Mister Spex, the German online optical retailer, continues to grow rapidly and to expand internationally. Led by Dirk Graber, who founded in May 2008, the company reached sales of €4.5 million in 2009, and they grew last year by about 150 percent to €11 million. In May 2010, the company launched a Mister Spex online store for France and a Spanish Mister Spex website will be launched by the end of February for the Spanish market.
The company decided to enter the French market first because, together with Germany, it is the biggest one in Europe. Mister Spex sells top brands such as Ray-Ban, Oakley, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Esprit and Tom Ford at competitive prices. Due to the fact that consumers in France are very brand- and fashion-conscious, Mister Spex decided to sell the same product range in France as in Germany. Country-specific brands may be added later on.
The biggest competitors in France for Mister Spex are two French e-commerce operators; Happyview and Direct Optic. However, both are mostly discounters, and they do not offer the variety of brands that Mister Spex has, according to Graber. Two big French brick-and-mortar chains, Alain Afflelou and Krys, are also regarded as competitors.
Mister Spex also offers its own private label collection online, priced between €40 and €100; these products are included in the French product portfolio. French customers enjoy the same conditions as consumers in Germany, such as the ability to return, free delivery and a 30-day money back guarantee.
At the moment, only some online marketing campaigns have been implemented for the French market, such as optimization of online search engines, but Mister Spex has no plans yet for off-line marketing in France as it has done in Germany, where it advertises on television.
The company does not plan to open up an office in France or Spain. All orders are handled from the German office based in Berlin. Customer service for French consumers is handled in Berlin by French employees. In Germany, the company has used offline marketing campaigns, usually starting with an online campaign, then expanding it to television.
Mister Spex' main website is featured in German and English, but it is not intended for any English-speaking market in particular, company officials indicate.
An older and more price-aggressive German online retailer for ophthalmic optics is Brille24, founded by Matthias Hunecke in 2006. The online retailer sells all of its glasses under its own brand, at a single price of €39.90 including single-vision lenses, with some items further discounted to €34.90. The frames are manufactured in Shanghai and the glasses in Japan and South Korea, with assembly taking place in Thailand. The company offers its clients the same services as Mister Spex ? returns, free delivery, money-back guarantee
Brille24 has stated that it plans to expand in the following months in France, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium. For its expansion abroad, the company has decided to open up a new office in Brussels, which will take care of developing the new markets.
There are specific figures about the size of the electronic retail market for eyewear in Germany, but there are some ideas about what makes the difference with traditional retailing. At the Opti Forum, a platform for lectures and discussions within the Opti '11 trade fair in Munich, a market researcher, Elke Dobisch disclosed some of the findings of a survey conducted in behalf of Mister Spex. It indicated that competitive prices and convenience are the most important factors in purchasing online. Consumers buying glasses online are aware that they may not like the glasses, but they know that they can return them for free within 30 days and thus eliminate that risk. Dobisch stated also that consumers would favor partnerships between online retailers and opticians in order to find a place to get their glasses adjusted, for example.