Factory Optical’s New Location: Shoppes on Hamilton, Regina
There is no doubt the retail optical world is changing, and nobody knows that better than Stephen McIntosh, president and founder of the Factory Optical and Optiks International group of companies: “Smaller one-off merchants are having a tough time competing, and the inevitable response to that is market consolidation. If done correctly, the act of consolidating markets may confuse customers of businesses which have been acquired, but it reduces the ‘noise’ out there and provides those same customers with much more value.”
Factory Optical Expands Number of Eyewear Locations
Eyes on Hamilton in Regina has recently been purchased by the Factory Optical and Optiks International group of companies — the latest in an exponential and decade-long growth program initiated by the Regina-based retailer. McIntosh explains: “We have grown organically to this point, meaning we have built new stores only. With the recent purchase of the three-store Eyes International chain, along with a fourth independent retailer in Saskatoon, we are executing on our new five-year plan to add upwards of 45 locations to the 27 that we currently have, and to do this as often as possible by acquisition.”
From an academic standpoint, the optical retail landscape in Canada is charting a similar course to that of the retail pharmacy industry 20 years ago. “To a certain extent, industry consolidation favours the strong and punishes the weak,” McIntosh adds. “From a customer standpoint, this means larger companies can retain the very best talent, and through their larger size, buy better and pass the savings and value on to their customers.”
Passing Eyewear Savings on to Customers
“We are experiencing a sort of ‘sea change’ in our world, which sees the dominant vendors and wholesalers concentrating on larger accounts by shutting down smaller ones,” McIntosh continues. “This has resulted in deeper wholesale discounts to these fewer, larger accounts and access to product being denied to many of the smaller one-offs. As an example, we recently brought a very high-end frame line to 18 of our stores, and the vendor closed 54 small accounts to accommodate this. We already know that only larger companies can support their own in-house lens manufacturing capacity, which is an enormous relative saving. How a company chooses to spend these efficiencies is up to them.”
McIntosh adds that Factory Optical/Optiks International has chosen to merchandise themselves as the provider of the broadest Designer 2for1 offer in Western Canada. “We do this every day. As a key account-designated retailer of largest frame vendors in Canada, and now the fifth largest optical company by revenue in Canada, the gap continues to widen, especially when you consider other initiatives we are involved in.”
Cutting-Edge Lens Designs & Improved Communications With Eyewear Customers
More specifically, the Factory Optical group is in the midst of rolling out a customized POS/software platform in all of its stores, which will significantly improve its ability to engage and maintain dialogue with its customers. “We can wand product in process, issue status updates to customers, identify behaviour and tastes, and communicate new opportunities to customers in response. Beyond that, we are adding new cutting-edge designs to our suite of progressive lenses. Early in the New Year, we will roll out a new store/merchandising concept (think Winners ™ for eyewear) that we will test in Regina. In 2019, we expect to launch our online contact lens solution, unique insofar as it combines eye exams and lens fitting into a bundle that can also tailor or mismatch payment with product delivery, and allow subscribers the discretion to time those deliveries themselves.”
In purchasing the Eyes International chain, the plan was always to close the Eyes store on Hamilton Street in Regina, and move into a brand new store a block down the street to the heart of the Shoppes on Hamilton district, McIntosh admits. At 3,500 square feet, the new location is larger and decidedly more “boutique-y,” featuring onsite optometrists and offering frame lines not carried by the other three Regina Factory Optical locations and/or Eyes on Hamilton.
Retaining the Same Qualified Staff to Serve Eyewear Customers
The new store is magazine-quality beautiful, and perhaps most important is that the folks you’ve come to love at Eyes on Hamilton are all still there — Leah, Amanda, Harley and more. In moving to Shoppes on Hamilton, Factory Optical joins a prolific and cooperative group of like-minded, customer-focused retailers, intent on cross-promoting each other, engaging in corporate and promotion nights, and really changing how retail is done in the downtown area.
Change can be a good thing in any industry if done correctly. Through buying stores, retaining stellar employees, enhancing the product offering, and passing efficiencies and value directly to customers, the Factory Optical and Optiks International group is embracing change and more ready than ever to serve you.
200 – 1916 Dewdney Avenue, Regina
Photos by Shawn Fulton