Candid conversations between VCPN’s Beth Schlau and leading optical executives about their product strategies.
Dominick Sblendorio, President and CEO of Nouveau Eyewear, has over 25 years of experience in the optical industry. He joined Nouveau Eyewear in 2000 as Executive Vice President of Finance and Operations and was subsequently promoted to Chief Operating Officer before assuming his current position. Here, Dominick talks about the company’s brand diversification and how that meets the needs of eyecare professionals (ECPs) and their patients.
BETH SCHLAU: What is Nouveau’s overall brand strategy?
DOMINICK SBLENDORIO: Our approach has always been the same: to offer brands the customer loves and quality the customer demands. That’s why our portfolio is balanced with both perennial and fresh, unexpected brands. The Van Heusen collection has been a mainstay for 25 years. Inasmuch as Nickelodeon® eyewear has been a favorite with kids and parents since 2001, we also have all-new collections like Cantera™, Hot Kiss®, Duck Commander®, and Realtree®.
Each collection is tailored to a different target customer with specific needs. This allows us to give each brand a very different personality. We consistently align our marketing, advertising, point-of-purchase, and photography with our licensing partners in order to create a cohesive brand presentation. Every Nouveau collection is priced and positioned for the middle-income market.
BS: Do you look to niche markets when expanding your portfolio?
DS: When we explore new directions, we look for what consumers are excited about and what brands and styles they are choosing. We follow trends in fashion, technology, and entertainment. Once we identify an opportunity, we conduct thorough research.
BS: What role do your kids’ collections play?
DS: Nickelodeon has been the center of our kids’ offerings for over a decade. Within a single brand, we’ve been able to offer collections for children of all ages. The unique aspect of Nickelodeon is that it’s ever-changing. Nouveau started with Blue’s Clues, Rugrats, and SpongeBob SquarePants, followed by Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go, for younger children. Victorious and iCarly expanded the Nickelodeon collection to tweens. This summer we will debut Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
BS: You have a few men’s brands; do you plan on diversifying in this market?
DS: Following PVH Corp.’s lead (the parent company of Van Heusen), we will introduce Van Heusen Studio TECH, a collection with more modern, European styles than the core collection. In every Van Heusen collection we saw a need for larger sizes. We created the Big Man Fit designation for styles that feature extended head room. Nouveau was one of the first to offer this, and it’s one of the most requested features in every Van Heusen collection.
This summer we’re launching the Realtree collection. Each frame features Realtree MAX-4® camouflage. Realtree is one of the biggest outdoor brands in the world—eight out of 10 hunters have Realtree camo in their closet. And millions of casual outdoor enthusiasts buy Realtree items: clothing, accessories, cups, coolers, even trucks. Nouveau is bringing them the eyewear product they’ve been waiting for.
BS: What plans do you have, if any, to expand your fashion collections?
DS: Our new collection, Hot Kiss, really pushes our fashion assortment in a new direction. Hot Kiss is one of the biggest labels in trendsetting denim for young women. We are seeing animal prints, floral prints, and bright colors flying off the racks and we know these design elements are a natural fit for eyewear. Our existing fashion collections, Kay Unger and Phoebe Couture, have undergone a huge evolution in the last year. We’ve worked with their apparel designers to refresh the collections and ensure they’re exactly what women want.
BS: Customer service is an important part of what Nouveau is. How do you distinguish yourselves?
DS: Nouveau has always prided itself on superior customer service. Our benchmarks include an exceptional fill rate and highly skilled logistics division. Nouveau’s customer service team has decades of combined experience and we treat each customer with the greatest care. Our greatest strength is the ability to handle orders of all sizes and shapes seamlessly and simultaneously. We have a 22-point inspection that every model undergoes to ensure the highest quality, durability, and reliability. In addition to answering every customer phone call with a friendly and courteous response, we believe that offering quality product is customer service in itself.
BS: How do you work with ECPs to position your brands?
DS: Our direct sales force works hand-in-hand with our customers to ensure they understand each brand and its target customer. The tools we put in their hands, like brand catalogs, marketing point-of-sale materials, and promotions are designed to help the ECP quickly understand what each collection stands for and who it’s designed for. ECPs can find something in our portfolio that’s perfect for every customer who walks through their door.