The more major problem I have with WP is that their product is entirely generic and their entire business model is just to sell the same thing everyone else does but invest in a different style of woke signalling marketing. Which is exactly what this article is. The whole thing just reads as a "Isn't it great that we're in the growth phase so we can completely ignore our costs!". Tell me about when your sales dropped and you kept your staff motivated and happy - that's what I want to know. I don't want to know staff like free stuff - I already know that. It's kind of easy to keep retention rates high when all your staff are so knew that there's no legacy systems to deal with and they haven't been at your company long enough to grow out of their jobs.
This article brings literally nothing knew to the table. But to be fair, it's literally an article on an e-mail marketting website.
Charging more reasonable prices is of course very replicable, and the mail order model has been replicated by other companies.
The characterization of ignoring the sales staff is very at odds with my experience - the staff at their brick and mortar stores I've been to have been very helpful and capable.
All of WP's glasses I've owned were somewhere on the scale between "garbage" and "fine as a backup pair". Cheap plastic. Very poor fit. Lenses that easily scratched. Messed up prescription multiple times (thankfully their CS is pretty good).
I'm thankful that my insurance allows me to own a "real" pair of glasses, which would normally cost ~$400, from my optometrist. Because the ~year that I experimented with WP was without a doubt coupled with the worst glasses I've ever worn in my life, and I've been wearing glasses since the first grade. I'll only ever be returning to them maybe for prescription sunglasses, and even then my optometrist often runs bundles with glasses (on insurance) + sunglasses for 50% off sticker.
I respect that they're opening the market up for people who aren't lucky enough to be able to consistently afford better glasses. But I don't believe this is what we should want as a society; everyone should have access to great vision, and shouldn't have to resort to rebranded chineese knock-offs just to live their life to their best potential.
1. "Cheap plastic". Is there expensive plastic, really? I've owned much more expensive (but still plastic-framed) glasses and have never noticed a difference in quality.
2. "Very poor fit". Fair enough, I will offer though that I had a fitting at one of their brick-and-mortar locations and the glasses I got fit very well.
3. "Lenses that easily scratched". The details on their lens offerings are here, https://www.warbyparker.com/lenses . Again, not a problem I have encountered.
I don't doubt that there are better glasses than Warby Parker, but I'd bet that they're as good as if not better than basically everything up to the 90ish percentile range.
It’s the biggest disappointment in buying glasses in my 18 years of wearing glasses.
> The company says that the market is highly competitive, and their frames account for ~10% of sales worldwide and ~20% in the United States. Euromonitor International estimates that Luxottica's market share is 14% worldwide, and the second-largest company in the industry, Essilor, has a 13% market share. The third-largest player is Johnson & Johnson, with a 3.9% market share. As of October 2018, Luxottica and Essilor have merged into a single company, EssilorLuxottica, representing almost a billion pairs of lenses and frames sold annually.
WP's story seems to be sprinkling some SV magic dust over decidedly pedestrian frames, not going after the high-end.
I suspect it's much more about being a fashion business which it's hard to opt out of. Non-prescription sunglasses can also be very expensive at (I assume) eye-watering margins. (Owned in many cases by the same brand TBF.)
It's monopolies that force the price so high.
WP is good for in a pinch but the quality of the glasses and treatment you get from your optometrist or a 'boutique' can make a huge difference for something you wear for work...everyday. It's akin to NPR's guilt trip during fundraising time. If you do the math it's a relatively low cost per wear. + it's something that can help you feel less strain at the end of the work day.
I'd recommend Shuron over WP any day of the week. Made in the USA by a company that's been in business since 1865. Frames in acetate, and they offer real sizing to fit your head instead of a choice of "small" and "big" options. Barrel hinges, too:
Shuron has great customer service, but they sure could use some help with their site which seems to be stuck in a 1998 web design paradigm. Quality frames at a good price, though!
Where WP has innovated is in online sales of "good enough" glasses for young people, as a taste proxy, and in fluffy content marketing like this article. But you can break out of the Luxottica eyeglass cartel of high prices and low quality by avoiding WP completely and going to Shuron and getting yourself a pair of Ronsir, Freeway, or Sidewinder frames. You'll save money, too.
Does Shuron offer that sort of experience? Looking at their site, I just see a list of glasses. I don't see a way to easily filter that down to ones that apply to me (narrow, rectangular). Part of the appeal of WP to me was the ease of getting something that I thought looked good and fit good at a reasonable price. Without some sort of way to search/curate, I don't think Shuron competes with that.
Of xourse, that's only the buying experience and doesn't pertain to the quality of the product and the customer service after buying.
> they offer real sizing to fit your head instead of a choice of "small" and "big" options
I'm confused by this. Is that not what something like WP has (see the measurements details)?
After years of paying $200+ for glasses, I decided to go with WP. It was a little nerve wracking- but having the home try on (and the option of a store try on) helped.
Sure, maybe the glasses aren't as nice as the ones I had. But they are $100 cheaper. And that's a decent chuck of change.
Interesting. On the WP website it says they use acetate from Italy which is usually differentiated from "plastic" in eyewear categories. Expensive plastic if you will.
It always amazes me to see tech in scale sold for a fraction of what I thought was possible.
Spending an afternoon in Huaqiangbei is something any geek should do once in their life.
But their glasses are terrible, for all the reasons you mentioned, plus many others.
I switched back to extortionately priced designer frames/lenses the minute I could. I'll never consider another pair of glasses from WP. Absolute garbage.
