Web Exclusive – Finding a Novel Niche

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Sometimes a business opportunity is right in front of your nose. And sometimes it is right on top.
While there is endless variety in terms of shapes and colours for eyeglass frames, there is one characteristic of plastic frames that is fairly uniform: bridge form. This naturally means that plastic frames don’t fit everyone equally well.
“For Chinese and many Asians,” says Albert Mo of McCray Optical, “their nose bridge tends to be flatter then what designers design for.” This can cause problems in terms of comfort and functionality. McCray Optical, however, has found a solution that better serves Asian-origin eyeglass wearers: a specialty nose pad arm the Canadian company dubs the “titanium pad arm implant.”
The titanium pad arm implant has many benefits says Mo, a trained optician and technical development manager with McCray. The biggest benefit to consumers is that it comfortably corrects ill-fitting plastic frames. But the biggest benefit to opticians is the ease with which it can be applied to plastic frames. Many nose pad arms require a heat sink process, while other pad arms are attached with screws. Heat sinking on plastic frames is fraught with problems, says Mo. For starters, too much heat can damage plastic and an imperfect application can result in a wobbly pad arm.
“The error rates are high.” McCray’s titanium pad arm implant is fastened by impact, meaning it is a “cold” insert.
McCray is the exclusive distributor for this product in North America, and Mo thinks they have the best product available. “We have tried other products, but this is far superior. Titanium is stronger, light, 100 per cent hypoallergenic and also allows for adjustments more easily.”
Most importantly, the product seems to be a hit within the Asian segment of the market. Asians are often fashion forward, says Mo. “They want to wear the hot items and some will wear ‘what is in,’ even though the frame does not fit well.” For example, Mo, who has spent 15 years working in the family business in various capacities, says that nowadays the square wayfarer style has come back, and nose pads are helpful on that style of frame. The titanium pad arm implant has become an effective way to better serve the growing Asian community across Canada as well as boost McCray Optical’s bottom line.
McCray came across the titanium pad arm implant in Japan about nine years ago. Since introducing it here, the premium product has grown the company’s sales and is increasingly becoming a more important part of their product line. Mo says that there are several optical stores that send him 5 – 10 frames a day for fitting with these special titanium pad arms. The implant pad arm is available in 9mm, 12.5mm and 15mm sizes, and McCray fits them on sunglasses and reading glasses, as well as other ophthalmic eyewear, including kids’ eyewear.
While it is popular in Canada, McCray sells even more of the titanium pad arms to the large US market. Of course, the potential market goes beyond the Asian community. “Asians are not the only people who have flat noses,” says Mo.
For McCray it’s a product that complements its eyewear business perfectly, and it’s one that illustrates as demographics change, new business opportunities always follow.

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