House brands: While this term is a part of our optical vocabulary, at first glance it may not be completely clear what it means. To get an idea how those in the eyewear business define “house brands,” we reached out to the people closest to them, the eyewear designers and manufacturers who offer them.

“Everyone has a different understanding of what a ‘house brand’ is,” Peter Friedfeld, co-owner of ClearVision Optical, told us. “For ECPs, it may be a brand that has their name on it. For the supplier, it may be the same. For example, our ‘house brand’ for more than 50 years is CVO (ClearVision), the brand that our company was founded on.”

He further clarified, “I think today the term ‘house brand’ is also interchangeable with ‘independent brands’ or ‘non-branded’ product. We refer to ‘house brands’ as those that we develop internally, including product design, marketing, branding and manufacturing. These brands differentiate themselves from ‘licensed brands.’ Today, house brands fall into two main categories: value price and mid/upper price. House brands have traditionally been able to offer the on-trend or classic styles that we all know sell well, with a lower price offering in the market.”

So, it’s independence from licenses that’s integral to what defines a house brand, while in addition the overall development is internal, from beginning to end under the control of one single company.

Beverly Suliteanu, West-Groupe’s vice president of product development, agreed. She shared with us her observations that house brands are not just independent from licenses but also from the competition. “Independent house brands are a fantastic way for independent ECPs to differentiate themselves from online and chain store competitors,” said Suliteanu, whose house brands include Evatik, KliiK, FYSH and Superflex.

“Most chains and optical online retailers tend to focus on licensed brands as these names are easily recognized by the public, and the brand name tends to be the key selling feature of these products,” she continued. “With brand names widely available, the profitability of these brands for the ECP is somewhat diminished due to easy price comparisons by consumers. House brands, as there is no licensor to answer to, tend to have more leeway in design, leading to more creative and varied styling.” Now, the definition of house brands becomes even clearer: independence from licenses, internal control that starts with design and continues through manufacturing, plus the ability to compete as a result of these characteristics all contribute to what makes a house brand.

Add to these the final experience of the end user, and the picture of a house brand comes fully into focus. Morel Eyewear’s CEO Tom Castiglione told us this about his company’s house brands, “What we are creating here is a proprietary brand that we can tell a story about. We can share that story with a consumer and create an experience. Experience is what we are trying to achieve. The experience is what sets them apart. The consumer intimately knows the story behind what it is that they are wearing.”

Equipped with this background about how to define a house brand, take a look at pages 30-39 to get an idea of what new styles are available in this category, then take the ABO CE course on Non-Licensed eyewear to further your expertise.

Also check out this month’s Business Solutions section on Branding Your Practice to find out how, in addition to taking advantage of the benefits these house brands have to offer, you can simultaneously brand yourself as well.

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