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The Lara look ...Cricket legend inspires eyewear collection

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The newest eye wear brand from Ferreira Optical is inspired by cricket legend Brian Lara, known for his skills as a batsman, Lara’s legacy is being further immortalised in a collection eye wear frames that bear his name.

Sean Francis, CEO of Ferreira Optical, describes Brian Lara Vision Collection as a “first for T&T.”

“We are actually developing a brand of eyewear in the name of a local icon, a local celebrity, for want of a better word. We are happy that Brian Lara consented to do this simply because of who Brian Lara is.

He’s not just an icon, not just in T&T. Years after he stopped playing cricked, he is still recognised.”

The Brian Lara Vision Collection—which was recently launched at the cricket legend’s residence on Lady Chancellor Hill, Port-of-Spain—comprises eyewear where, according to a release from Ferreira Optical, fashion and sport collide giving birth to a new brand with international appeal.

“It embodies a marriage of sophistication, style and conservative glam with materials ranging from gold, palladium, titanium, buffalo horn and Swarovski crystal.

“Captured in the tiered range are some of Lara’s records such as The 400 and The 501. Other sections of the collection include The Brian Charles Lara and The Lara. All tiers capture elements of Lara’s career during cricket and beyond,” the company said in a statement.

Francis said the company, which has eight branches across the country, has been manufacturing their own in-house frames since 2009. A few years after that, they came up with the idea of attaching the name of a local celebrity with brand value.

“A couple people came to our mind but the person who was at the top of the list was Brian Charles Lara. We approached him, we got his lawyer, then his manager, then him. When we did share it with him, he felt that it was something he could have supported. We felt it was an honour and privilege. This was by 2016,” he said.

A designer who has worked on brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Gucci was contracted to design the frames.

“As soon as she heard the name Brian Lara she knew who it was. The excitement was there. By early March we had the frames with Brian Lara’s name,” Francis said.

Ferreira is positioning the brand as premium to represent Lara’s class and sophistication. The high-end tier of the collection is called the “Brian Charles Lara”, while the rest of the collection captures his post-cricket life as a businessman.

The Brian Charles Lara premium category consists of four styles with frames made of platinum, gold and buffalo horn. This costs $2,995.

“When people hear the name Brian Lara they expect a sports brand. It is more than that,” Francis said.

He has high hopes that the public will buy into the new premium brand.

“We expect that there is a segment of the population that will want to come, see, look and wear. We are hoping this will attract more business to us. We want to put some distance between ourselves and the competition.”

Local innovation

The company first in-house brand of eye wear was Emmanuel Nissi.

“We do it through manufacturers in China. It is our label, our brand, our designs. In 2009, there was the global meltdown and we were expecting that would eventually find its way to Trinidad and Tobago in terms of the negative fallout.

“We felt that price would become an issue for consumers, so that pushed us to go straight to the manufacturer as opposed to going to a distributor,” Francis said

Prior to that, 100 per cent of what they sold was imported.

“About 30 per cent of the frames we sell are our own brand. We have never promoted it as an in-house brand but as a brand we have.

“It is a frame developed with Caribbean people in mind. Caribbean people like colours, the international brands caters more for a European market so you would not always get frames with a lot of colours,” he said

According to Francis, the market is highly competitive.

“Twenty years ago when I joined the company there were 50 optical stores and locations in Trinidad and Tobago. Today, it is close to 150. We are the leader in the market in terms of market share. We have seen a fall in the size of that share, but we still hold the largest market share,” he said.

Foreign markets

Francis said eventually they hope the Brian Lara Vision Collection will be sold internationally.

“The licensing arrangement we have with Brian Lara is to distribute this brand throughout the Caribbean. Brian’s name will have recognition in the Caribbean,” he said.

Emmanuel Nissi brand is already sold throughout the Caribbean.

“Our product is of a good quality. One of the learnings for us in going up the islands is that they are very price sensitive. Their first discussion is the price points, not the brand.

“The exception to that is Jamaica. The Jamaicans want a brand. We expect this new brand to do well in a country like Jamaica where they are very brand conscious,” he said.

Commenting on current economic conditions, Francis said: “There are certain tendencies that people have towards eye wear. We recommend that people have their eyes examined every two years. If people’s glasses are working for them, now they will try to extend it a long as possible.

“In a recession we see two things, people lengthening the time for which they return to change their glasses and we see people re-using their eye wear.”

Francis said in the last three years there has been a small drop in sales year-on-year.

“This year is the only year we have seen things picking back up. It is the economy and the competition. Despite what has been happening, new optical companies have been opening up,” he said.

Like any other industry, business owners have to constantly think about what they can do to add value and cement leadership position in the market.

‘What makes us different is customer service. That is something we pay attention to. What we have always tried to leverage is the customer service experience. We are always the company that has come out with the leading and cutting-edge solution in lenses,” Francis said.


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