Viewpoint: Diary of a spectacle designer
Tom Davies stakes his hopes for 2021 on an extended period of strong sales as lockdown eases, aka ‘the Bounce’
Author: Tom Davies
Normally at this time of year I would be selling my frames like hot cakes. In fact, as a wholesale eyewear business, we usually enjoy two waves of high sales in a year. The first wave starts around February and peaks mid-April. By the end of April, the sales are in retreat and you have a good idea of how your year is going to turn out. It’s quite interesting really, when updating our sales forecast from May onwards to the end of the year, we can predict turnover with frightening accuracy.
Service levels, as well as the marketing in the previous calendar year, mostly seem to impact the sales in the following year. Once I see how well my new collection has been received by April we can pretty much predict the rest of the year’s performance and there is very little you can do to change anything.
We would then be looking forward to the second wave of sales, which would usually be about 30% smaller than the first wave of sales and will peak around October. That doesn’t mean we can relax; what we have to be thinking about is next year. What new models shall I create? How can we improve service and marketing?
It’s a cycle. Until now.
We are in unknown territory as I write this. I’m still waiting for the first wave to happen. As this year kicked off we should have been seeing a rise of sales in Europe in particular. Prior to Brexit, Europe was our biggest market. You will remember the logistics fiasco of selling into Europe. This has not gone away. On top of that Europe started on a third wave of Covid. As time went by this year, we just couldn’t see how we could do much business in Europe at all.
I’m even having to open a company in Amsterdam, specifically just to do business in Europe. This makes me want to wave my fist at anyone who still thinks Brexit was a good idea. Apart from the entire mess of it all, I’m going to have to pay tax in the Netherlands when I should be paying it in Britain.
So, it’s all eyes on America for me now. Both in the UK and over in America the buzz is all about ‘the Bounce’, a period of intense spending as lockdowns ease. This year eyewear brands won’t be thinking about our two usual sales waves. There is instead going to be one almighty optical bounce. Sure, some opticians have recently been stocking up but most, like my own stores, have been looking at what’s on the shelf and think, ‘Yes, that’s still good.’
Only you get to a point where you realise that all your good stuff has sold and you have a load of dusty old frames that you couldn’t sell in 2014 and you can’t sell now. In fact, I’m breaking a golden rule next week and having a flash sale in my stores. I’ve never had a sale and I don’t do sales. But I thought I would give it a go. Since there is a pandemic on, anything goes.
So what shape will the Bounce take? We think the usual slow summer sales will turn into a shopping frenzy. Everyone who has been locked up, especially big spending older people, will be vaccinated and half blind by now. My own clinics have been completely full in all my stores this past week. Has the Bounce already started?
I’m loading up my own stores with new frames after the sale clears space. I’m off to my first trade show in June; the first eyewear show since Covid changed the world. I’m launching two new brands and, in my factory in London, we’ve just finished 15,000 frames for the American market in anticipation.
The only problem is that, unlike normal years, I’ve no idea what’s going to happen for the rest of 2021. We find ourselves at the end of April flying blind. I’m sure there will be a bounce. How big will it be? Have I got enough stock? Will Covid still rear its head and wreck everything once more?
I choose to be positive. I choose to be brave. Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce!