Vancouver-Based Eyewear Company KITS Sees Record-Breaking Increase in Production Despite Intense Competition [Interview]

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Vancouver-based eyewear manufacturer KITS recently hit a new monthly record producing more than 31,000 pairs of eyeglasses in May which was more than double the 15,000 pairs it manufactured and delivered in May 2021.

Since its launch, KITS has manufactured and delivered over 350,000 pairs of eyeglasses.

Joseph Thompson

“We are thrilled to achieve these results without requiring hundreds of brick-and-mortar retail locations,” said Joseph Thompson, KITS co-founder and COO. “The KITS online-focused business model allows us to pass on these savings to our customers.”

The company was founded in 2018 by Thompson, Roger Hardy and Sabrina Liak.

KITS is primarily an online business but it does have one retail location in Vancouver that is more of a community flagship store on Kits Beach in Kitsilano.

Thompson’s background was with Amazon.com in Seattle running a couple of the retail groups there. The company was always intrigued with optical because it felt that glasses and contact lenses were an underserved market. After some investigation, it found that what Roger Hardy had started previously with Coastal Contacts, which is known as Clearly in Canada, was really the most Amazon-like optical retailer in the world. It sold in 2014 to Essilor.

Kits at Yew and Cornwall in Vancouver, BC (Image: Kits.ca)

“And so Roger and I stayed in touch and thought it would be great to start up a business together. We continued to look at the optical industry and thought there was a lot of good that we could do in the industry, a lot of work to be done,” said Thompson.

“About eight out of 10 adults require glasses or contact lenses just to get through the day and that number is growing. But the price of glasses just keeps going up. So we set out to build an optical company with more selection, unbeatable value, and the best convenience in the industry. And to do that we built an optical lab right here in Vancouver. Whereas most retailers over the last 10 years have been offshoring the manufacturing, we knew that if we had our manufacturing lab right here in Vancouver we could control the quality, we could control the cost, vertically integrated all the way through and pass that savings and convenience on to customers. That’s how we got started.”

The company said about 30 per cent of revenue from frames delivered in May 2022 came from returning customers. 

“We are excited to reach the 1,000 pairs of glasses per day milestone in May” said Hardy, KITS co-founder and CEO. “To reach this level while reducing marketing spend on eyeglasses month-over-month is a further testament to the power of word of mouth, and customer satisfaction with our offering. Net Promoter Scores in the optical category are consistently below 30.  Achieving an NPS of over 80 on our KITS eyeglasses continues to validate that our direct channel delivers the most efficient and satisfying experience for customers and inspires them to rave about the experience to others. This is evident in the thousands of comments we see from customers online and through social sharing, a key driver of our success.”

Thompson said KITS makes a pair of single-vision, prescription glasses in about 10 to 15 minutes in its vertically-integrated lab.

“And we get that into the carrier network right away so it’s in the customer’s hands within a day or two,” he said.

The company has customers coast to coast in Canada as well as a business in the US. 

“But we’re growing most rapidly in Canada for sure. We serve customers in every province or territory over the last year and they’re all growing. The benefit of a digital footprint is we can reach customers across the country whether it’s through their insurance or whether they find us on site. We can get a pair of custom-made prescription glasses to them anywhere within a few days – or contact lenses.”

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. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Is this sponsored content? The reason I ask is there is no mention that the company— which is public — continues to report big losses (about $2.3 million in last quarter). That is worth noting.

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