Did you know that the eyewear market is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and sunglasses rank among some of most profitable products in the world to sell?
With an average gross margin of 80%, you're earning a whopping 80 cents for every dollar of sales you generate.
Moreover, sunglasses are ideal for e-commerce because they are small and lightweight, factors which translate to lower shipping costs.
In this guide, we'll cover the three key ingredients to creating a successful sunglasses business.
Normally, the way most people might start a business is to come up with an idea for a brand, manufacture products and then try to figure out how to sell them.
Here, we'll take the opposite approach, flipping the process on its head by encouraging you to focus your initial efforts on how to sell your products.
1. Define your use case
When will people buy your sunglasses and why? This is an essential question to define as you conceptualise your business.
See these three examples of use cases:
- Tennis players will buy tennis shoes when they want to play tennis.
- Skiers will buy snow goggles when they go skiing.
- Men will rent tuxedos when they attend a black-tie event.
Now, let's relate these use cases back to sunglasses with Oakley as an example because it has built its entire brand around a specific use case: sports.
Athletes will buy Oakley sunglasses when they want to do sports in the sun.
By identifying your use case, you will develop a concrete idea of your customer, your product and your marketing. In Oakley's case, the target customers are athletes, the product is sturdy, lightweight sunglasses, and the marketing is all about sports.
And don't worry about creating too specific a use case.
At least at the beginning, a specific use case will enable you to focus your marketing budget on a specific customer instead of spreading it thin across too broad a range of potential customers.
2. Pick your distribution and marketing
Related to your use case is your distribution and marketing.
Distribution refers to where you will sell your products, and marketing relates to how you will raise awareness about them.
For a majority of early-stage sunglasses businesses:
Distribution channels include:
- Online through Amazon
- Online through your own website
- Offline through retail partners
- Offline through your own store
Marketing channels include:
- Social media (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok etc.)
- Search (Google etc.)
- Traditional offline channels
Every distribution and marketing channel has its own unique characteristics, and I recommend you research examples of how existing sunglasses businesses might be finding success on these channels.
Two cents: TikTok is where the eyeballs are, but Facebook and Instagram still offer the most cost-effective advertising experience.
3. Find a manufacturer
Once you have identified your use case, distribution and marketing, you will have a concrete idea of what products you plan to sell and how much people will pay for them. From there, you will know what products to manufacture.
A vast majority of manufacturers are based in China, Italy and Japan. If you plan to offer sunglasses at an affordable price point of around $100 or lower, China will be your best option. For luxury sunglasses in the $150 and higher range, Italy and Japan are great options.
Finding a manufacturer is not a straightforward process, and you may have to order samples and even full production runs with several factories before finding your longer-term partner, but you will figure it out.
The easiest way to get started is Alibaba. Pro tip: the best factories in China are based in Southern China near Hong Kong — Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan.
Should you start a sunglasses business? The journey of growing a sunglasses brand from scratch involves many unknowns that only you can answer. If you cannot define your use case before starting your brand but still want to do it, go for it! You will figure it out.
Sooner rather than later, you will have to address the question of who is going to buy your sunglasses and why they will do so, but the most important thing is to start.
It is easy to normal to feel overwhelmed and paralysed because of too many unknowns, but if there's one thing I know, it's that you will figure it out.