MyOptique Buys Two More Eyewear Brands To Grow In Europe

Index Ventures-backed veteran online optical retailer MyOptique Group has expanded its customer base with two new acquisitions: German rival 4care, which owns; and the U.K.-based premium eyewear e-tailer, Eyewearbrands.

The MyOptique business was launched a decade ago as a budget eyewear e-tailer Glasses Direct, from where it’s grown to encompass a full service optical ecommerce offering, from contact lenses to sunglasses and premium eyewear — including its own brand glasses (such as the London Retro specs pictured above), operating across multiple brands and multiple segments.

The Group’s current retail brands include Glasses Direct, Sunglasses Shop, LensOn, MyOptique and Netzoptiker. The acquisition of 4care brings its million+ customers served to date into the MyOptique Group fold. CEO Kevin Cornils says it expands the number of customers served by the group to three million.

“The main impetus for [4care] deal was continued growth across Europe, and particularly in Germany which is a very attractive and large market — as most of our investment to date has been in the Northern European markets of Scandinavia and the U.K.,” says Cornils.

“Earlier this year we made a smaller acquisition of netzoptiker in Germany and this gives us significantly more scale in the important German market and allows us to bring or expertise in eyewear (glasses and sunglasses) to accelerate growth in those categories for 4care and in the German market.”

While the smaller Eyewearbrands business, which targets the premium eyewear segment, brings in some 100,000 customers and bolsters the Group’s luxury offering (a segment which it first entered back in 2012). Eyewearbrands stocks more than 75 designer labels, including Dior, Oliver Peoples and Miu Miu, while its website pulls in more than four million unique visitors per year.

“The Eyewearbrands acquisition gives us scale in the designer prescription glasses market, as most of our focus so far has been on our own brands and private label,” adds Cornils.

Back in 2013, MyOptique bagged £8 million in funding to grow internationally and expand via acquisition, so it’s certainly checking the latter box. Also today, it said it has topped up its £16 million Series C round, which closed last year, with a further £20 million — from existing investors, joined by two newcomers Harbert European Growth Capital and Amery Capital. The total raised to date by the business is now £65 million ($102M).

Cornils tells TechCrunch MyOptique’s biggest markets at this point are the U.K., Germany and Scandinavia, with the main focus for the company remaining Europe — even though it has set up sites in the U.S. and Australia to, as Cornils puts it, “test the waters”.

The combined MyOptique businesses are expected to generate some £71 million of gross retail sales in the current year, up from £35 million in 2013.

“The prescription glasses business of which glasses Direct is the core brand is the fastest growing in the group — growing roughly 50 per cent a year and benefiting from a £2 million pound TV campaign,” he adds.

In terms of competitive advantages, Cornils lists various factors — including having its own brand glasses ranges as a way to pull consumers away from shopping for high mark up designer glasses on the high street; an augmented reality 3D virtual mirror tech, launched earlier this year, which lets customers “realistically try on frames” via webcam — which he says has improved conversion rates by 200 per cent; and a free home trial option which lets customers try four frames at home for free before they buy (he says more than half of its first time customers opt for this).

The Group also stocks a large range of eyewear brands across its various websites — more than 100 sunglasses and 100 prescription glasses brands, according to Cornils, plus eight of its own private label brands.

The global eyewear market is estimated to exceed £91 billion by 2020, according to Statistica data. And while MyOptique argues that content lens sales have successfully migrated online, accounting for around 15 per cent of sales, it says the prescription glasses sector has been a relative latecomer online — likely down to the need for people to try before they buy.

Hence the key role for virtual try-on tech and, down the line, online eye exams — which the Group is expecting to arrive in Europe next year. MyOptique is betting that such tech developments will help accelerate the shift of the prescription glasses market online, pulling more buyers away from trips to high street opticians.