Over the past few years there’s been a wave of Japanese retailers that have entered the different overseas markets. In clothing retail there has been Uniqlo and Kamakura. The most recent entrant into the eyewear market is Jins. Eyeglasses remain a luxury for many Asian consumers — a fact that the Japanese purveyors see as an opportunity to flex their cost-cutting supply chains. But these chains are intending to turn eyewear on its head from something that you purchase 1 to 3 pairs, their attractive price point makes it into a fashion accessory.
Jins started in Japan in 2001 by founder/CEO Hitotshi Tanaka. He wanted to make affordable eyeglasses where you can get your glasses made in less than 30 minutes and be able to select from many different styles/colors.
So with that, Jins pioneered the concept of affordable, high-quality eyewear nearly a decade ago in Japan. Jins strategy reinvents the in-store eyewear shopping experience by creating glasses in minutes vs. hours or weeks. Customers can browse, purchase and receive their prescription eyewear with custom fitting all in the same visit. Jins challenges the conventional notion of eyewear as strictly for vision correction and the in-store experience focuses on delivering fashion, efficiency and price transparency for the customer. By embracing technology, Jins is disrupting the eyewear market with unique innovations that are paving the way for a new class of smart eyewear to enhance people’s lives.
While there are many online eyewear retailers today, what makes Jins unique is their high level of customization. Jins offers a wide variety of high quality frames available in both acetate and metal. The frames are designed in Japan and manufactured in China. Not only are there over 1,200 frame styles to choose from, but also a wide variety of lenses – at least 10 to chose from. Perhaps the most interesting lens feature is that of the company’s “blue light” blocking lenses. Blue light, emitted from computer monitors, mobile phones, and tablets, has been found to interrupt sleep cycles. Jins’ blue light blocking lenses can come in both prescription and non-prescription lenses. Jins has over 100 stores in China to date.
But competition in the market is colorful (no pun intended). With Tokyo-based Owndays opened the third location of its discount Owndays Lab chain in Thailand last month in a shopping mall north of Bangkok. These stores sell pairs for as little as 1,000 baht ($30), or about half the price of the company’s more expensive locations in the Southeast Asian country. The company also has an Owndays Lab in Malaysia and plans for 30 more locations, mostly in Southeast Asia, by 2020.
Owndays takes the same approach to selling eyewear as Uniqlo parent Fast Retailing does with apparel — managing the entire process from design to manufacturing to retail. Mass producing a limited selection of popular frames keeps costs down by streamlining production and minimizing sales staff at stores. This business model is a rarity among the mostly small and midsize eyewear producers in Southeast Asia, where a pair of Japanese-quality glasses can sell for more than twice as much.
Owndays also offers in-store eye tests and while-you-wait service on eyeglass orders. The company, which operates in nine mostly Asian markets outside of Japan, aims to expand to 200 overseas store locations and reach sales of 20 billion yen ($183 million) in several years.
Zoff operator Intermestic, which also makes the eyewear it sells, signed a franchising contract with Hong Kong-listed Convenience Retail Asia, part of the Fung Group, which it plans to open 35 locations by 2021. The first will debut in Hong Kong as early as next month. The Japanese company already has 16 directly managed stores in Chinese cities such as Shanghai.
More Japanese discount eyewear producers are charting a path overseas, as the shrinking domestic population narrows their room for growth at home. Japan’s market for glasses was worth 406.7 billion yen in 2015 and losing steam, according to industry publisher Gankyo Publishing. But the market in Asia and the rest of the world remains a large one.
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