Maui Jim started as a small company selling sunglasses and emerged to be the third largest sunglasses manufacturer in North America. This sunglasses brand is sold all in major retailers like Bloomingdales, Macy’s and Nordstrom. But in this digital age,  just like every other brand that is selling consumer goods, Maui Jim is also feeling the pressure to invest in Direct-to-customer and digital platforms. As Maui Jim’s customers evolved, the brand was looking to offer customized products online and expand into new markets. The only thing stopping them though was their technology.

In 2017, the brand was focussing on B2B e-commerce via their online portal. But recently, Maui Jim has been revamping its back-end for direct sales. A new microsite system is set to be revealed at the Sapphire conference later in May. Maui Jim has been closely working with SAP, a customer experience management company through this much-needed transformation.

Jim Ferolo, CIO of Maui Jim said, “Our journey with SAP began around five or six years ago, when we moved our entire ERP [enterprise resource planning, or the internal software underpinning the business] to SAP. For any business interested in digital transformation, you need really great foundational aspects of your infrastructure. The initial migration to SAP was key. We’ve seen a lot of growth in [DTC and wholesale] thanks to new capabilities on the back end.”

SAP helped its employees to create temporary microsites that are tied to particular events or places. At the Sapphire conference (7th- 9th May), Maui Jim will put this to test by setting up a pop-up shop, that will have its own e-commerce microsite. Customers will be able to order products online and pick them up when they attend the conference. Isn’t that cool?

Pressure from all sides

The eyewear industry is currently complicated because of Luxottica, a major eye-wear manufacturer has monopolized the market and controls over 30% of the entire market. Luxottica manufactures eyewear for all major brands like Prada, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Ray-Ban, etc, etc. Approximately half a billion people are wearing glasses manufactured by this Italian giant. Not only that, but Luxottica has also taken over the manufacturing for small but successful startups like Warby Parker. It is known as the ‘price maker’ of the industry and is responsible for the exponential increase in the prices of eyewear.

Ferolo said, “As far as eyewear as a category, there’s a lot of things going on. “There’s consolidation in market share. I think the availability of capital over the last three years has accelerated that. All these smaller chains are being gobbled up by larger ones.”

There’s also pressure from below for Maui Jim. The company started selling prescription eyewear two years ago and that has put it in competition with Warby Parker. Since Warby Parker was a start-up, they always had more innovative e-commerce and marketing strategies as compared to Maui Jim, which has been around for decades. It is hard for old-school brands to integrate such strategies so later on in the business. Therefore, Warby Parker had an upper-hand which puts Maui Jim into a stressful situation.

Alice Fournier, VP of e-commerce and digital at Kantar Consulting explains why is it harder for Maui Jim. He says, “Older brands don’t have the same business model as startups. They have less flexibility, a more traditional legacy, they’re bound to certain returns. Maui Jim is privately held, though, so they don’t have it quite as bad there as public companies. Start-up brands start in digital, but legacy brands have to add it in on top of what they already do. There’s already a lot of investment in the current systems, so big overhauls behind-the-scenes are definitely harder.”

On the bright side, the back end changes have been successful for Maui Jim. According to Forelo, the company has seen double-digit growth in DTC sales. The website now has an efficient repair system that is very user-friendly. It allows customers to get their glasses repaired for free ( if still in warranty). Even though the company is doing more repairs than sales, the changes made to the customer service areas has really helped the brand.

The brand is optimistic that they will be able to continue their legacy despite the issues, after seeking help and we hope the best for them!