that their, "very competitive price," makes them especially sought after by both retailers and consumers.
The Gold and Silver collection comes in pre sorted colors, and each pair is individually boxed in a gold and silver box with a barcode, hangtag and suggested retail price. The line carries a lifetime guarantee, which makes it risk free to retailers. Confident of the success of this collection, Kachina will take back any slow moving styles.
This company doesn't just supply top selling sunglasses, it also offers retailers a slew of aids to help them sell faster at the retail level. It provides point of sale posters and signs highlighting its styles, to help retailers promote. In addition, Kachina has created a wide range of different wholesale packages, and customizes them to fit different retailer customers' individual needs. Displays and accessories are also available.
The company's service measures up to the high standards of its products, and some of Kachina's customers offer evidence. "I have shopped many vendors across the US," says the owner of a chain of beachwear stores. "Kachina has the best prices hands down," he adds, "plus, they offer outstanding quality and their styles are always right on trend."
A representative of an accessory chain that has been doing business with Kachina for two years says, "Our sales rep is extremely friendly and helpful. The quality and pricing is great. Our customers love the product and so do we."
Like Kachina, several other suppliers have introduced their own brands, generally for the upper end of the market, giving their retailer customers exclusive product with designer appeal. Among them are Pacific Link Trade USA and Shark Eyes Inc.
Pacific Link Trade, Dalton, GA, offers the Element Eight, an exclusive unisex sports line with a distinctive EE fashion logo on the side. Ron Bryan, sales director, says there are 150 different styles in this collection.
Shark Eyes, based in Los Angeles, introduced Georgio Caponi, its own designer line this year. Deborah Crable, general manager and senior fashion buyer, says this is for the mid market, and includes more than 50 styles for men and women. Units are sold by the dozen, and, "the pricing is very competitive," she says, affording retailers a markup of 40 to 70 percent.
A minimum order of $200 is offered, and it can include an assortment of styles. There are a variety of Georgio Caponi displayers, including countertop and floor units.
Shark Eyes also offers the DZN designer line, which contains five groups of sunglasses, and each group has 12 different styles. And these, too, are available in a full color displayer case. Shark Eyes will also do private label lines for retailers.
Designer styling is hot this year, according to these suppliers and to Mass Vision Inc., in Rochester, NY. Anthony Masiello, president, says, "Designer features, including art on the lenses, are very popular." To meet demand, his company offers lines that sport a distinctive DG designer like logo, he reports.
Mass Vision carries more than 1,100 different styles for men, women and children. While the company requires no minimum order, it offers a counter displayer that can hold from 30 to 60 different styles, "providing a huge selection in a small space," Masiello says.
There is also a Hot Sellers package from Mass Vision that includes five dozen pairs: two of men's styles, two of women's and one unisex. "The customer can pick the styles, or we will," Masiello says. "Because we do retail ourselves at about 50 different festivals, we have a good idea of what's selling well and where."
Typically, the company's prices are between $20 and $30 a dozen, and suggested retail averages $10 a pair. Masiello will advise on the kind of mix, pricepoints and display that works best in different venues.
"When it comes right down to it, it's the quality and style of the sunglasses that sell," he says. "Nevertheless, in some venues, display and merchandising helps sell the products easier, because they attract attention." For that reason, Mass Vision will sell individual boxes separately for a minimal extra price, and make labels for the boxes. The boxes are about $1 each, and the labels are $1 for a sheet of 10.
They point out the styles that are designer look-alikes and ask consumers to compare them with the designer originals. "This isn't important at a flea market," Masiello says, "but many mall kiosk locations need it to draw attention."
Crable of Shark Eyes will also guide retailers to selections in style and pricing that work best for retailers in different locations and markets. "We're experts in what we do," she says, "and we're happy to recommend a mix that will perform well for our customers."
Pacific Link Trade also offers a variety of different display rack programs. The least expensive package, Bryan says, is a countertop unit that holds about 10 dozen pairs and wholesales for $198. Others reach up to $1,000 for a floor displayer stocked with 132 pairs of upscale designer units. "In addition, we'll tailor packages for individual retailers," he says, "taking into account their market and inventory investment.
"Many of our customers leave the selection of styles up to us. Demographic considerations are an important part of the process and so is the type of store. High fashion is not too important at a convenience store," he explains, "but it is critical to independents and special stores, such as beach and tourist locations."
Pacific Link Trade is a manufacturer with a factory in China. Its typical wholesale pricing is about $24 per dozen, and suggested retail is generally $10 to $15 a pair.
