In focus: Eyespace marks 10 year milestone

Jayne Abel tells Andrew McCarthy-McClean how Eyespace celebrated its 10th anniversary

Eyespace staff have been celebrating 10 years in the business with a series of charity events

Eyespace celebrated its 10th anniversary by supporting its local community through charitable initiatives instead of simply taking a company-centric approach. Jayne Abel, CEO of the British eyewear brand, told Optician it was important to celebrate the staff and company culture that meant so much to her and her sister, and co-founder, Julie.

‘The Eyespace team were encouraged to give back to the community by participating in a variety of sporting events, including a charity bike ride and 10km row.

‘The business and our staff also made significant charitable donations to organisations such as the Trussell Trust, the British Heart Foundation and Worcestershire Animal Rescue centre (pictured), while carrying out random acts of kindness and community service initiatives, such as litter picking and gardening in the local hospice,’ Abel said.

Abel added that she was proud of what the company has achieved over the past decade and wanted to thank customers who had been on the journey with them.

A golden ticket hunt took place in September and October with tickets randomly placed in orders to surprise winners with a variety of prizes and discounts, such as free orders, Land Rover experience days and Aspinal of London leather goods.

‘We finalised proceedings with a celebratory evening for the full Eyespace family reflecting on our 10-year journey, completed by dinner, dancing and an awards ceremony to recognise the achievements and exceptional contributions of our incredibly talented individuals,’ Abel said.


Setting the tone

Jayne and Julie founded Eyespace with a shared vision to tear-up the rulebook for the optical industry by becoming the most trusted and supportive suppliers to independent optical practices. Abel said entrepreneurial spirit runs in the family as their parents were business-minded, but added it took a lot of encouragement from friends and family to lay the foundations of Eyespace.

‘We designed and developed an extensive, commercially astute, fabulous quality eyewear portfolio, backed by no minimum order quantities, single-unit pricing, next day delivery, online ordering and designer-quality marketing tools. We saw an opportunity to do something fresh, leading with an enhanced understanding of eyewear fashion and bolstered with a dynamic approach to marketing and social media.

‘Pouring our hearts and souls into creating a great company culture, we worked with literally hundreds and thousands of experts and optical practitioners worldwide, listening to their needs and adapting our offering to best support the industry as it evolves,’ Abel said.

Abel added that they were not prepared for the immediate success and trajectory that Eyespace experienced and highlighted how quickly the first decade has gone. ‘It’s been the most extraordinary, fast-paced journey so far and we still carry that same energy, excitement and passion for optics now as we did then.’

Starting and maintaining a business is no mean feat, but Abel said she reflected fondly on a busy time when the sisters lived and breathed Eyespace and brought their families along for the ride. ‘With six young children between us including Julie’s youngest, who was just a baby, there were times when even the little ones were answering phones – even if by accident – to the warm reception of our customers,’ Abel said.

Abel recalled Eyespace’s first tradeshow as a pertinent moment for the company and she said exhibitions were still a crucial opportunity to immerse themselves in the industry, meet people from all over the world and share their passion for optics. She said: ‘Our first Optrafair undoubtedly set the tone for all our future exhibitions; standing room only from the moment the show doors opened each day and our feet didn’t touch the ground for three days.

'While we couldn’t have predicted the success that followed, we should acknowledge that making this kind of financial investment so early on did not come without risk or worry, yet our customers were there to support us from the very start.’


Global growth

Abel told Optician that opportunity had arisen out of the challenges of the past three years and that Eyespace was now enjoying the fruits of its responsiveness during that time. ‘In many ways, it has never been a more exciting time for Eyespace,’ she said. This growth was supported by the opening of a new distribution hub in Europe, which Abel said was fast-tracked by the issues overseas customers experience since Covid-19 and Brexit.

‘We have experienced such loyalty from our European customer-base, but the hub also affords us an opportunity to service new customers in the region who have been asking for our services to be available more locally. The timing is simply right for us to grow again as a business and so we are grabbing the opportunity with both hands,’ Abel said.

Abel added that its export division was strengthening business globally and benefited customers with reduced shipping times and alleviated freight costs. European customers placed their orders in the same way but the hub meant optimised supply-chain logistics and streamlined fulfilment processes than if ordered directly from the UK.

Abel highlighted that all Eyespace brands were available, access to its customer service team in the UK remained and it had maintained its same-day dispatch policy. 'The DNA of Eyespace promotes British brands and so the resonating success of our brands being available across over 60 countries globally is testament to the exceptional combined efforts of our design, product and international sales team. With a dedicated sales team supporting our overseas customers, we have experienced unprecedented expansion within Europe.

'Due to the logistical intricacies driven by their geography, international practice buyers naturally have different buying behaviours to those based close to home, so the EU hub is a vital requirement in fully servicing those customers while naturally alleviating pressure on our Worcestershire distribution centre.’


A greener future

In 2023, the company launched a new website that streamlined functionality and added features, such as a quick order pad that Abel said greatly improved the time buyers spent placing orders. ‘We will continue to ramp up our digital efforts, improving the user experience and enhancing our social media offering with enhanced marketing toolkits for practices,’ she added.

Sustainability has been a core focus for Eyespace for some time with the launch of its Eco-Conscious Collection in 2019 and switching from single-use plastics to biodegradable frame bags in 2020.

Abel highlighted the company was in the concluding stages of a B-Corporation status application, which it was working towards with a net-zero target for 2030 and upgrading premises with solar panels and electric charge points.

In 2024, Abel was excited about new brand announcements and expanded its Range Rover Eyewear collection with Omni-Fit, as well as a high-fashion direction for Aspinal of London and the debut of Cocoa Mint Studio (pictured right).

‘We will also continue to beat the drum for conscious eyewear design and push forward on our targets to produce the most sustainable product offerings possible,’ Abel added.

Abel highlighted that she was proud of what the team had achieved in 10 years, but was excited about what was next.

‘Innovation has always been key to Eyespace’s success, and we will continue to invest in developing the business and its offerings to best benefit customers well into our next decade,’ Abel concluded.