Dirk Graber, chief executive officer of the German online retailer Mister Spex, appeared at the Opti Forum to present his recently launched multi-channel partnership program with brick-and-mortar opticians – a hybrid business model that is also being followed by big and small companies in France such as Krys or Evioo.com. He backed up his arguments with the findings of two interesting market research studies conducted in Germany.

According to research done by Mister Spex, between 200,000 and 300,000 pairs of glasses are sold online in Germany each year. Twenty to 30 percent of all contact lenses sold each year are sold online. Online sales of sunglasses account for about 3-5 percent of total sales in this product segment, and about 2-3 percent of all corrective glasses being sold each year are purchased online.

Another consumer survey conducted for Mister Spex indicates that more clients would be willing to buy glasses online if eyesight tests and fitting would also be available to them. The survey also indicates that there are 12.5 million potential clients for online sale of sunglasses and 5.5 million for online sale of corrective glasses.

Mister Spex records about 5-6 million visitors on its website per year. Under its new partnership program with physical stores, consumers can buy a voucher online for an eyesight test from a local optician who collaborates with Mister Spex. The voucher will be deducted later on from the price of the glasses bought online, and fitting of the spectacles is free for the customer, but the optician will receive €5 for each adjustment and €15 for each eyesight test. Additionally, the optician receives a 10 percent share of the revenues from Mister Spex' sale of frames and single-vision lenses, raised to 25 percent for progressive lenses.

So far, 56 opticians in Germany have registered for the partnership program with Mister Spex. The long-term objective of the company is to work with about 300 opticians in Germany.

ZVA assumes that only about 2 percent of all eyeglasses sold in Germany, including sunglasses, are purchased online. The most important online retailers of ophthalmic optics goods in 2010 were Mister Spex, Brille24 and Netzoptiker.

Mister Spex started with total sales of €0.5 million in 2008 and achieved sales of €11 million in 2010. A report released by Spectaris last autumn noted that Mister Spex' advertising expenditure reached €7.2 million in 2009, whereas the company's turnover was only €4.5 million in the same year. This gives an idea of the financial dimensions that internet start-ups need to build up a successful platform.