Twenty-eight-year optical veteran Dominick Sblendorio, vice president and general manager of Nouveau Eyewear, joined the company in 2000 as executive vice president of finance and operations. He was subsequently promoted to COO before assuming the position of president and CEO. Michele Silver spoke to him about the state of business following Walman Optical’s acquisition of Nouveau, the carefully planned success of its Big Man and kids’ collections and what customers can expect 10 years down the road.
MICHELE SILVER: How would you describe the cornerstone of Nouveau Eyewear?
DOMINICK SBLENDORIO: When Nouveau Eyewear was founded 31 years ago, it was built on a foundation of precision, knowledge and attention to detail. These strengths are still at the core of our growth strategy, which is to identify underserved patients based on their lifestyle and offer them product that matches their personal identity. At the same time, offering the dispenser a “customer first” experience and high-value product they can trust is also essential to our growth.
SILVER: How will Walman’s experience and capabilities enhance the development of Nouveau Eyewear’s ImageWear collections?
SBLENDORIO: Walman and Nouveau Eyewear have been a perfect fit both culturally and with business efficiencies. Walman is truly “focused on your success” by offering ECPs solutions for every part of their practice. Walman’s experience providing holistic solutions has given us an expanded view of ECPs’ daily challenges, which we are translating into improved logistics and customer services. Together we are designing frames that look and feel great but also accommodate a lab’s needs and preferences.
SILVER: What were the challenges in this acquisition?
SBLENDORIO: Our biggest challenge has been integrating our internal processes without the customer being disrupted in any way. I think we’ve done that well.
SILVER: What new innovations are you bringing to market in 2017?
SBLENDORIO: Nouveau Eyewear has a history of success in two categories: Big Man Fit and children’s eyewear. In late 2016 and through 2017, we are building on these strengths.
Nouveau is launching My Little Pony (MLP) in January. MLP is a billion-dollar brand that’s multi-generational. Moms remember MLP and their daughters are discovering it today. In summer 2017, a feature-length MLP movie hits theaters, so it’s the perfect time to launch the eyewear collection.
In 2016 and through 2017, we are releasing all-new Van Heusen and Van Heusen Studio styles that feature Big Man Fit. These styles have extended end pieces, wider bridges and bowed temples.
SILVER: To what do you attribute the success of Realtree and the Teenage Ninja Turtles collections?
SBLENDORIO: Realtree and Ninja Turtles Eyewear are a testament to knowing your patient. Realtree was a billion-dollar outdoor brand that was sold on 19,000 products before there was one ophthalmic frame made. We researched the brand, got to know their loyal customer base and determined that people who wear Realtree would proudly wear it head-to-toe and every day of the week.
Ninja Turtles is under our Nickelodeon license, so when we were approached to do the collection it was an easy choice. But the success came from our product team that includes many Millennial parents. They brought a sense of joy and energy to the product development.
SILVER: How have you satisfied market demand with the Big Man Fit?
SBLENDORIO: “Fit” as a product feature has never been more important. We receive more requests every year for fit-based options. Our sales validated that Big Man Fit frames were in disproportionate demand. Patients are more knowledgeable than ever, and they expect only the best from their independent ECP.
SILVER: What are the top three factors you want ECPs to know about the merged business?
SBLENDORIO: Nouveau Eyewear and ImageWear are building a complementary business model that will offer a new level of service and quality product that’s designed for every type of patient.
We are doing everything with a customer-first attitude, and more than ever we offer solutions for every aspect of your practice, from ADO Practice Solutions to Walman Instruments and X-Cel Specialty Contacts.
As the nation’s leading independent family of optical businesses, we take the ECPs’ independence seriously. As Walman, Nouveau Eyewear and ImageWear grow, we will not forget that our success is built upon your success as an independent practitioner.