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For Eyes Focuses on Thrifty Consumers and Baby Boomers in Expansion Efforts

For retailers that focus on low prices and convenience, the sputtering economy has opened doors—literally.

For Eyes Optical, the Hialeah, Fla.-based eyeglass and contact value retailer, has been working to fill in its existing markets by opening up more locations to cater to its thrifty customers. The chain, which operates about 130 stores nationwide, says both the downturn in the economy and a renewed focus on the unique characteristics of its customers have worked in its favor. "There is this idea that we're just going to throw some stores in a market and really see how it goes," says For Eyes COO Adam Wolman. "But we've really qualified who are customers are."

Helping in the task is Fort Worth, Texas-based consultant Buxton. The firm, which helps retailers select sites, identify customers and market goods, has been working with For Eyes for about four years. "We started by just looking at who was buying glasses," says Buxton President and COO Charles Wetzel. "Every concept is going to appeal to a different type of customer."

Wolman says his customers are a loyal bunch and they frequently come back year after year, often bringing in their children years after their own first visit. The company touts its customer retention rate, saying more than three-fifths of its customers have visited them before. Convenience, customer service and accessibility are all prime considerations for their customers, Wolman adds. Baby boomers were also frequent For Eyes shoppers, due to the chain's reputation for value. "Overnight they become a customer-centric organization," Wetzel says of For Eyes.

Based on its customer profile, Wetzel says Buxton is now working with For Eyes to expand its presence in the Miami, D.C., Richmond, Va. and Boston markets and will soon open its first stores in Indianapolis. So far this year, the company has opened new locations in Weston, Fla. and Plymouth Meeting, Pa. "We looked to the entire U.S. and we identified the best markets," Wetzel says.

Wolman says the company's lower prices have helped convince landlords to sign on the line. For Eyes says its regular retail prices are about 30 percent to 50 percent less than most retail optical companies. The company also does not charge extra for lens tinting, oversize lenses or severe prescriptions—all all of which could add to the bill at other retailers. "Being a value leader in our industry over 35 years, it's always been easy for either myself or my father to approach landlords and to say 'this is our offer, we're going to be here for the long haul'," says Wolman.

He adds that the downturn in the market has also allowed him to negotiate more on occupancy costs for each new location. "One of the things that works in our favor is there is a lot on the market now," Wolman says. "We can go out there and actively pursue deals that are less expensive for us."

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