Eyeglasses.com, an integrated retail and Internet store, has opened at 147 Post Road East across from the site of the former main post office. Westporter Mark Agnew said he founded the company as an Internet-only business in 1999 shortly after leaving Lehman Brothers where he was an emerging market research analyst.“The 2,000-square foot store is a prototype retail operation which we plan to expand geographically aiming at Greenwich next,” he said. He said the Internet retail concept allows customers to purchase from a range of 250,000 frames which may be purchased as frames only or with a prescription to include lenses. An optometrist is on site two days each week for eye examinations.
Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
WESTPORT, Conn.— Eyeglasses.com, a leading online eyeglass retailer, established in 1999, has opened its first store, a prototype which combines “brick” with “click” in this prosperous Fairfield County, Conn. suburb.
Eyeglasses.com’s president, Mark Agnew told VMail, “We’re merging the benefits of a fully functional and successful website with the experience of a retail store.”
The 2,000 square-foot store allows customers to view an assortment of about 800 fashion frames, merchandised by lifestyle and customer type. Customers are also encouraged to examine an even larger selection from the range of 250,000 frames featured on the site—viewable via computers throughout the store. “Most traditional optical stores guide patients to what’s on the shelf; our approach is to emphasize service by learning what people really want and to supply them with what they’re looking for,” said Agnew.
“We have lots of fashion brands here, eight video screens running style and fashion videos from brands, and the layout is unique. We help customers search a wider inventory and make selections, with the assistance of our opticians in the store. The other day, a woman came in, looking for red frames. We showed her a few from our frame board but were also able to bring her to our site where she was able to look at 425 red frames. She was able to go home and review these, ask our optician to order a few for her to come in and try on. We’ve also had others ask us to send a few to their home—for that, we request a credit card payment and send them up to three to try. ”
For lens choices, customers are guided through the Eyeglasses.com site for lens material and design choices, as well as coatings. Prices on the site mirror the prices in the store.
“It’s important for people to remember that, despite a lot of buzz and speculation about exactly how much eyewear buying is being done on the internet, some 99 percent of eyewear purchasing is not happening online, so we look at it that 99 out of 100 people who come into our store come in to buy something. But we are interested in combining our experience in these two realms—and it’s been part of our plan for many years to have stores. We knew we needed to do this, but we needed the backbone, the technical infrastructure of our website to have it work.”
Agnew, who worked with a local architect on the retail store, and said that the company intends to open a second location in nearby Greenwich, Conn, soon, although “no specific timetable is planned.”