ONE-TO-ONE: LUXOTTICA’S HOLLY RUSH

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Candid conversations between VCPN’s editors and leading optical executives about their product strategies.

Holly Rush, President, Wholesale, North America of Luxottica, first came to the company in 2011 as Sr. Vice President, Sales. She was promoted to her current position in January of this year. Prior to her tenure at Luxottica, Holly held a variety of management positions at L’Oréal. Here she talks about Luxottica’s vision of helping change the industry to one that is more consumer-focused.

BETH SCHLAU: As a veteran of sales and marketing in the consumer goods industries, how do you feel eyewear compares from a consumer perception standpoint?

HOLLY RUSH: Although eyewear has evolved a lot in the last few years, overall, it is still predominantly medically focused. We haven’t yet been able to make the full transition from being a functional device that allows you to see better to something that also really engages and excites the consumer. What we’re trying to do at Luxottica is to connect the functionality of the product to the essence of the brand and the stories of the collections-this is what speaks to a consumer. It’s how to link emotionally and create excitement and engagement in the category.

BETH: Do you see this happening in any particular way, like introducing more colors or shapes?

HOLLY: That’s always part of the journey-keeping it fresh as our consumers demand the fashion element of things. But it’s much more about storytelling, which is what our booth at Vision Expo East was really all about-being able to express the beauty of the collections we have today, however they evolved, and helping people who work in an optical dispensary or on a retail floor really make the connection to what’s going to move the consumer to actually want to try and buy. It’s generating that emotional bridge to what excites the consumer, what moves someone from needing to buy a pair of glasses to wanting several pairs!

BETH: Would you consider that Luxottica’s brand strategy?

HOLLY: It’s more than brand strategy, it’s our company vision-becoming much more consumer-minded but also industry-centric at the same time. If we don’t help change the industry, the point of sale, the environment where eyeglasses are sold today, the consumer will never experience that connection-brands are just one piece of the equation. This is a long-term journey for us to help transform the industry to being consumer-centric.

BETH: Do you see certain things helping that, like your connection with Google Glass which has such a strong consumer reach?

HOLLY: It’s a multitude of things-everything from training and education to point-of-sale materials to retail environments and best practices. It’s relationships like Google Glass, for sure. It’s the glasses.com acquisition and what that means for the market. It’s how we as a company help the industry create a really exciting path for consumers to follow so they fall in love with eyewear and make it part of their individuality and lifestyle.

BETH: Ray-Ban has become the most popular and ubiquitous sunglass brand in the world. How has Luxottica driven this growth since the company acquired the brand in 1999?

HOLLY: Luxottica bought Ray-Ban at the very end of a long stretch of time where it had been very overdistributed, and was no longer considered to be a desirable, premium brand that consumers really wanted. We decided to wait two or three years until the market was completely clear of the existing frames and then relaunched it through the eyes of professionals and through elevated points of sale in order to really bring back the power of the brand, its expression, quality, and rich heritage.

More than 75 years later from the moment of birth, this brand has never been hotter. I think it just defies all the odds.

BETH: How does the introduction of Disney fit into Luxottica’s overall plan?

HOLLY: It’s really a major step into a category where there is a lot of space for growth. It’s very clear that with all the changes, especially in North America with Healthcare Reform, that pediatric wellness and pediatric vision are more on people’s radar than ever before. We believe that the future is in getting consumers in young for vision care and eyewear; this creates a relationship for life and completely re-shapes the thinking about how important healthy eyes are from a very young age. Disney rounds out a very powerful part of our children’s portfolio with full age and price ranges for quality glasses. We’re going to push more into this segment because we believe it’s the future, not just for the category but for the industry.

BETH: Do you think that achieving the presidency of wholesale of the leading eyewear brand in the U.S. will open doors for other women to obtain positions in eyewear companies?

HOLLY: It’s less about women in leadership positions and more about inspiring people with the belief that anything is possible if you have a dream and you work hard to achieve it. For me, it’s a huge honor to take on this leadership role and an equally big responsibility that I don’t take lightly.

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