In conversation with the CEO of Swiss Eyewear Group

Swiss Eyewear Group (International) AG is a relatively new global player in the eyewear industry. Want to know more about them? Read on. 

lowres-Jerry-DreifussVP: What is the Swiss Eyewear Group and who is the management team? 

Jerry Dreifuss (JD): Swiss Eyewear Group is an innovative, Swiss-based global eyewear company. The Founders and the management of the Swiss Eyewear Group (SEG) are all former Polaroid Eyewear key managers who jointly have in excess of 150 years of experience in the eyewear industry.

VP: Who owns SEG? 

JD: The ownership and financial structure of SEG is probably unique in the industry. Shareholders consist of not only the company founders and the management of the company but also other investors from the entire eyewear value chain, from manufacturing all the way through to retail.

VP: Why did the founders of SEG decide to start their own company?

JD: The founders of SEG previously built up the successful Polaroid Eyewear business. We operated under a number of different company structures and cultures from the large Polaroid Corporation to then being part of StyleMark, a smaller, entrepreneurial US-based eyewear company which eventually sold the business to Safilo SPA, a large publicly listed Italian based corporation. Based on our experiences in various company environments, we wanted to start a new company, based on flat hierarchies, short decision-making processes, empowered and entrepreneurial employees and a work environment where teamwork is the norm. “Corporate politics” and “individual egos” have no place in our company and we firmly believe that this will quickly result in higher customer satisfaction, more efficient and satisfied employees and build a stronger, healthier company that adds value to everyone involved. We also have the advantage of being a privately held, well financed company whose stakeholders share the same long-term view, enabling the company to live up to its promise of seeking true long-term partners and  always acting with integrity.

VP: Why did you choose the name Swiss Eyewear Group?

JD: First of all Swiss Eyewear Group has its headquarters in Zurich Switzerland where the key functions of General Management, Marketing, Product Design and Development, Logistics, Customer Service and Financial Management are based.  These crucial operations are all managed by former Polaroid Eyewear Key Managers with years of international experience in each of these areas. Just like Switzerland, the Swiss Eyewear Group stands for high quality, full reliability, and high efficiency as well as for consistently meeting and exceeding the growing expectations of an international customer base. The “Swissness” of the Company is communicated to the end consumer as an integral part of the marketing strategy. The Swiss Eyewear Group is also actively pursuing partnerships with other innovative companies in Switzerland.

VP: What is the “go to market” strategy of the Swiss Eyewear Group? 

JD: The primary “go-to-market” approach is through strategic long-term distribution partners, and we already have a strong international network in place. Many of the larger optical companies want to control the distribution directly with a fully owned local subsidiary in order to capture more of the “value chain”. SEG believes that well established local distributors are much more effective and in most cases understand the market and the local customer requirements much better than many of the centralized, foreign multinationals.

lowres-Jerry-Dreifuss-with-INVU-merchandiser-72-dpiVP: What product lines is SEG planning to launch?

JD: The SEG Management team has in excess of 150 years of experience in the design, manufacturing and marketing of impulse-priced polarizing sunglasses. It is therefore no surprise that the first product line will be the “Next Generation Global Polarizing Impulse Brand”.  INVU, pronounced “in view”, and spelling out “I Envy You”, will be presented to optical and specialty retailers as of October 2013. The brand is positioned as a true impulse brand in the Euro 45 to Euro 65 price range and offers exceptional value for money. We believe that this price positioning generates additional traffic and business for the optician and specialty trade.

In addition to INVU Swiss Eyewear Group’s strategy is to create a portfolio of complementary eyewear lines and we are currently in negotiation with several international brands in the fashion and sports markets. The plan is to launch these new brands at the beginning of the 2014/2015 season and beyond, to offer our global distribution partners a comprehensive and attractive product portfolio to successfully compete in their local markets.

VP: Can you tell us more about INVU?

JD: The INVU brand and product portfolio was developed with the clear objective of offering an extraordinary customer experience for today’s consumers who demand products that combine up to date fashion trends with outstanding product performance. The new international INVU brand combines the ideas of vision, “VU”, and “IN” that stands for the latest designs in Eyewear. The “I envy you” slant gives the brand an additional “edge”, particularly with a young target group. The combination of the brand name with the “Ultra Polarized” claim and the quality promise of the “Swiss Eyewear Group” signature, merge the concepts of fashion, product performance, and quality into one clear proposition. The INVU brand will, in our opinion, offer a better product, more value for money, better retail support and a better customer experience than any other brand in this price segment.

VP: What made you decide to develop a 100% polarized line of product?

JD: With most of the key managers of SEG having years of experience with Polaroid Eyewear we all strongly believe that only polarized sunglasses give customers an outstanding visual experience. We see a huge market opportunity to offer an ultra-polarized product range in the impulse purchase segment. Currently the sunglasses offered in the market are either targeted at a more conservative and older customer base or are positioned significantly above the impulse price point. All INVU products feature the Ultra Polarized Lens offering consumers crystal-clear, glare-free vision with better colour contrasts, less eye fatigue and a better perception of detail. In addition, the lenses have a highly efficient UV absorber that eliminates all harmful UV-A and UV-B light all the way up to 400 nanometres.  The INVU Ultra Polarized Lens is manufactured in a state-of-the-art optical manufacturing plant using multi-layer lens technology and advanced coating techniques. Our INVU Ultra Polarized Lenses consist of nine special layers including a polarizer, a colour enhancer, a UV-absorber, an impact absorber and a hard coating. The end result of this manufacturing process is an extraordinary and unrivaled visual experience for consumers.

VP: How will you guarantee consistent, high quality levels for INVU products?

JD: One of the co-founders of the Swiss Eyewear Group is Beat Christ, the former Head of Design at Polaroid Eyewear. Beat Christ, now Director of Design and Manufacturing for the Swiss Eyewear Group, has in excess of 30 years of experience as a Designer in the Eyewear Industry and he brings an incredible wealth of know-how in engineering and the entire optical manufacturing process.  He is undeniably one of the most experienced eyewear professionals with respect to polarizing products in the entire industry. We also have a dedicated quality control team located where we produce our products. Every production run is checked and monitored by our own people.

lowres-T2401B_RGB_72dpiVP: How are you planning to support the INVU brand?

JD: To support the exceptional product line we have produced a tailor-made marketing concept for our global retailers. The Swiss Eyewear Group Marketing Team has paid particular attention to detail in order to ensure that all support material is fully in-line with the positioning of the INVU brand and the high expectations that we have for INVU. The core of the marketing concept is the new INVU campaign that shows end-users the unique benefits of the INVU Ultra Polarized Lens in a fresh and creative way. The campaign finds a harmonious balance between showing the product, the brand, the target group, the product benefits, the Ultra Polarized Lens claim and, last but not least, prominently shows the “by Swiss Eyewear Group” quality seal.  Along with the campaign there is a new, very attractive merchandiser range designed exclusively for INVU. These displays address the need of today’s optical and specialty retailers who demand a “small footprint”, a design that fits with the interior of their retail space and a “silent salesman” that has all the relevant product information and benefits included in the display. Lens demonstrators in a new “colour-technology” are available for the counter, and are also featured in all INVU sunglass cases. Appealing show cards, mirrors, window displays and attractive giveaways, all styled in the new INVU look, round out the program.

VP: And finally, how would you describe your personal experience with the Swiss Eyewear Group so far?

JD: Having been part of this wonderful project from the beginning has been a great personal and professional experience. The opportunity to work together with the talented, experienced and highly-motivated group of founders and managers makes all the late nights and worked weekends well worth the effort! The neat thing about this company is that we were able to start with a “blank sheet of paper” and define our vision, mission and key strategies from the ground up. When established companies suddenly start thinking about customer satisfaction, total quality ownership, empowerment or customer orientation, to name just a few areas, they have to do it in an existing environment surrounded by the historical baggage of the company. SEG had this “once in a lifetime opportunity” to live its values from the beginning and get full alignment from all employees. When we say “we are your optical partners with integrity” we mean it and we live up to it.

VP: Thank you for this interview Jerry Dreifuss.

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