LensCrafters Focuses on Fashion

CHICAGO For most of its 30-year history, LensCrafters has been known for its blue-and-red clock logo and its ability to deliver prescription eyewear in under an hour. But over the past few months, the company has been revamping itself into a purveyor of stylish accessories.

Since April, the Mason, Ohio, company has undertaken a repositioning that has included a new ad campaign touting its fashion options, a revamped, more user-friendly Web site and an overhaul of its 900-plus stores.

“LensCrafters has been around for many, many years,” said Cindi Jones, marketing director of LensCrafters, which is a division of Luxottica Retail. “It was time for us to move from that rational place to a more emotional place. It was time to get people to think differently about glasses.”

The change began last year as the company conducted focus groups to determine customers’ needs and wants as part of its ongoing market research efforts. One of the key findings was that people were viewing their glasses less as a medical device and more as a fashion accessory that could say something different about each wearer and his or her mood.

While singular eyewear brands have positioned themselves as fashion accessories, many eyewear chains still present themselves as a one-stop place to get an eye exam and a pair (or two) of glasses in a short amount of time. LensCrafters is now looking to distance itself from other quick-service companies such as Pearle Vision, which is also owned by Luxottica.

Given its parent company’s reach and buying power, LensCrafters could offer fashion brands at affordable prices to take advantage of the trend. “We felt we had an opportunity to take a leadership position, and could help [consumers] feel more confident,” Jones said.

The shift marked a wholesale revamp of the company’s branding, led by a new advertising campaign from DDB Chicago. The effort, which broke in April, involved print and television executions urging people to think about glasses in the same way they think about a favorite pair of jeans or shoes. One ad depicted a man in a stylish shirt above a picture of a stylish pair of frames. “Your lucky shirt turns you into the guy who just can’t lose . . . do your glasses?” The campaign tagline: “Open your eyes.”

The company also altered its media mix, increasing its magazine spend to more than $20 million in 2006 (up from $8 million in 2005), according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. The buy included fashion-oriented titles such as Vanity Fair and W. This year, the company was a sponsor of Conde Nast’s Fashion Rocks concert and created a four-page advertising insert featuring supermodel Heidi Klum in the publisher’s multi-title supplement promoting the event.

Jones stressed the company is not abandoning its quick eyewear benefit. “If anything, it helps support where we’re going,” Jones said. “The fact that we can deliver this in about an hour is a great benefit for consumers. They can get their glasses right away, just like they can get a fashionable handbag right away.”

The company also relaunched its Web site to make it more fashion-oriented. The site, designed by Tribal DDB in Chicago, included photos and details of the more stylish frames, along with trend reports on fashion and eyewear. A new feature includes an interactive “face shape selector” that allows users to upload their photos, determine their face shape and get recommendations for the frames that suit them best.

Additionally, LensCrafter began revamping its stores, turning them into a “premium retail space,” as Jones called it. Previously known for sterile, mall-oriented stores that featured a vast array of frames on plastic racks, the company is aiming for a hipper neighborhood-style shop. The chain’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York was the first to be outfitted with features such as wood floors, elegant display boxes (as opposed to wall racks) and decorative accents and lighting fixtures. The model will be adopted across the chain’s 900 stores nationwide.

According to company officials, traffic in the renovated stores has increased over the previous year, though they declined to provide figures. So what, exactly, is their measure of success?

“People think about other pieces of clothing or accessories, but they don’t think about things that are on their face all of the time,” Jones said. “When people are talking about glasses as an accessory like their shoes or handbags, that would be a great long-term success,” Jones said, hinting about how it could translate into increased sales. “You don’t wear the same pair of shoes everyday.”