Giving & Living
Giving & Living

Life through a lens

Goodlookers' Director, James Pegler reveals how the father-and-son business has gone from strength to strength over the years

Tell me a bit about how the label was started.
Goodlookers is a father-and-son business, founded by me and my dad, Graham in 2007. Graham and I shared a wealth of previous experience in the giftware and fashion accessory trade - both in UK high street retail, design, product development and wholesale distribution - and we set up Goodlookers after recognising the appeal and high sales potential of design-led ready readers at affordable prices.

What was the aim of the label when it was first established?
Our short-to-medium-term aim for Goodlookers was to improve on what the market was currently offering, and our main areas of focus here were - and still are - quality, price, branding, and of course fashion trends. Long-term, our inspiration was for the brand was to become the natural first choice for affordable fashion eyewear.

How were the initial products developed, and what was the response?
Graham and I researched the market in great detail prior to the launch of our first reading glasses range. This involved consultations with designers, meetings at optical trade shows across Europe and Asia, and visits to many factories in China and Taiwan. Believe it or not, glasses fashion has changed considerably over the last nine years. Whereas glasses trends in 2016 have swayed more towards trendy geek chic styles, in the early days we recognised the demand for crystal-decorated eyewear and bling readers soon became our niche. This niche - in conjunction with our favourable price points - really did set us apart from the competition and enabled us to quickly build a solid customer base, with customers that are still evolving with us to this day.

What challenges were overcome when the company was starting out?
Like any emerging fashion company, our biggest initial challenges were making retailers - and in turn consumers - aware of our brand, and subsequently instilling them with the confidence to choose our products. For retailers that already stocked ready readers, our objective was to promote the many advantages of Goodlookers over other brands; and for those that didn't, our job was to educate them that fashionable reading glasses really are a highly profitable, fast-repeating line, which will keep consumers coming back to see what's new. Of course brand and product awareness was a slow-burner initially, but through our attendance at trade shows, advertising, and of course retailers' continued success with our glasses, Goodlookers has become the highly respected brand that it is today.

What sets you apart from your competitors?
As the brand name suggests, our trendy specs are for people that want to look good, and Goodlookers' products certainly appeal to the fashion conscious glasses wearer. We understand that whilst glasses are essential items, they're also important fashion accessories and can be the defining element of any outfit in the wardrobe. Our collection blends the perfect balance of style, quality and affordability and this gives consumers a reason to own an array of pairs to accessorise every outfit! This of course keeps sales high and our stockist's happy!
I also believe that another string to our bow is the service we give to our customers. On top of offering a great level of customer service and support, we pride ourselves in our ability to fully fulfil our customers' order requirements with a fast turnaround time. We understand that if we are unable to immediately supply items that our customers are looking to replenish then this will ultimately lead to loss of business, and so we're dedicated to keeping abundant stock levels to fully satisfy consumer demand and maximise our customers' sales potential.

How important is the location and history of the company to its success?
I find that traders in the gift and fashion industry - certainly in the UK - are very loyal. Even though our history is a relatively recent affair, the customers we've acquired over this time are the strength in our business, and it's our job to give them good reason not to look elsewhere!

How has the product offering changed over the years and how would you describe your current collection?
As I mentioned earlier, glasses trends are constantly changing and - as a fashion brand - it's important that we keep up with these trends. This involves continuous design consultations and numerous trips to Europe to see what's hot first! It also involves taking risks, which has often paid off for us; for example, we made a decision to introduce wayfarer-style reading glasses in 2009. At this time, large, thick rimmed glasses of this type were not considered as trendy, in fact, they were seen as especially geeky or perhaps even a little bit garish. At the time we were aware of the resurgence of this style among celebrities and young festival goers - albeit, wearing them as sunglasses, not readers - which gave us an inkling that this style may be the next big thing. Although they sold moderately at first (we were a little ahead of the crowd!) this particular style - which we call Billi - has been one of our consistently bestselling styles over the last five years. We've built on this popularity, and Goodlookers is now known for its extensive selection of trendy retro glasses designs.
Its reputation as a reading glasses label has enabled us to expand our product offering, and Goodlookers has become much more of a comprehensive eyewear label. We now enjoy great success with our design-led sunglasses range and fabulous collection of trendy glasses accessoriesWe have become very innovative with our product development, and recent success stories include our natural sustainable bamboo polarised sunglasses collection; and our quirky, yet very useful make-up glasses, which were highly commended for Gift of the Year 2016.

