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British Optical Equipment Firm Expands in US

It has hired a VP and general manager for North America.

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Eyoto, a British optical innovation group, announced a significant expansion of operations in the U.S. with the appointment of Kurt Gardner as vice president and general manager for North America.

Kurt Gardner

He will oversee the group’s sales, logistics and operational activities in the U.S. and Canada.

Gardner is a veteran of the optical industry, having started his career with Pearle Vision as a licensed optician, then advancing into senior sales, marketing and operations roles with FEA Industries and Indizen Optical Technologies of America, where he was integral in launching the European-based brand into the Americas.

Eyoto also announced that the eMap Lens Visualisation and Analysis Platform is now commercially available in North America. Since its launch at Vision Expo East in New York City earlier this year, eMap has gained attention on both sides of the Atlantic. The system “has been engineered to take both quality assurance in the lab and the customer experience in retail to new levels,” according to a press release from Eyoto.

“The cloud-connected eMap platform not only has the ability to quickly power-map and visualize lenses, but also provides compliance to ANSI standards, insight and visualization via the cloud portal, and to give customers a distinctive, evidence based dispensing experience,” the release states.

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“Eyoto represents the forward-thinking and innovative approach that the industry needs, and I am excited to join the team especially as eMap is being introduced,” said Gardner, who also holds a leadership role with The Vision Council’s Emerging Optical Leaders. “The eMap system brings wide field lens analysis to everyone in a fast, easy to use package. Both labs and ECPs finally have the ability to see the whole picture of what they are manufacturing and dispensing, making this the benchmark for lens dispensing of the future.”

Carl Francis, Eyoto group CEO, said “Kurt is a great guy with a big personality who is well-known throughout the optical industry. He is an innovative thinker who puts his customers first, and we are delighted to have him as part of our senior leadership team. Kurt will no doubt push us to stay customer-centric, as well as help us pick the right commercial partners.”

Eyoto was a 2014 spin out of Aston University.

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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Safilo Group Acquires 70% of Blenders Eyewear

Chase Fisher will remain as CEO of Blenders.

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Safilo Group announced the acquisition of a 70 percent stake in the equity of California-based Blenders Eyewear LLC.

Safilo purchased the stake from Chase Fisher, the company’s founding entrepreneur and full owner.

Launched in San Diego, Blenders Eyewear “has built an advanced e-commerce platform with unique digital and social media skills, which has achieved fast and profitable growth thanks to its world-class digital capabilities,” according to a press release. The company generates about 95 percent of its business through its proprietary direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform, more recently complemented by the opening of the first Blenders flagship store in San Diego.

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Blenders Eyewear’s products “are inspired by the California active and progressive lifestyle and offer a compelling price-to-value eyewear proposition, particularly appealing to a broad range of consumers with a focus on Millennials and Generation Z, both female and male,” according to the release.

The brand has fueled its growth through highly social marketing strategies, partnering with influencers, athletes, and lifestyle enthusiasts and arranging product collaborations.

In 2019 the company expects to reach profitable net sales of approximately $42 million, all generated in the U.S. and up around 40 percent compared to the previous year.

Angelo Trocchia, Safilo’s CEO, said: “We are thrilled to welcome to Safilo an inspiring brand like Blenders Eyewear, a fast-growing e-commerce-powered business at the forefront of the latest direct to consumer and omni-channel capabilities, which will enrich our proprietary portfolio with new strong skills and a particular focus on our key US market.”

Chase Fisher, founder and CEO of Blenders Eyewear, said: “This marks a huge step forward for Blenders and we’re excited to be part of Safilo to reach a wider marketplace. Safilo’s product know-how and global distribution capabilities are the perfect complement to our digitally native business model, opening up worldwide expansion potential. We’re on a mission to build a thriving global community that inspires people to live in forward motion.”

Safilo acquired the 70 percent controlling interest in the company, based on a total value on a cash and debt free basis  equal to $90 million. The cash consideration to be paid at closing is subject to customary price adjustments.

Fisher will retain full ownership of 30 percent of the shares and will remain CEO of Blenders Eyewear, which will continue to run out of its San Diego home.

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Sunglass Maker to Cut 295 Jobs and Close Most of Its Daytona Beach Operations

It’s being integrated into the Luxottica profile.

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Sunglass maker Costa Del Mar plans to close most of its operations in Daytona Beach, FL, with 295 jobs to be cut in the process.

The first job eliminations are set to take place on Feb. 7, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. Costa employs 350 people in Daytona Beach currently.

In a letter to state, county and city officials, the company cited “changing business needs” as the reason for its decisions.

“Certain sales and marketing functions” will remain in Daytona Beach, the newspaper reports, quoting the latter.

The layoffs will continue through the end of September.

WESH-TV reports that jobs are being moved to New York and California.

Costa was acquired by Essilor in 2014. Last year, Essilor merged with Luxottica, with the combined company being called EssilorLuxottica.

According to WESH, the company said that Costa is “an incredibly special and unique brand” and that “we see great growth potential for it in the future.”

“EssilorLuxottica’s decision to integrate Costa into the Luxottica profile will allow the brand to fully leverage on Luxottica’s strengths in everything from product innovation to manufacturing to supply chain to distribution networks, helping it reach its full potential,” the company said in the statement.

Read more at the Daytona Beach News-Journal

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Kim Kardashian Eyewear Deal to End Early Amid Disappointing Sales

The U.S. launch was a flop.

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A an agreement under which reality TV and social media star Kim Kardashian West promotes an eyewear brand is likely to end prematurely, Israeli news site Haaretz reports.

Kardashian has a two-year deal with apparel retailer Castro to tout Carolina Lemke eyewear. But discussions are underway for the deal to be cut off at the halfway point because of sluggish sales, according to Haaretz.

Kardashian was hired to boost the brand’s U.S. launch in the second quarter of 2019. Kardashian’s deal included a $6 million deal and an ownership share in Carolina Lemke USA.

But the launch was a flop, Haaretz reports. The company reportedly sold only $1 million worth of the eyewear and returned 300,000 pairs to Israel.

Castro released a statement saying: “The company’s Carolina Lemke Limited subsidiary and Ms. Kim Kardashian West are together exploring the option of adjusting the contract terms with Kim Kardashian West and the company she controls, including the matter of the period Kim Kardashian West provides her services.”

Read more at Haaretz

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