COSTA CEO HOLLY RUSH

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Taking the CEO helm at Costa in early April, Holly Rush’s 25-year career has involved key leadership roles at companies such as Duracell/Gillette, L’Oreal and most recently, Luxottica, for which she was president of NA wholesale. In 2015, Rush received the Visionary Award from the Foundation Fighting Blindness. John Sailer, VP, Editorial, spoke with her during September’s Vision Expo West about the launch of Costa’s ophthalmic collection, a significant first for this performance sunwear company, as well as what’s next under Essilor’s ownership.

JOHN SAILER: What is the strategy behind Costa’s new ophthalmic line?

HOLLY RUSH: What’s really exciting about the ophthalmic line is that it’s in direct response to what our loyal Costa consumers have been asking for. The line itself is designed and inspired by our sunglass positioning. We’re a performance brand and we have a deep love and respect for the water, so you’ll see a lot of features and design elements that complement that.
All of the frames are durable and comfortable with an excellent fit, and the materials and details are signature Costa. [The materials that we use,] beta titanium, thin acetates and tri-fusion laminate are meant to withstand the harshest environmental conditions, because our consumers play hard and they play outdoors.

SAILER: How will it be distributed?

RUSH: We’re first starting with our top partners in the premium sun business-[those]who really understand what makes Costa unique and what works for them as a practice so they will be able to showcase the entire line.This will be a limited release between now and January 2017, and then we’ll start full distribution. But we’re absolutely considering new partners.

SAILER: What is on the horizon for Costa in the sun category?

RUSH: You’ll start to see more balance in our shapes, colors and styles-such as our new titanium aviator-that gives us a broader reach beyond a core fishing approach. We’ve got two female pieces that are in our Top 10 bestsellers from 2016 launches. So you’re starting to see this evolution of the collection moving beyond the male, core fishing consumer in the southeast, to really becoming more universal.

SAILER: You said that Costa is going from 80/20 fishing/lifestyle to more 50/50. Can you discuss the demographics of your market and the statistics about the age groups and the consumer communities?

RUSH: The Costa consumer is far more diverse than most people think.What we’ve learned from [our consumer]research is that one out of every two consumers who is engaging with the brand is not a core fishing/sportsman type guy-it’s someone who has a love of adventure and exploration, who spends a lot of time outdoors, going to the beach and being on the water. So that’s exciting for us because that means that we’re opening up to a new consumer segment.

The other thing that we know is 55% of the consumer base is Millennials. We are very active in digital and social media — we have over a million followers on Facebook and Instagram. This brand has a very rich soul, and the Millennial consumer really relates and connects to brands that stand for something more, so that has kept us young.

SAILER: Can you explain your net promoter score and how it relates to other substantial net promoter scores?

RUSH: It’s the ultimate show of consumer support, especially in today’s very social world. If they know and love your brand, then they’ll recommend you to their friends or colleagues. So we’re very proud to say that our net promoter score is better than Apple’s.

SAILER: How will Costa benefit from synergies with Essilor?

RUSH: We’re very fortunate to have a parent company that has a very deep respect for the Costa brand. They acquired a beautiful gem, an opportunity to grow in the premium sun space, especially with sun Rx being a big component of what Essilor does today. Where we’ll benefit the most is being able to bring to market more quickly the next generation of lens technology. Our ability to work with Essilor in partnership with customers and distribution opportunities is also key.

We are connected to Essilor’s larger mission because we are about protecting vision. We make performance sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV light, and we believe that there is another deeper purpose, a deeper mission and calling to be part of providing vision and vision health globally and nationally.

I feel really fortunate to be part of this brand and to be here at a moment when everything is really lining up for us. We see how much opportunity there is to tell our story to consumers in new markets. It’s exciting to be able to steward that right now.

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