Clearlab, the Singapore-based supplier of contact lenses, is determined to establish its own brand in Europe now that it can offer the first biocompatible silicon hydrogel lenses in the market, after seven years of research and development. The new product line is due to be followed in the last quarter of 2014 by the company's first own range of contact lens solutions, manufactured in Singapore.
Dominique Gastaldi, the former U.K. country manager of Cecop, has been recruited to act as Clearlab's sales manager for Europe. Based in the U.K. at Aldermaston near Reading, where Clearlab set up its own logistics platform seven months ago, he will work together with the another company's former European sales director manager based in the Netherlands, Muris Piric, who will now concentrate on Eastern Europe.
The new warehouse will allow the company, which participated in the new Optrafair London fair last month, to ship products all over the U.K. within 24 hours, and very quickly in the rest of Europe, re-establishing services that it had in place many years ago in the U.K.
Clearlab was originally a British producer of contact lenses, formerly trading as Visiontec, with a factory in Plymouth and another one in Singapore. It was acquired by 1-800 Contact in 2004, but three years later its assets were split between Menicon and Mi Gwang Contact Lens Co., a large Korean producer of cosmetic contact lenses. Menicon acquired its flat-pack technology and Mi Gwang bought its remaining manufacturing operations in Singapore and other assets. The Plymouth plant was closed down by 1-800 Contacts prior to the sale.
In 2009, a year after obtaining the U.S. Federal Drug Administration's approval for Clearlab's daily disposable lenses, Mi Gwang set up a sales office in the U.S. to sell them along with its own cosmetic lenses. Last year, Mi Gwang opened a sales office and a warehouse in Shanghai to service the Chinese market. The company's next step should be Japan, where Clarlab had a subsidiary before, but there is no set date yet for the new investment.
Clearlab claims to have launched the first biocompatible daily disposable lens ten years ago, using a patented Aquagrip materials technology that extends wearing time and reduces eye dryness and other symptoms. According to the management, it has enjoyed the lowest rate of customer complaints - 0.23 per million, to be precise - for the 300 million daily disposable lenses that it has manufactured since then, and it has recorded no cases of microbial infection.
The capacity of the factory in Singapore has been expanded and its processes have been fine-tuned with the extension of the product range, which now includes daily and monthly disposables, aspheric and toric designs.
The Mi Gwang factory in Korea continues to make cosmetic color lenses that are sold all over the world under private labels and under the company's Clearcolor brand name. Cosmetic lenses represent about half of the company's sales in Korea and more than 50 percent of its turnover in the U.S., but its clear lenses are dominant elsewhere. They have a share of about 60 percent of the company's total annual turnover of around US$50 million.
The development of the branded products should help the company to boost its global sales, which have remained relatively flat lately, as well as its profit margins. Private label currently represents about 80 percent of the group's revenues. Clearlab struck a partnership with the Dutch-based Pearle Group in 2014 and is still a supplier of contact lenses to big optical store chains in Europe and other parts of the world.