I know there’s a Jins in SF (never been) but the Japanese retail experience never seems to translate well to the US.
These days I go to Owndays, which has successfully expanded out from Japan - I usually go in Singapore. Most of their shops have common lenses in stock so they can make up the finished pair for you in under 30 minutes. Cost is SGD130-ish for 1 pair or under $200 for two. Quality is fine; if anything better than the expensive pairs I used to buy in Australia.
I also can't understand how western markets persist in this profoundly distorted and uncompetitive state. Possibly consumer expectation? Even in this thread there's people claiming "cheap" glasses are worse, their expensive $500+ versions are better somehow. In my experience this is not the case at all and they are in most respects identical. Even if that were not the case, I would rather have numerous pairs of cheapish glasses than one super-expensive "perfect" pair - glasses are fragile and easily breakable by their very nature and until I'm a multi-millionaire I'll choose the RAIG strategy every time.
 Redundant Array of Inexpensive Glasses
I ask because I worked at a company that sold machinery at scale (which is much more complicated than glasses, which don't require novel engineering). We did all our physical manufacturing in-house, we had a manufacturing floor on the other side of the wall from the cubicles. We had somewhere between 250-275 employees to run the entire shop, that's manufacturing, engineering, software (embedded and application), marketing, IT, sales, logistics... Not sure if we outsourced our cleaning crew or not.
I wouldn't expect a mail order glasses company to have more than 500 employees.
I think what really threw me off was "welcome balloons on desks" which heavily implies (at least to me) all of employees have desk jobs.
Lately I've just been ordering the frames online and I'd bring them the frames and they'd measure my pupillary distance, and put the order in.
"$3,785 in sales per square foot, a figure that would put Warby Parker behind only Apple in terms of retail efficiency. Though those numbers have dipped somewhat as Warby Parker has grown, the company is still averaging about $3,000 per square foot of retail space, a figure that’s in the same breath as Tiffany’s estimated $3,043."
In terms of "There is no question the Warby Parker retail stores cannibalize the online sales", I wouldn't call in "cannibalization", I'd call it (excuse the business buzzword) synergy. I did the exact same thing, but both parts of the experience enhanced each other for me. That is, I liked being able to browse and search online, and then get a real feel and fitting in-store. I'm sure they expanded into brick-and-mortar retail because they know a large number of folks aren't going to want to go through the mail-order-try-on-five-pairs thing.
Another big value-add for me was having an employee there to give me some feedback.
According to wikipedia they do manufacture their glasses in house now, and there are apparently 150 employees in that factory.
There are certainly enough of them that I'd imagine it bumps the numbers up quite a bit.
Ideally, a whole lot of them would be brilliant people working on improving design, improving support, and improving the supply chain. Most likely, a lot of them are working on or administering the retail storefronts, which in 2018 is a somewhat a marketing function. Also more likely: A lot of them are working on marketing.
The incentives of the investors and customers don't quite align. This misalignment vector generally expresses itself through the Marketing, PR, and legal teams.
They have a bunch of retail locations. Software. Accounting. R&D. Marketing. Logistics.
Because before technology fucked the labour balance of the global economy, this is how industry worked.
I think there's also a tendency for people not spending their own money to chase absolute outcomes rather than Pareto outcomes. e.g. if an 85% solution costs $n, startups often spend $10n on the 100% solution. My guess is that if you're a founder spending your own money, you'd pick the 85% solution.
Every startup is an experiment in doing business a different way. If they went with the 85% solution or hired off-the-shelf employees, they'd just be another small business. There's nothing wrong with being another small business, but startups are so drastically different that we came up with an entirely different term to talk about small businesses who do things in wildly non-traditional ways with the hope that those non-traditional tactics will lead to unprecedented success. We call them startups.
> After she had a child, she arranged with her boss to be in the office from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, pick up her baby and often return to her laptop later. Her boss assured her things were going well, but her colleagues, who did not see how early she arrived, sent him negative feedback accusing her of leaving too soon. ... “I can’t stand here and defend you if your peers are saying you’re not doing your work,” she says he told her. She left the company after a little more than a year. ... Ms. Willet’s co-workers strafed her through the Anytime Feedback Tool, the widget in the company directory that allows employees to send praise or criticism about colleagues to management.
( https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-... )
If employees are complaining, it is presumably a mix of a) company culture issues and b) a lack of information that meant they perceived it as unfair.
As for Warby Parker, it is not a particularly innovative technology company, which is neither a good thing or bad thing on its own. I will give it credit for being a solvent business with a working business model. I interviewed for a pretty high level position there and was pretty unimpressed. I got the impression of a company that has an undifferentiated product, more funding (and likely dilution) than they should, fairly slick marketing, a healthy dose of startup kool-aid combined with altogether pretty ordinary people who were really sure they were doing something more technologically sophisticated than running a DNVB.
Given how late stage they were, I was surprised by their offer being as mediocre as it was, and I took a competing one. No regrets.
People are less likely to career-hop to the next $10k boost that a headhunter sends them if they like their employees and feel like their time is well-spent.
The Takeaways section is pretty funny. It reads like an rote instruction manual for an extraterrestrial middle manager who has never socialized with human beings before. Straight out of Office Space.
I mean, if they can make meaningful jobs that pay ok without shady business practices or bad work conditions, more power to them. I'm all for leveraging people more effectively, but sales and in-person support is a nice job I still like being done by humans.