Sunny Trading Inc., in Miami, covers all market levels. Wholesale pricing begins at about $12 a dozen for units that retail from $5 to $10 a pair, according to VP Sam Huang. At the other end of the spectrum, wholesale prices range from $50 to $60 a dozen for designer look-alikes, and/or units with polarized lenses. These retail in the range of $20 or more per pair.
"We offer suggestions about what's hot, including naming our top 10 best sellers," Huang says. "We also help a retailer select according to different geographic areas, market levels and particular clientele."
"A retailer needs several styles, enough to give customers some choice," he says. Yet Huang also warns, "Don't carry so many styles that the customer is unable to make a choice." He suggests that beginning buyers start with about 10 different styles. Once they see what sells, they're ready to handle more."
Vanguard Optical Imports in Pittsburgh has one of the largest selections available, and owner Gerald Wilson has a long history in understanding what styles and pricepoints sell best, and where. His long time motto is, 'Good stuff sold cheap.' "Everybody's trying to trade up, but not me," he emphasizes.
Vanguard offers retailers a slew of displayers to make sure the good stuff moves off shelves quickly and at a good profit. For $120 wholesale, for example, Vanguard offers a spinner floor rack with a mirror and header that holds 12 dozen pairs. There is also a counter displayer that holds three dozen pairs and is offered for $36 wholesale.
At $1 per pair wholesale, the suggested retail price for these styles is between $4 and $5, ensuring retailers a high profit, and providing consumers with pricing that makes it easy for them to pick up one pair or more on impulse. "We select an assortment in conjunction with our retailer customers," Wilson says.
At an even lower pricepoint, he offers units that wholesale for $8.50 a dozen, which translates to 71 cents a pair. The suggested retail price is $1.99. In one deal, Vanguard offers 25 dozen pair for a wholesale price of 45 cents each, making them ideal for flea market vendors and dollar stores.
Reading glasses have been added to the Vanguard mix, as they have with other suppliers, and, in all cases, they represent a rapidly growing business. Wilson says that if a retailer wants an order containing 15 dozen sunglasses and 15 dozen reading glasses, all at 45 cents a unit wholesale, "We'll do it."
Vanguard is not oblivious to the popularity of designer styling, however. The company also offers designer styles at $24 per dozen wholesale. "These have hangtags marked with suggested retail prices of between $29.99 and $39.99 a pair," Wilson says. The minimum order is three dozen pair, which includes two pieces each of 18 different styles, and he says that most of his retailers sell these for about $9.99 a pair, in order to keep below the magic $10 pricepoint.
What's hot? "In three words, white, white and white," says Bryan. Many, but not all suppliers agree wholeheartedly. Masiello reports that white emerged at the end of last year and is coming on strong now. Medium size frames, squared or round, are this year's top shapes, he adds.
"Artwork, busy designs," is another trend, according to Bryan. "Designer artwork on the temple is in fashion," he says. "There are more rhinestones this year, and oversized is not as popular as last year."
Cable, however, says, "Big is back. It's back to the 1970s. White is big in some areas," she adds. "Colors are not real far out this year, they are more conservative."
She agrees with Masiello that rhinestones, logos and special treatments are popular. Shark Eyes has also jumped on the reading glasses bandwagon with a selection of 25 styles in its own exclusive Cheetah Readers brand. "We also have a full line of 50 styles of fashion readers that come with a displayer of assorted colors and powers," she says.
Credit the rise in readers to aging baby boomers. Thanks to them, this looks like a complement to sunglasses that is destined to grow and last for a long time. Like sunglasses, readers offer a high margin of profit, and lots of boomers buy more than one pair, so they are handy in the car, kitchen, den, office and elsewhere.
The following were interviewed for this article:
Guy Weizmann, vice president
Julia Lemke, marketing director
1640 East Edinger Avenue, #L
Santa Ana, CA 92705
Toll Free: 800-550-1231
Anthony Masiello, president
Mass Vision Inc.
315 Halvern Cove
Rochester, NY 14622
Toll Free: 877-609-9968
Ron Bryan, sales director
Pacific Link Trade USA
1223 Coronet Drive, Ste. 3
Dalton, GA 30720
Toll Free: 866-824-0079
Deborah (Debbie) Crable, general manager, senior fashion buyer
Shark Eyes Inc.
2240 East Washington Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Toll Free: 877-405-3937
Sam Huang, vice president
Sunny Trading Inc.
8900 NW 33rd Street
Miami, FL 33172
Toll Free: 800-327-0032
Gerald Wilson, owner
Vanguard Optical Imports
2908 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Toll Free: 800-433-1325
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