SZDaily: "It is said that at least 60 percent of the spectacles on the earth are made in Shenzhen... At present, there are nearly 500 spectacles manufacturing companies in the city, mostly in Henggang Subdistrict, Longgang District, producing nearly 200 million pairs of spectacles a year. Ninety-five percent of their products are exported to more than 130 countries and regions, accounting for more than 70 percent of market share in Europe and about 60 percent on the global market."
WarbyParker: "We design our frames here in the US, then source our material (high-quality cellulose acetate) from a 150-year-old, family-owned Italian manufacturer. Our frames are then crafted in China"
As for the Italian manufacturer, it's likely they are referring to Mazzucchelli founded in 1849 and famous for the tortoise shell look. Well, it appears they may have outsourced acetate production to China too!
"A new concept in eyewear... Warby Parker was founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to create boutique-quality, classically crafted eyewear at a revolutionary price point." http://www.warbyparker.com/our-story/
Given that Warby Parker are most likely using the same supply chain as their competitors, what exactly is their competitive advantage, to justify total funding of $50.3 million? It can't just be a prettier website, can it?
I've used several of the cheap Chinese glasses sites and the product quality all seems uniform but some of them have a better curated selection of designs than others. Warby also lets you do the 5 pair try on at home thing which I'd say is worth paying a bit more over the rock bottom price.
As far as the funding, I'd guess it's because they've been quite successful, and also because they're apparently in talks with Google regarding Glass.
But now, to shoot for the half a billion minimum exit in 7-8 years or less because these venture firms financial models only work one way. Since the probability of a young eyeware company organically arriving at a five hundred million dollar rain is essentially zero, it almost guaranteed they've got to plot a new course or ten. Now every decision you make has to include evaluating if it would alienate one of few potential suitors, or if it can provide growth and market numbers that would look good on a prospectus.
I'm not privy to their numbers, so maybe I am just a victim of a really good hype machine. But my impression is that they've got strong sales growth, margins that most ecommerce shops would die for, strong customer loyalty and would be profitable if you limited spending to core business and traditional customer acquisition models.
Considering how overheated the commercial bond market is (and shows no serious signs of waining) I think there's a real possibility somebody like Warby Parker could do a debt or convertible debt deal at surprisingly nice terms. You could do a lot with say $20M for 7 years at 6% and still own a company you don't hate working for at the end of it all.
Sure, conventional wisdom says it's impossible to raise for web/tech outside of the specialized PE cliques. But that truism developed in an age where a) sovereign debt paid 5% and equity markets were reliably bullish in decade based timescales.
Ecomom almost certainly could have been a reliably profitable company at some level and contribute a number of high paying american jobs to the economy. But because that's the last thing any venture investor is looking for they went down a rabbit hole of wasteful gambles where growth trumped logic.
I ended up buying my two pairs of glasses from a competitor... The first pair was only $30, and that was only because I opted for a higher end lens. The second pair was a designer brand that was at a similar price point. Since the lens cost has gone down dramatically for all of the online retailers, on what basis is Warby Parker going to compete?
Glasses are an industry that is all about brand labels. For people that care about that sort of thing, they'll go buy RayBan or Gucci or whatever else over a Warby frame at a roughly similar price point. For folks that don't care about that sort of thing, they'll buy a cheaper non-name brand fram for less than the Warby price point.
I probably wouldn't wear their glasses, but they are beyond compare to their competition in this regard.
Kinda like a Zappos for glasses, with the difference that they make their own shoes.
I went down there, got an eye exam and ordered my frames. All together it came to 140 bucks. The glasses should arrive this week. The "in store" experience was really cool. It was pretty crowded but the staff were enormously helpful and cool. I don't see how Warby Parker doesn't become an even bigger success. Right now their line of lenses may be a little too hip for some people (my mother wasnt the biggest fan) but if they expand the line I'm sure they can reach many, many more people.
Also, I live in the Hamptons. My mother, who has bought glasses many times at our local optometrist, said she has never spent less than 200 dollars (with her insurance) to get a fashionable pair of glasses. Given increasing healthcare costs, even with insurance, this idea seems pretty strong.
Answering my own question, it appears Luxottica and Safilo make most of the glasses out there.
60 Minutes did a piece on them: