Frame suppliers adapt operations due to COVID-19

In light of Government guidance around limiting the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), a number of frame suppliers and eyewear brands have temporarily closed or modified operations

frames in a box
Pexels/Francesco Paggiaro
As the Government encourages people to stay home and practices operate for only essential or emergency treatment, suppliers have taken a varied approach to operations.

Wolf Eyewear has closed its office and online shop temporarily and so is closed for orders, both online and over the phone, in order to follow the Government advice. The company said in a statement: “We encourage you all to do the same to ensure we can all get through this as soon as possible.”

International Eyewear also announced the “difficult decision” to temporarily close. Although the website will remain active for browsing, the company will be unable to send out any orders until the office is open and operational.

Similarly, Eyespace shared on social media: “It is with very heavy hearts that we accept we have to follow the guidance to close our offices and warehouse facilities until further notice.”

The company will not be operational but will be monitoring emails, “so we can attempt to be there for you should a genuine emergency situation arise,” Eyespace confirmed.

Meanwhile, others have adapted operations in order to continue serving those practices remaining open for urgent or essential treatment.

Kirk & Kirk has confirmed it is operating with a skeleton operation with the team working from home. Its managing director, Jason Kirk, told OT: “We have set up the office to run a nominal service where we can meet client orders or service requests although it may be a little slower than usual as we are dependent on external services such as shipping to be maintained.”

He explained that the company will be using the ‘down time’ to reflect on how to improve the existing approach and adapt to the “unpredictable nature of the optical world.”

The company’s frames are produced in France, and Mr Kirk explained: “Although the French factories are currently closed, we were receiving supplies until very recently so we do have stock to fulfil orders. Having said that, we are expecting production to remain inconsistent for a few months.”

In the meantime, Mr Kirk emphasised the importance of community, commenting: “Our industry needs to come together at all levels and offer each other support, from optical media to shows, brands, stores and labs.”

“The independent sector particularly needs to galvanise in order to survive the current crisis, but also to be in the best possible shape when we come out the other side,” he added.

Silhouette International has temporarily reorganised operations, with employees in relevant business units working from home since 16 March. The company has temporarily suspended production at its Linz facility, though the dispatch warehouse remains open with reduced staffing.

We feel we have a duty to the independent sector which we service

John Procter, managing director, Dunelm Optical

Dunelm Optical has also confirmed it will remain open to serve its clients, though it is adapting its approach. The company has reduced staffing capacity in its frame and glazing factories, with staff who have volunteered to remain in work practising safe distancing. The glazing facility is also highly autonomous, which reduces the staffing requirements.

Speaking to OT, Dunelm Optical’s managing director, John Procter commented: “We have a very flexible approach,” adding that the company would monitor the situation.

“If we are not there, the opticians that open for urgent appointments will have nowhere to send that work to be glazed, so we feel we have a duty to the independent sector which we service,” he explained.

Mr Procter highlighted supply chain issues, such as some of the company’s lens suppliers closing, and that frame sales have taken a hit, suggesting they had been “roughly halved” in terms of what daily sales income would be, adding: “We think that will further deteriorate towards Friday (27 March).”

He explained the company is well stocked to fulfil orders that come through, with substantial stocks that were originally built up in preparation for a no deal Brexit.

“Those we rely on for sub-services have also said they will stay open as long as we are,” Mr Procter said, adding: “That’s really comforting to know and what you need in times like this.”

The fluidity of the situation is a challenge, he agreed but said “it would seem averse to me if the independent opticians were to remain open for emergency procedures, only to not have a glazing house open to send the order to. I personally feel that would be letting down our client base and we were determined to be there for our independent traders.”

This week, Bird Eyewear has launched its new ‘Kaka’ frames as planned, “in an attempt to keep going with some normality,” founder Ed Bird explained to OT, adding that the team has “been working on them for a while and are very proud to share them.”

“In the midst of these uncertain and challenging times almost all businesses are finding new ways to adapt and restructure,” he said.

He explained that the team is working remotely and still communicating with customers and opticians, adding: “It’s amazing how quickly people can come together even though we are physically apart – I’ve been giving frame demonstrations via video calls.”

The company’s virtual reality try-on service will be launching soon, Mr Bird highlighted, “so anyone will be able to try on our frames right from their sofa.”

Bird Eyewear is still able to ship some items, but is running a reduced service currently, though Mr Bird acknowledged the situation could change.

In the meantime he concluded: “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day. Let's use all the tools and resources we each have available to make as much collective good come out of this as possible.”

OT endeavours to keep the most up-to-date news on our website and this information was correct when published. However, the situation regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. Please check OT’s rolling optics-specific coverage the latest news and guidance on COVID-19.


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