During the past decade, eyewear in India has transitioned from being a clinical necessity to a fashion accessory. This once near-stagnant market is today one of the fastest growing retail sectors in the country. The Indian eyewear market is estimated to be around $1.25 billion USD and is projected to grow to $1.85 billion USD in the coming three or four years, at a compounded annual growth rate of 15 percent, according to the Images Retail Bureau.
About 35 percent of 1.3 billion Indians need vision correction, and 90 percent of this business was previously monopolized by unorganized local stores, offering functional eyewear solutions. Today the new age Indian consumer is confident, value conscious and aware of global lifestyle trends in fashion and wellness. This has created a new segment of health- and fashion-conscious consumers which, in turn, has fueled growth in organized eyewear chains in metropolitan cities and towns. This has also opened the doors for premium global eyewear fashion brands of the likes of Dior, Fendi, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Montblanc, Cartier, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Armani. International retail chains like Sunglass Hut and Vision Express have also entered the Indian market to answer this call.
From perhaps owning a single pair of reading glasses, the Indian consumer has evolved to own multiple pairs of eyewear for different occasions, bought at shorter replacement cycles of 12 to 18 months instead of every two to three years. This has clearly elevated eyewear to a serious “personal statement accessory” that require the store environments selling them to be updated to suit this new buying behavior.
Three distinct formats have been successful in opening the eyes of consumers and compelling them to prefer the trusted quality and convenience of the modern eyewear store.
Boutique: “Foursight” for fashion
Many popular local retailers have dramatized their store experiences to stay relevant and catch the attention of the new-age consumer. Foursight, a 20-year-old eyewear business, recently unveiled a new concept boutique in a popular market in Noida, New Delhi. The 400-square-foot store is crafted with a casual but premium retro style that breaks the tradition of using a wood-dominated palette. The store design is crafted mainly from metal and stone rendered in premium finishes. A frameless glass fascia, aluminium composite panel cladding, paver stones, naked bricks, cement boards and hammer-tone paint all help create an aspirational environment. Graffiti art-inspired, by antique eye-testing devices, on rustic metal, hand painted terracotta tiles add to a collage of imagery, telling the story of the craftsmanship through the store’s design.
Online to Omnichannel: The art of lenses
Lenskart, founded in 2010 by an ex-Microsoft techie (originally as an online-only store), is today India's fastest growing eyewear business. An omnichannel retail model, backward integrated with the retailer’s own manufacturing and supply chain, allows Lenskart to serve more than 100,000 customers a month. The brand has been instrumental in raising the bar for the eyewear buying experience with trendy store environments. Currently with a footprint of 400 stores across 80 cities, its mission is to open another 300 in the next two years. The store design is a combination of rustic stone finishes blended with modern wood and metal that come together to create an aspirational lifestyle environment that showcases a staggering 5000 eyewear styles. Technology plays a key role in delivering service throughout the customer journey in store.
Offline to Omnichannel: Gaining the plus point
Titan Eyeplus, the bricks-and-mortar eyewear business of Titan Company, was founded in 2007 with the objective of democratizing quality affordable prescription eyewear to all of India. The brand clearly redefined standards of organized branded eyewear retailing in India by focusing on price transparency, contemporary designs, consistent quality and professional service.
Titan Eyeplus has the largest store network in India with more than 520 exclusive locations, operating in 200-plus cities, and offering a wide range of stylish and contemporary eyewear offline and online, supplied from its own manufacturing facility. The store design is conceptualized to present a dominant range organized conveniently by lifestyle needs, such as corporate, fashion, sports and luxury. The contemporary materials and color palette create a clean, young and modern brand persona, which is inviting to their large customer base across many market tiers. In-store technology aids the store experience by enabling omnichannel access to products, testing and the quickest fulfilment in this segment.
The growing success of the modern omnichannel eyewear industry in India has proved that the new age Indian consumer is discerning with regard to quality and experience. This is sure to propel the growth of Indian organized eyewear retail across both offline and online channels and significantly impact the way eyewear is bought.
Surender has more than two decades of experience in the Indian retail industry in retail strategy, store design, planning and development, retail marketing, visual merchandising, writing and academia. He’s held senior positions at leading retailers like Shoppers Stop, Reliance Retail, Mahindra Retail and as a senior retail consultant working with leading retailers and brands in India. Reach him at email@example.com.