Oakley's Eyewear Revolution

Oakley, a wholly owned subsidiary of Luxottica Group, the world’s largest eyewear company, is looking to take its performance-driven, namesake brand to the next level. On the heels of its first global marketing initiative, the company has opened a state-of-the-art flagship on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. (Oakley operates stores under the banners of Oakley Stores, Bright Eyes and The Optical Shop of Aspen, and has a varied optics brand portfolio that includes Eye Safety Systems, Oakley, Oliver Peoples and Paul Smith Spectacles.)

The Fifth Avenue boutique showcases how the brand is tapping digital technology to enhance its interaction with shoppers and add a heightened theatricality to the merchandising of its premium eyewear and lifestyle products. The pièce de résistance of the space, which is Oakley’s most sensory rich and immersive environment to date, is a dramatic, nine-screen digital ceiling installation engineered by Moment Factory. . The store also features an optician-staffed optical center that uses new motion-capture technology to streamline the process for fitting prescription eyewear.

Erik Searles, VP of Oakley Retail, spoke with Chain Store Age about how the flagship leverages new technology to express the brand’s innovation/ industrial-design driven DNA in fresh ways.


What factors prompted the launch of the flagship?

Fifth Avenue offers great exposure for the Oakley brand, and a great opportunity to showcase where Oakley retail is going. The other Oakley stores located in the market (Times Square, SoHo and JFK Airport) have received a tremendous response from local residents and visitors. Opening an innovative flagship store was the natural next step to bring every element of our brand directly to our customers.

How does it create an immersive digital experience?

It starts with a state-of-the-art immersive digital ceiling — the largest interior digital installation on Fifth Avenue. The ceiling display enables Oakley to share brand stories with customers in an unexpected and engaging way. Stories are told using nine integrated screens that feature iconic Oakley products, design sketches, art pieces, animation and athlete videos. Visitors might see metal and glass twitch, bend and pull apart to reveal the day or night sky depending on the time of day, athletes performing beyond reason, or images ripped and pulled apart as the screens become one or function independently.

We wanted to create a curated experience consisting of main stories and transitional stories. The next phase will include consumer interaction.

Who are you targeting with this store?

Our store sites are chosen to reach Oakley’s core active-lifestyle customer — those who push beyond limits in sports and everyday life.

How does the store use digital technology to enhance the shopping experience?

Oakley is using digital technology and mobile devices to service customers in its new in-store custom and prescription eyewear centers, which are launching in all Oakley stores in addition to the new Fifth Avenue flagship. Customers can now partner with our experts using a tablet to build their own personalized Oakley eyewear. The experience includes millions of combinations of lens tints, frame styles and colors, some available exclusively through Oakley’s custom program. The eyewear is built on the iPad and then right in front of the customer, ready to take home.

Oakley is also utilizing mobile POS to help customers via quick transactions.

What is Oakley doing in the prescription eyewear space?

We are revolutionizing the process for prescription eyewear with the addition of in-store optical centers. Oakley stores pioneered the use of digital-dispensing practices on a mobile device so that our opticians can provide customers with the most accurate vision correction possible.

Our certified opticians use a lightweight device that Oakley helped develop to ensure a perfect fit. The device fits onto the customer’s chosen frame, and with the snap of a camera, the program reads and records all the needed measurements. Customers also see photographs of themselves in the eyewear before they complete their selection.

We think it’s critical to have an optician on staff. The customer doesn’t want to speak to someone like me for his or her eyewear needs.

Warby Parker has made a splash in the eyewear wholesale and retail sector. How have they altered the competitive landscape in your business?

They [Warby Parker] are price-conscious and simple, where as we are creating [premium] lenses and frames.

Unlike any retailer, at Oakley, it’s in our core to identify problems, solve them by creating inventions, and then wrapping those inventions in art. Our products and our store experiences are completely unique, which is why our brand enthusiasts love Oakley so much. If our products aren’t good enough for the world’s best athletes and most extreme environments, they aren’t good enough period. That’s why we partner with leading athletes to develop our products.

What does Oakley hope to achieve with the new flagship?

Our Fifth Avenue flagship store represents the best of Oakley retail. It offers a sensory experience unlike any other Oakley store — fusing breakthrough technology with iconic Oakley design. It enables us to share brand stories with customers in an unexpected and engaging way.

What is the rollout plan for the flagship concept?

Oakley will monitor the customer response to the elements in the Fifth Avenue flagship, and roll out key elements to other stores. Currently, we are in the process of rolling out our in-store custom and prescription eyewear programs to all 163 Oakley stores in the United States.

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