A booming business

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By DENIS LANGLOIS

Sharen Skelly and Caroline Menzies are both busy baby boomers with their own unique senses of style.

When it comes to eyewear, Menzies, 60, says she looks for wild and crazy styles, while Skelly, 57, prefers dark frames that are stylish yet not too trendy.

But both women agree that the fit, quality and price of glasses are the most important considerations.

“Comfort is key,” says Menzies, an artist and poet, who owns a pair of glasses for distance and another for using the computer. “My lenses are thick so I have to get a sturdy frame.”

Skelly says she looks for durable glasses that will last at least three years since her prescription rarely changes and she doesn’t have vision coverage.

“I don’t mind spending on quality as they will last longer,” she says. “They need to be functional too because I wear them to read and at work.”

Boomers, like Menzies and Skelly, are an important and growing market for eyewear companies.

Three in 10 Canadians, or 9.6 million people, are considered baby boomers – people born between 1946 and 1964, according to the 2012 Canadian census. And most require some form of vision correction.

Boomers today want glasses that make them look and feel their best while being comfortable for all-day wear, according to Don Coulson, vice-president of sales and operations for Modern Optical Canada.

“Boomers deserve great fashion, but should never compromise comfort,” he says.

“Boomers today lead more dynamic lives than seniors of the past. They travel and exercise more while actively pursuing a host of interests ranging from stitching to boarding. Boomers fully expect their eyewear to support their lifestyles.”

Modern Optical recommends eyewear made of quality, lightweight materials. Deeper silhouettes are an essential feature for boomers who require bifocals, Coulson says.

“Modern Optical has a huge selection of frames that meets baby boomers’ eyewear criteria. We utilize such quality materials as titanium, TR90 memory plastic and spring hinges to provide lightweight, durable options. Our designs, including many with deeper silhouettes, range from classic to trendy and colour options run the gamut from neutral to bold,” he says.

Fabrizio Gamberini, chief executive officer of Marcolin USA, says today’s boomers are more influenced by current fashions than seniors of the past, so contemporary styles are a popular choice.

They are often looking for classic silhouettes that are progressive-friendly. Affordability and quality are also key, he says.

“They are interested in styles that have interesting design elements with a premium look at an affordable price.”
Gamberini recommends Marcolin’s Harley-Davidson eyewear collection for boomers.

He says the collection features a wide variety of options, shapes and colours.

Linda Mulford-Hum of Centennial Optical says boomers look for unique design, quality, fit, comfort and a price that won’t break the bank when looking for eyewear.

“Today’s boomers demand variety to find that ‘perfec fit’ that blends design, comfort and price built for their individual needs. That means there are a lot more brands available for them to choose from and technology needs to constantly evolve to keep up with their demand,” she says.

Boomers are a “self-aware” group, she says, that are looking for eyewear that makes an “authentic statement that is on trend, but still expresses who they are.”

Mulford-Hum says Centennial has just launched a brand called Aspire that is directly targeted to boomers.

“Using the latest in 3D printing technology, Aspire Eyewear is the next generation of eyewear designed with a new, modern aesthetic that allows patients to truly express themselves through their eyewear,” she says.

Mark Ginsberg, senior vice-president, global marketing at Marchon Eyewear, says boomers want eyewear that works with their look both at the office and on the go.

“A secure fit with anti-reflective lenses is also becoming a popular request.

Comfort, performance and fit are key, too,” he says.

“Boomers are looking to make a statement. They are embracing vintage to classic plastic eyewear styles in an array of textured shapes and colours.”

He recommends boomers look for a brand they identify with most and focus on styling and functionality when shopping for new glasses.

He says boomers should check out Marchon’s Flexon, Nautica and Calvin Klein collections.

“Today’s boomers are spending more time on computers and portable smart devices. Boomers are now more likely to own two pairs of frames, transitioning from work to the weekend, with a focus on quality, lifestyle and fashion,” he says.

Holly Rush, president of Luxottica Wholesale North America, says boomers lead very active lifestyles and eyewear companies have responded by developing collections to reflect that.

A customers’ choice in eyewear, however, is boundless by age and more by their personal style, she says.

“Our boomer customers select their eyewear based on their lifestyle and the image they want to project through their fashion choices.

For example, a boomer who is a fan of rock and roll may select an iconic Ray-Ban frame, while another who appreciates handmade Italian craftsmanship may go for something from Persol,” she says.

Rush recommends customers work with an optician to select a frame that compliments their face.

“A good rule of thumb is opposites attract, so if you have a square face, go for a round or oval frame. In addition to selecting frames based on face shape, I recommend different frames for different uses and occasions. Building out an eyewear ‘wardrobe,’ so-to-speak, is a smart and fun way to ensure your eyes are protected, vision is optimal and your look is complete,” she says.

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