Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What’s Behind Warby Parker’s Success? And What Came before It Jumped from the Virtual to Real World

“Before co-founding Warby Parker, [Neil] Blumenthal directed VisionSpring, a group that trains women in developing countries to sell affordable glasses in their communities…Research conducted by the University of Michigan demonstrated that users of VisionSpring eyeglasses experienced a 35% increase in productivity and a 20% increase in monthly income, Blumenthal points out. ‘In international development terms, that is a miracle.’" That’s part of the insight into Warby Parker by the University of Pennsylvania’s business analysis site Knowledge@Wharton.

At VisionSpring, Blumenthal found a “disconnect” between cost of manufacturing and the purchase price in the U.S. Then the article provides “background”: “One company -- Luxottica -- dominates the eyewear industry. As of 2012, Milan-based Luxottica's retail network consisted of more than 7,000 stores, including LensCrafters, Pearle Vision and Sunglass Hut stores.” The article notes that it owns the optical shops in Target and Sears, has chains in Europe and Asia; owns the brands Ray-Ban, Oakley, and Oliver Peoples; and designs/manufactures eyewear for the likes of Versace, Prada, Burberry, DKNY.

“It's an industry ripe for disruption, but because of Luxottica's heft, ‘it takes incredible creativity and brilliance’ to go up ‘against an opponent that has that much power,’ says Barbara Kahn, director of the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center at Wharton [the business school associated with UPenn].” Just as a recap: Warby Parker has established a successful online eyewear retail. It recently opened a shop in the SOHO section of Manhattan and plans to open another store in Boston opening this month on Newbury Street. Read more to understand how WP could change the eyewear retail market forever.

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