OWNDAYS redefines eyeglass-shopping

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Whether you're buying glasses or designer sunglasses, the routine is the same every time.

Walk into an optical shop, point at a frame that looks nice, try it on, look into the mirror and buy (plus the eye exam to get the right lenses for the glasses).

But one optical brand is putting extra emphasis on redefining how people choose their eyewear.

"We think the brand is not only the product," OWNDAYS Managing Director Takeshi Umiyama told CNN Philippines. "The shop design, quick service, customer service: everything is included in the brand. When they feel something new from buying glasses there, it means they feel the OWNDAYS brand."

Japanese roots

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OWNDAYS is a newcomer to the Philippine optical industry — putting up its first store in Estancia in 2015 — but it has actually been in business in Japan since 1989.

In 2013, the brand opened its first overseas shop in Singapore, where it has gained a strong foothold in a very short time.

"We already got 30 percent of the market share within three years," Umiyama said.

In the Philippines, the brand is likewise gaining momentum at a tremendous pace, with plans to open 10-to-15 more stores in Metro Manila this year.

Umiyama also said OWNDAYS is planning to expand to other cities like Cebu by 2018.

"The Philippines is one of the fastest-growing Asian countries, having a huge population with a young generation of buyers," he said. "This is suitable for business because market size is quite important for us. Also, the Philippines has a lot of shopping malls."

Fair and fast

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So how exactly has OWNDAYS grown so rapidly?

Umiyama said, for the most part, they're just being fair to their customers.

"Normally, the prices in an optical store are not clear because the frame and the lenses' prices are separate," he said. "We think this is not fair because there's a huge knowledge gap between the staff and customers. So sometimes, the customers feel afraid because they cannot understand the final price."

As such, OWNDAYS implements an "all-in-one" pricing system, which means the price you see on the shelves includes the frame, the standard ultra-thin lenses (an extra-cost option in other shops) and the eye exam.

And they can even have your glasses ready for you in the time it takes for you to have a light lunch.

"The 20-minute quick service has three requirements," Umiyama said. "One is the training. Of course, all the opticians must have experience. Number two is the quantity. We have a lot of stock lenses inside the store, more than 2,000 to 3,000 pieces. Then the last one is equipment, which is actually very expensive, so that's why we need to sell in quantity in every store."

Thinking big

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And the big numbers don't end with the lenses.

Over 1,500 frames are available to cater to all tastes. (And in their flagship store in EDSA Shangri-La Mall, there is a coffee lounge exclusively for OWNDAYS customers.)

But the fascinating thing is that every single frame on display is made by OWNDAYS.

"We handle only our own brands," Umiyama said. "It means we're handling manufacturers, we're handling shipment, we're handling selling, the whole process of the business. This is a big difference point with other competitors."

In other words, unlike other stores, Umiyama said they don't need to buy frames from branded wholesalers like Ray-Ban or Gucci. This means less hidden costs and, thus, a better price to the customer.

Umiyama also said they make it a point to add new styles every 2-3 weeks.

"On average, a customer of OWNDAYS will come back to buy glasses after one-and-a-half years," he said. "When they come back into the store, all the merchandise must be different."

Umiyama said the brand is capitalizing on the popularity of foreign fashion brands in the country.

"We think that the optical industry must be in the more fashionable side, so we are thinking 50-50, with glasses as medical devices and as fashion items," Umiyama said. "So we tried to open a store like Uniqlo, Zara, H&M. In the Philippines, everyone wants to buy from an international brand, even if it's the optical industry."

Going above and beyond

This fastidious attention to detail is apparent in their extensive after-sales package, which is something more typically seen in luxury cars than reading glasses.

For every OWNDAYS frame you buy, you get:

One-month full refund  for valid returnsOne-year frame warrantyOne-year lens warranty, which allows for you to two replacement lensesFree lifetime fitting, cleaning and maintenance for your glassesFree lifetime eye consultationsFree replacement for glasses that are stolen or lost to natural disasters (police/insurance report must be presented)50 percent discount for non-warranty, replacement glasses

Umiyama said they go through all this effort because they're looking at the distant future.

"We think that the optical business is quite a long-term business, so want to have a good relationship with the customer for long-term," he said. "So far, we've been having good customer feedback because of the affordable price, the quick service and the fashionable and new experience to buying glasses."

"Getting satisfaction from the customers: this is the most important thing," he added. "We think that we just focus on that and the figures, the targets and the number of stores, these will follow."

Helping others to see

Aside from focusing on making their customers happy, OWNDAYS is also doing its part to help people see better with the OWNDAYS Eye Camp.

First conceived in 2011 after the devastating Tohoku earthquake in Japan, which left many people in need, the OWNDAYS Eye Camp aims to continue efforts in giving back to society and safeguard eye health especially for those who require eyeglasses, but are unable to obtain a pair.

Last year, OWNDAYS helped over 200 individuals from the poor communities of Manila by providing free eye exams and prescription eyeglasses. This year, they’re returning to Tacloban City to help the victims of Yolanda.

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