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Aussie Eyewear Retailer ‘Bailey Nelson’ Doubles Canadian Store Count Since Start of Pandemic with Plans for More: Interview

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Despite the continuing economic challenges brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not slowed down Australian eyewear company Bailey Nelson’s expansion plans in the Canadian market.

Founded in 2012 in Sydney Australia, Bailey Nelson now has 94 stores across Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK and will be at 100 stores by March.

The first store in Canada was opened in June 2017 on Robson Street in Vancouver and the company now has 35 stores in Canada.

“We opened our 17th store in the Canadian market in March of 2020 so we’ve doubled our footprint since the pandemic started and I don’t think there’s many others that can claim to have achieved that,” said Nick Perry, company founder.

Bailey Nelson at CF Market Mall
Bailey Nelson at CF Market Mall. Photo: Jessica Finch
Nicholas Perry

“We’ve seen opportunity to grow the business multiple times in Canada from where we are now. We’ve got highly engaged, very passionate store teams with really passionate optometrists and we’ve got a competitive proposition in the market where we’re about a third of the price of most of our competitors and the traditional chains and then we’ve got sort of a modern retail location that Canadians are responding to really, really warmly and so we just see a huge opportunity to continue to grow the business here in Canada.”

Many international players have entered the market in recent years. Webb said the competition in the optical marketplace has been driven by consumers who want additional options.

“Relative to other markets that we operate in like the UK or Australia, the chains have a larger section of the market and so I think there’s probably a perception that Canada is still potentially under consolidated and that there’s large groups of consumers that would respond positively to new entrants into the market. I think that’s why we’ve seen new people enter the space,” he said.

Bailey Nelson Kitsilano (Image: Bailey Nelson)

Recently, Bailey Nelson announced it has partnered with end-to-end 3D and Augmented Reality (AR) platform Plattar to implement a world-leading Virtual Try On solution that has seen the company’s online sales conversion grow by over 600 per cent in 2021.

James Kerridge

In early 2021, Bailey Nelson began working with fellow Australian disruptor Plattar to launch a Virtual Try On trial function for online shoppers across 60 of its core eyewear products. Plattar identified several touchpoints that combined to provide a consistent Virtual Try On experience across the complete range of devices, including the latest iPhone and iPad models. Plattar maximized the capabilities of Apple’s TrueDepth camera, together with the realism of 3D using the LiDAR scanner on the iPhone and iPad, to create a virtual experience that gives shoppers the ability to digitally wear Bailey Nelson’s frames in real-time, from anywhere.

“In 2020, our team was tasked with developing tactics to differentiate in an increasingly crowded e-commerce space and create a way for customers to receive the same try on experience as they would in store, from their homes. It was crucial for the brand to ensure that what customers experienced online matched what arrived in the mail,” said James Kerridge, Head of Marketing and Digital at Bailey Nelson.

“We had previously considered virtual try on solutions but found many of the solutions available on the market were outdated and, critically, did not utilize the capabilities across multiple generations of iPhone. Plattar was forward thinking, market leading and using the latest tech stack. Together we have deployed a solution quickly that meets our high expectations of customer experience around fashion and fit and is having a very positive business impact. This solution will play a significant role in our marketing approach now and beyond COVID.”

Kerridge said that during COVID customers were highly reluctant to come into stores and physically pick up and try glasses.

“Also, many of our stores were shut for periods of time. Glasses is one of those categories where it’s quite a high commitment purchase. Canadians only typically buy prescription glasses every three years. So this was developed fairly quickly. It’s considered leading edge in the industry,” said Kerridge.

Jeri Brodie of Aurora Realty Consultants represents Bailey Nelson’s lease negotiations in the Canadian market.

Article Author

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 National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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