Blair Clark, SVP Sales & Marketing
What trends will we see in next season’s line? Overall, changes in trends are slowing in eyewear just like in apparel. Some trends are slowing like Wayfarers, super-nerd and obviously-vintage frames, while many current trends are still valid but with subtle updates.
For women, small, medium and large frame sizes are all relevant, but with modified cat-eye or super round frame shapes. For the youthful, energetic woman, modified cat eyes are spot on. For the more fashion forward, true round eye shapes from tiny to large will be seen.
For men, a combination of sport-inspired features with lifestyle-oriented frame designs are really fresh. Statements are being made with super hard lines and surfacing, but mellowed out with smaller logos and accents.
The most obvious trend is ‘wood’ in eyewear— from actual wood frames to wood grain graphic applications in various colorations. Fresh for both men and women.
Colors are still well balanced between the classic Black and Tortoise with brights or pop colors. The brighter colors are less neon pop solids and more muted or rich in final appearance.
What changes are you seeing at retail/on the business side? The sunglass business has never been easy and the current market is no exception. Product, pricing, marketing, and service all have to be superb if the brand is to be relevant. To win takes focus on conveying your brand’s merits while pushing the envelope. No one wants to buy the same old sunglass year after year, so innovation and risk are key. Price sensitivity is a pretty hot topic these days as many people seem to be buying sunglasses when they need them, not just when they want them. I think it is safe to say the silly years of 2004-8 of people buying 3+ pairs per year of $100 + sunglasses are gone for good.
What were your greatest successes in 2011? 2011 was a substantial year for Smith as we fully re-invigorated our collection with innovations in each of our key categories: metals, men’s, women’s, sport. Nobody thought we could improve on our #1 selling SERPICO but we did with the SHOWDOWN and it’s cousin the LINEUP. We have become known for the classic aviator and needed to innovate so we constructed our new premium stainless steel frames with silicone nose pads and rubber temple tips. They are so light and comfortable you literally can’t feel them on your face.
Another proud moment was in January 2011 when we fully transitioned 100% of our injection molded frames to our Evolve collection. Smith was the first eyewear brand to introduce more eco-friendly bio-based frame materials in 2009, and in 2011 the entire sunglass collection was integrated. Not a token by any means as over 200 skus of men’s, women’s, sport, and casual frames are included.
What are your projections for next season? The crystal ball is telling us that crossover between sport and lifestyle designs will continue. Everyone is expecting more for less, and for the most part they should. Colors are going to always be a key story and we see woodgrains, color matched frame/lens combos, and strong mirror lenses all being key.
What additions are you making to the line? What won’t we see as much of? The biggest move we are making is to re-introduce Smith sunglasses at $80 msrp. We cut our teeth along the beach over 10 years ago with aggressively priced sunglasses in the $70-80 range. We have been moving to an all-polarized lens story over the last few years because we really believe polarized lenses create an amazing visual experience, but we also know that many customers are not comfortable spending over $100 on eyewear so Summer ’12 will see 13 new skus in fresh colors with non-polarized lenses. Still distortion-free optics and lifetime warranty in our top lifestyle oriented models, but at $80.
Where are prices and margins heading for you? Everyone is facing margin pressure without a doubt. We are holding features and pricing on all existing product. New introductions are being reviewed and priced fairly. If a new model matches up technically to an existing model, pricing stays the same. Where we introduce a new technology or feature, prices are being increased accordingly but fairly.
What is the breakdown looking like for men’s and women’s SKU’s? Smith has always had a strong balance between men’s and women’s customers and product lines. Most of our top sellers are unisex models. Women-specific models nearly equal those for the guys only. Overall, we pay close attention to both categories as each has their own expectations.
Are the number of SKU’s in your line expanding, contracting, or staying the same? Why? As an established brand, the Smith SKU count is nearly identical to the last few years. However, we are changing about 35% of the collection for fall 2012/spring 2013. Out with the old, in with the new is a pretty accurate saying. Without new or fresh things to showcase, customers are likely to hang on to what they’ve got. It is our job to create excitement and a reason to buy.