Pearle Vision Set to Unveil Brand Reboot

Luxottica Unit Steps Up Marketing as Online Retailers, Discounters Disrupt Category

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Pearle Vision has a new brand and image campaign in its sights.

The unit of eyewear giant Luxottica has been receiving a lot less marketing attention than sibling LensCrafters, which saw $48.5 million in measured media last year compared to Pearle's $14 million, according to Kantar Media figures. But that looks to be changing as Pearle preps a new logo and TV spots expected to break this week.

Pearle's Facebook page
Pearle's Facebook page

The company declined to discuss the push, but on its Facebook page Pearle is using the mantra "Your eyes give you so much. Now it's time to give them something back."

Pearle's creative agency is Omnicom's EnergyBBDO; its digital agency is Havas Worldwide Chicago. Design firm LPK worked on the logo.

The refresh is presumably part of an effort to better compete with online businesses like Warby Parker and retailers like Walmart and Costco, where consumers sought discount eyewear during the recession.

"Optical shops face growing threats from alternative channels," said a recent Euromonitor report. "Hypermarkets, warehouse clubs, and mass merchandisers, which appeal to consumers for their combination of low prices and convenience, were able to grow their value share in recent years." It also said that companies like 1-800-Contacts are heavily benefiting from the growth of online retail.

Innovative online companies like Warby Parker have posed even bigger challenges because they offer prescription glasses at a flat rate of $95 in styles that appeal to hip urbanites and those with a flair for fashion.

"Online retailers ... do not face overhead costs and can invest more in new styles and frames," said Anna Son, health-care analyst at IbisWorld.

Pearle seems to need more marketing focus. Its 2012 sales of $1.19 billion were down 3.3% from the prior year, according to Euromonitor, while LensCrafters sales were up 8% to $1.21 billion. Third is Luxottica-owned Sunglass Hut, which had $1.06 billion in U.S. sales last year, up 16.5%.

According to trade publication VisionMonday, in 2011, Luxottica's U.S. retail operations brought in more than $2.5 billion in sales from LensCrafters, which then had 978; Pearle Vision, which had 661 units; Sears Optical's 802 units; and Target's 330 units, among other retail outlets. (Those figures are at odds with Euromonitor's estimates, but parsing the figures is a challenge, as Luxottica does not do so.)

No. 2, according to VisionMonday, was Walmart, with $1.5 billion from its Walmart Vision Center and Sam's Club Optical operations.

It may be an opportune time for Pearle to ramp up. Ms. Son noted that impending changes due to the health-care reform could help the industry, as uninsured consumers acquire insurance to help pay for eyewear. Moreover, the aging boomer population continues to give the industry a boost: 88% of U.S. residents 55 and over require corrective lenses, according to Jobson Optical Research.

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