The Sweet Spot

How some ECPs are making waves with sports eyewear that boasts a luxurious feel

The Sweet Spot

How some ECPs are making waves with sports eyewear that boasts a luxurious feel

By Erinn Morgan Photography by Peter Baker

Good sunglasses can’t catch fish, but they can help. Shown Costa del Mar styles Seadrift (brown) and Rockport (black)

The words “luxury” and “sports” may sound like odd bedfellows, but some smart eyecare professionals and knowledgeable chains are actually making a beautiful marriage out of the two. “The $200-and-up price range in sports eyewear sells really well for us,” says Steph Royden, ABOC, NCLE, manager of the two-location The Village Eyeworks in Phoenix and Surprise, AZ. “It’s probably about 25 percent of our total sports business.”

At N3L Optics, the 14-store, Oakley-owned sports sunwear specialty chain, the average unit retail for a sport performance sunglass is $180, but overall pricepoints range from $100 to $300. Here, where the $200-to-$250 price range accounts for 29 percent of the assortment and the upper-tier $250-to-$300 range accounts for 13 percent, the high-end sports eyewear sale is simply part of the mix.

“The high-end performance sunwear market is absolutely a viable market,” says Alexandra Moeser, marketing specialist at N3L Optics. “Having the right eyewear for your lifestyle and sport of choice makes all the difference. With advancements in sunglass technology, there are now so many options that don’t slip, fog, or impair vision when you perform.”

While selling performance sports sunwear in the $200-and-up price range may remain a smaller percentage for most dispensaries, it’s still a highly profitable one given the price tag and the fact that most sports eyewear sales are accompanied by a high-end prescription lens sale. “Most of our customers who are specifically looking for something for sports activities usually want the prescription lens with all the bells and whistles,” adds Royden. “With the frame and a polarized progressive free-form lens, this can ring in at more than $700.”

Sporty chic. Shown above: Lacoste styles L662S (top) and L640S. Shown right top to bottom: Carrera style Champion/Fold by Safilo; Maui Jim style Ailana MJ273; Oakley style Radarlock



High-end sports eyewear, which is usually packed with good looks, bells, whistles, and high-tech features, is a product that can easily be showcased in the dispensary for increased visibility—and sales.

At two-location The Village Eyeworks in Surprise and Phoenix, AZ, some of the highest-end pieces are displayed prominently in the center of the store on glass shelves. Others greet customers in a clean, sophisticated tower at the front of the shop.


While high-end product seems to beg to be displayed in locked cases, some suggest keeping it accessible to customers if the situation permits.

“At N3L, all stores are open-sell environments, meaning customers have the ability to touch, feel, and try on sunglasses without the barrier of closed cases,” says Alexandra Moeser, marketing specialist at N3L Optics, a 14-store, Oakley-owned chain.

Customers can also check out high-end sports sunwear at N3L stores via the N3L Smart Mirror and test it out via experiential tools such as the Explorer Chamber, which simulates different environmental conditions. “We bring the outdoor environment inside our stores so the consumer can select the right sunglasses for their unique needs,” says Moeser.

Does the appeal of luxury sports eyewear pique your interest? Whether the goal is to add higher-end sports eyewear into your current mix or to get a primer on positioning and selling the assortment already in store, our rundown of targeted, veteran-supplied dispensing tips will help pave the way.


CONSIDER THE MIX. Are you on the fence about stocking higher-end sports products in the dispensary? Performance eyewear veteran Bret Hunter, owner of Denver-based Sports Optical, says it’s a smart jump.

“It is worthwhile having this type of product in the dispensary,” says Hunter, who adds that while his current average frame price is about $150 to $200 in his sports sunwear assortment, about 10 percent exceeds $250.

“Most people get performance sunglasses when they need them, but there are those people out there who are not really collectors but they do want the latest and the best.”

TARGET YOUR CUSTOMER. Who is the person spending $200 to $300 on a pair of plano sports sunglasses geared to golf, running, or cycling? At N3L Optics, the target customer is the 18- to 45-year-old active male and female.

At The Village Eyeworks, that person typically ranges from middle-aged to retired, and they are often avid athletes.

“People willing to spend that kind of money on their sports eyewear are usually quite passionate about their sport,” says Royden. “Some are hobbyists but still have all the expensive gear, but most are getting an Rx.”

SELL F&B. At A Site for Sport Eyes, a brick-and-mortar sports eyewear store with an online retailing sister ( located outside of Portland, OR, owner Shannen Knight says they simply don’t sell a lot of sports eyewear exceeding $250 because it’s a harder pricepoint to sell. “It sells better in our store versus our website because of the way we have to sell it,” she says. “We focus on selling all the technical features of each higher-end piece—one by one we explain things like adjustability, lens quality, and other performance features.”

TRY THEM ON. While online purchasing has taken a nip at the sports eyewear market as a whole, Hunter says it’s important to explain to customers just how important it is to try performance glasses on. “Have them try it on so they can actually feel the difference associated with higher-end glasses,” he says.

“If you put on a $300 pair versus a $150 pair, the quality and the fit usually just sell the product.”

Driving-specific eyewear offers racing lines and high style. Above Serengeti style Destare 7688; below, Chopard style SCH881 from DeRigo was created in honor of the European Mille Miglia road race

Shields provide wide vistas and chic style. Shown: Prada Linea Rossa style SPS 57N

DISCUSS THE RX. Most ECPs who dabble in the sports eyewear market report that they do the lion’s share of their business in the performance prescription lenses.

Fitting customers’ new sports glasses with a custom prescription geared just for their sport—and their needs—is a win-win for everyone. “We usually sell higher-end performance frames with progressive lenses with all the extras, so we’re selling them for $650,” says Hunter, who notes that about 95 percent of the sports eyewear he sells today is accompanied by a prescription lens.

LIVE FREE. Veteran sports eyewear retailers say they are moving increasingly toward free-form with their lens prescriptions. “Free-form is really the best for sports wraps,” says Royden. “It’s also the perfect accompaniment to high-end performance sports sunwear.”

At Eye Gear Sport Optical in Henderson, NV, free-form isn’t the exception, it’s the rule. “I’m almost exclusively free-form,” says Mike Hileman, owner of Eye Gear, which is located inside a 6,000-square-foot bike shop. “I just educate my customer and explain that this is the price for a wearable sports system with excellent curve compensation. I also use it for non-wrap prescriptions, too—it’s just a better lens.”

Hileman says it’s about a 20 to 25 percent upgrade in price for free-form lenses, but that his high-end sports customers don’t mind; they simply want the best.

The result? “Customers have brought their older wrap sports glasses in to me asking why they can’t see as well with those,” says Hileman. “Then they bring in their other glasses and ask me to put in free-form lenses in those. To me, it’s just the wave of the future.”

BALANCING ACT. When customers choose free-form lenses, there are sometimes tradeoffs with other premium lens treatments. “I sell them on the free-form, so I sometimes take a hit on other extras,” says Hileman, who sells photochromics to about 20 percent of customers while polarization to only 10 percent.

That’s a wrap: shape and structure are key sports eyewear elements. Shown: Spy style Rivet

“I get a lot of runners, cyclists, and triathletes and fewer people into water sports so sometimes we trade off with polarization,” he says.

“It’s worth it to expand my reach with free-form, which has really increased my business.” EB