London, United Kingdom – In recent years, a wave of start-ups have pledged to protect the digitally native generation from the “blue light” emitted by laptops, tablets and smartphones with specially designed lenses housed in fashionable frames.
Until recently, the concept was still quite niche. But when the pandemic forced countries around the world to shut down, retailers and brands reported booming category sales, as business meetings and social gatherings migrated from boardrooms and bars to Zoom and Facetime.
Even as the bottlenecks start to ease, many companies plan to allow remote working until 2021 and beyond.
The jury is still out on whether these lenses actually work. Brands advertise benefits including less eye strain and better sleep. A 2017 study by the College of Optometry at the University of Houston found that blue light had an impact on the quality of sleep and that wearing screen glasses before bed would improve sleep. Yet in the same year, the College of Optometrists found that there was “no strong evidence” that these lenses alleviate eye strain or improve the quality of sleep, said Dr Susan Blakeney, clinical advisor at UK Trade. Group.
However, the inconclusive evidence for the effectiveness of these lenses has not stopped buyers from purchasing them.
At Revolve, which started offering Book Club anti-blue light glasses in 2018, sales of the category more than doubled when the lockdown began.
“Everyone loves wellness and now more than ever we are on our computers doing a lot of Zoom meetings,” said Lauren Yerkes, vice president of purchasing and merchandising at Revolve.
As consumers shift their spending to the new lifestyle brought on by the pandemic, screen glasses could provide an opportunity for the eyewear industry. Eyewear sales were estimated at $ 91.5 billion worldwide in 2019, according to Euromonitor International, but as many retailers and optical manufacturers remain dependent on physical locations, store closures during the pandemic have seen the sales to plummet, with Euromonitor expecting a 14% drop in 2020.
Most blue light glasses cost less than $ 100 and usually come with stylish frames.
Sunshades, the company behind eyewear brands like Le Specs and Karen walker, launched The Book Club in 2017. Blue light blocking lenses had just become available in their company’s factories and the company was considering ways to use the new technology.
The company also manufactures private label ready-to-use reading glasses for department stores and drugstores. [reading glasses] that you would buy in a drugstore, ”said Creative Director Hamish Tame.
Wholesale retailers like Anthropologie, Nordstrom, Saks and Shopbop account for the majority of the company’s sales. But the pandemic has significantly boosted its direct activities. Sales on its website in March and April were up 116% compared to the same period last year. The push continued into May and June, the brand said.
“You never predict a time like [a global pandemic] This is the time when a brand flourishes and all of a sudden starts to sell and gain attention, ”Tame said.
For Jimmy Fairly, which manufactures prescription glasses, sunglasses and anti-blue light glasses, anti-blue light lenses accounted for 15% of the French brand’s global direct-to-consumer sales in e-commerce and retail sales. detail. In April, even though stores were closed, that figure rose to 25%.
Blue light glasses may have limited growth potential. The main selling points of the product can be technical, and it’s not easy to explain this in a catchy, eye-catching way that will travel to Instagram. Plus, it’s the kind of reading solution most consumers won’t realize they need until they’ve tried it.
When New York-based Felix Gray launched in 2013, he faced these issues. Founder David Roger has decided to get creative in the way he markets his new product. He started running programs with offices across town, partnering with companies like LinkedIn, Spotify and Barclays to give employees who sit in front of computer screens all day the opportunity to try them out. Felix Gray glasses over a four month period. At the end of the trial, individuals could either purchase the glasses or return them.
According to Roger, this was an effective tactic, with many testers choosing to purchase the glasses on the spot.
“We even had more people calling us or emailing us later and saying, ‘Hey, I didn’t get my [glasses] for a week and my eyes are down. Can I buy them? ‘ “, did he declare.
Tame said The Book Club’s marketing manual is different from that used by other brands in the Sunshades portfolio. For example, the Specs’ marketing machine, where Tame is also a Creative Director, was propelled in part by the brand’s A-list fan base, which includes Lady Gaga, Gigi hadid and Rihanna.
“The most powerful way for us to introduce people to [about us] it’s by mouth, rather than trying to promote it on a billboard or put it on a celebrity, ”Tame said.
Whether screen glasses will make their way into the mainstream remains to be seen. But, for now at least, fashion retailers are in the game.
“I think we’ll see this category for a while, given the current climate we find ourselves in,” said Yerkes of Revolve.
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