Canadian Optical Brand ‘Clearly’ Relaunches Brick-and-Mortar Store Expansion After 7 Year Hiatus

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Eyewear retailer Clearly, based in Vancouver, has opened its fourth retail location with plans for further growth in the brick and mortar space.

The company, which began in 2000 as strictly an online retailer, opened its first store in Calgary, at CF Chinook Centre on December 21, to complement its existing two retail locations in Vancouver (on Robson Street and West 4th Avenue) and one in Toronto (on Queen Street).

The first retail location opened in 2013 on Robson Street.

Clearly was originally founded by a local entrepreneur in Vancouver but the company was bought by EssilorLuxottica in 2014. The company has a distribution and production centre in Vancouver as well.

According to CEO, Clearly has Plans for Future Expansion in 2021

“We have a plan to potentially expand as well in the next year,” said Arnaud Bussieres, CEO of Clearly.

“We are a digital brand and we were the first ones in the market to sell contact lenses, eyeglasses and sunglasses online. We have one mission, which we live and breathe, to eradicate poor vision in the world. There’s roughly 2.7 billion people worldwide and just here in Canada two million people. So what we are trying to do is to fulfill that mission by bringing affordability, bringing access and creating awareness about the importance of good vision and eye health and providing solutions for the consumers.

“We have the most affordable and the widest I would say range of products on both eye glasses, sunglasses and contact lenses and we do that with a nice mix of ecommerce and in store as well.”

The company has about 200 employees.

The company says that nearly 25 percent of Canadian children experience vision issues which can lead to learning at a slower rate, developing a negative self image and experiencing frustration with learning.

Exterior of new Clearly store in the CF Chinook Centre. Photo taken in late November. Photo: Retail Insider
Exterior of new Clearly store in the CF Chinook Centre. Photo taken in late November. Photo: Retail Insider

“Vision problems are almost impossible to identify without a proper, comprehensive eye exam, especially in young children who aren’t yet able to recognize – let alone explain – that something doesn’t feel right. Whether it’s spotting a crucial problem that can save their vision or simply making it easier for a child to see letters on a page, a 20-minute sit-down with an optometrist can change the course of a child’s entire life,” said Bussieres.

He said the rationale for the company to have a retail network is primarily to offer its access and service to more consumers.

“We really believe that the best experience you can have buying eyeglasses is to start with an eye exam. Today the only and the best way to get an eye exam is actually to have an optometry clinic and have an appointment with an optometrist. So that’s why we’ve been looking at opening more stores. It’s a great way for consumers to discover the brand, experience and test the product, and get some advice around what is the right frame for me, what is the right lense for me,” said Bussieres.

“So we really use those retail locations as eye health centres where we can have eye exams and then education centres where we can really ensure the best service and the best experience for consumers to get the best products.

“Chinook is our fourth store and we are contemplating opening more stores in order to have good coverage in other parts of the country not only Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto. So we are not yet in a place where we can say we are going to open next month in this location. But we are looking at the opportunities there. Doing that in partnership with the rest of the industry, with the rest of the group as well, because we are owned by Essilor. That’s the process we are in right now and how we are going to move forward next year.”

Ecommerce continues to be a strong component of the company’s operations.

“It was growing very, very fast up until this year. We’ve been fortunate to operate a business that has been 95 percent ecommerce. We’ve enjoyed the very, very fast growth. We are probably the third largest online retailer for optical goods in the world and we’ve doubled the size of the business in the last five years and we intend to double it again in the next three years. The growth has really exploded and it’s driven by a lot of consumer adoption of online purchases of optical goods,” said Bussieres.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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