How often do you launch new lines?
We have two big launches per year that coincide with spring/summer and autumn/winter, the latter of which we will be promoting at Autumn Fair. We frequently launch new styles mid-season to keep the momentum flowing!

What are the current bestselling designs? Tell me about your recent campaigns.
This year has seen some key innovations in the Goodlookers range. As a first for the UK gift trade, our Changers collection is proving to be very popular indeed, and it's easy to see why. Not only are they a fabulous vintage unisex frame shape, but they also feature ultra-convenient photochromic lenses that darken in the sunlight, perfect for reading both on the beach and at bedtime. Also new and equally as popular is our ScreenSpecs collection, which filter blue light emitted from smartphones, tablets and PCs. Available as reading glasses or with non-prescription lenses, sales of our ScreenSpecs have been propelled by the media, as the negative effects associated with too much time in front of the screen are increasingly publicised.

Which trade shows do you attend and which one works best for you?
Goodlookers attends Top Drawer, Spring Fair, Home & Gift Buyers' Festival in Harrogate and Autumn Fair. The Birmingham trade shows are perhaps the most important for us. Spring Fair is of course the biggest, and is a huge draw for gift and fashion buyers, both national and international.

When was the website launched and how does it support the business?
Our trade website was launched in 2009. The convenience of the web makes it a very important way for us to keep in touch with our customers. From enabling our trade customers to see what's new and place orders - we had a trade website even before we had a physical catalogue - to a consumer posting a review on our Facebook page for all their friends to see, online is vital to the promotion of our products. I like the immediacy of online, and that we can notify our entire customer base about a new product launch with the click of a button. The web is, of course, very important for brand awareness as whether our products are first found in store or online, it's often the first port of call for people to find out more about our brand.

What have been the key milestones in the business?
Perhaps our biggest milestones have been our first trip to China in 2007, our first trade show in 2008, the launch of our website in 2009, and the opening of our current headquarters in 2010.

How do you view the current market and what trends, both in product and in business, do you see emerging over the coming months?
Of course the threat of another recession due to the UK's decision to exit the EU is a cause of concern and as importers we're already experiencing the negative effects that economic uncertainty is having on our import costs. Whereas fashion products will always be in high demand, at times when consumer spending on luxury products is adversely affected it's important that fashion brands offer great value, and I think that we're likely to see a general increase in promotional activities and discounts in the coming months. We consider ourselves fortunate that our core product range will always in high demand; over 50 percent of the over 40s are long-sighted, meaning that our reading glasses are not just a desirable fashion item, but an essential visual aid.

What are your future plans for the business?
Our long-term plan is to reinforce Goodlookers as the natural first choice for fashionable reading glasses, sunglasses and eyewear accessories within the independent gift and fashion accessory trade. In order to develop and strengthen the brand, our key focus points - excuse the pun - will be to maintain innovation in new designs, to ensure our products continue to be well presented and of exceptional quality, and all at a price that will keep customers coming back for more! We'll certainly continue our recent trend for original product development - being the first to introduce photochromic readers, make-up glasses, screen-protective readers and sustainable bamboo eyewear to the UK gift market - which will undoubtedly accelerate the success that our stockists are experiencing, whilst elevating Goodlookers as a widely recognisable eyewear brand.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
We're now approaching our 10th anniversary of trading, and over this period we've experienced continuous growth, with the range going from strength-to-strength. I'd like to thank our customers for their continued loyalty and hope we can enjoy mutual success for many years to come!