The Sunglass Monopoly You Didn't Know About
Sunglass pricing always confused us. If you live in a beach town like us, there are these little shops that sell cheap sunglasses for $15, or two pairs for $20. If you go to a retail store and want to get a pair of everyday sunglasses by brands like Ray-Ban or Oakley, suddenly you're looking at $150 and up. Oh, you want polarized lenses? That's an extra $30. These are largely plastic frames... literally a couple dollars in production cost. Lenses, even the best quality, aren't really that expensive because there is no prescription. If you want a luxury sunglasses brand like Prada, DKNY, or BVLGARI, you're going to drop $300, $600, or maybe well over $1000. How can roughly the same product be priced so differently?
The people who sell the branded sunglasses will tell you that the lenses at those little shops are crappy, and even worse for the long term health of your eyes than not wearing sunglasses. They're partially telling you the truth, but they're not telling you the whole story.
Really cheap sunglasses often do have crappy lenses with no UV protection, breakable hinges and poorly made components. Because they sell them for $10, they do everything they can to drive the costs out of production. Can we use a cheap hinges and save 15 cents? Done. They're aiming for the bottom and they need to make these for under around $2 so they can ship and wholesale them for $5 to hit that magic price point of $10 or $15. Quality is not even on their radar.
What the larger sunglass brands aren't telling you is that while it truly is more expensive to build a quality pair of sunglasses, it's not really that much more expensive. Want the best lenses? Maybe it's $5-$10 instead of 50 cents. Okay, that does seem like a big difference. However, it doesn't explain why one retail product is $15 and the other is $150. Using good hinges and good frames, plastic or metal, have even less of an impact on the production cost. What's the real reason sunglasses are so expensive? There are two reasons.
First, one company controls nearly 80% of all sunglass production, distribution, and retail worldwide. All the brands named above are all actually made by the same company, Luxottica. In fact, they own most all of the sunglass retailers too. Basically, they have rolled up nearly the entire sunglass industry. The prices of sunglasses are high not because they're expensive to produce, but simply because Luxottica says so. It makes sunglasses fantastically profitable for them, and consumers equate price with quality so we go with it. That's the reality of it.
The second reason sunglasses are expensive is because the vast majority of them are sold thru a traditional 3-tier distribution channel. Brands buy from overseas factories and sell to distributors in each country. The distributors have salespeople that call on retail shops. The retail shops sell to consumers. The factories take a relatively small markup, but then the brands take a hefty markup, as do the distributors, as do the retailers and the sales people need their cut too. If they based pricing on costs (which they don't, as it's a near monopoly and they just price however they want), sunglasses would still cost 4-5 times what they cost to produce and deliver because of the distribution channel. The take away is that the channel is 80% of the cost you are paying for a retailed pair of sunglasses.
Sunglasses By Tower Does it Differently
The Tower business model in sunglasses is not constrained by the traditional 3-tier (retailer, distributor, & brand) distribution model. Our presence reaches around the world thanks to our management teams' Internet savvy and eCommerce expertise. We don't need partners and middlemen to find customers, nor to find manufacturers. Untethered, we market and sell direct.
We sell handmade wood sunglasses, the height of beach lifestyle fashion. You can buy them online (anytime, from anywhere in the world) or at our flagship surfboard factory shop in San Diego.
The Quality Option
Because we sell direct, we don't have to scrimp on quality to give you an amazing price. Our sunglasses and even cases are designed by leading design minds from the automotive industry (where many of the best designers are). The shape of our product is highly considered, as is the finish and compliment of high-end features. We push our factories to find ways to use better and more expensive materials because we don't have to multiple our costs by 4-5 times before it gets to consumers as traditional sunglass manufacturers do. The higher the manufacturing cost of a particular pair of sunglasses, the better value we can offer consumers because we're just marking it up once, not multiplying it by four or five. Thus, the harder it is for our competitors to even come close to our price to quality value proposition. Therefore, our motivations are perfectly aligned with our customers - we focus on driving quality as high as we can, while keeping the price fair.
The Stylish Choice
We decided to make handmade wood sunglasses because of our roots are that of a surf company. There is a long history of woodworking in surfing. Surfboards were first made of solid Koa wood. Then they started making them out of fiberglass encased balsa wood. Even today, wood stringers are still used. The longboards we make for Tower Surf have triple wood stringers, layered wood nose and tail blocks. Doing wood sunglasses was second nature to us. Our wood wayfarers are the epitome of beach lifestyle styling. We make them, and we also wear them as do many people in beach towns all over the world.
The Smart Money
Handmade, quality wood sunglasses are not inexpensive to make, whereas plastic injection-molded sunglasses are. In fact, quality wood sunglasses sold thru the traditional 3-tier retail distribution channel can cost you anywhere from $200 to over $350. You can find them for cheaper, but they are a far cry from high-quality. We sell our high-end wood wayfarers sunglasses for only $95 and (for a limited time) we're even throwing in our surf styled wood case for free with each purchase -- the case alone is worth $60.
Buy direct and save $100+ >> shop wood sunglasses now