What? Eyewear brand with a difference
Where? Finnieston, Glasgow and at iolla.com
Since When? July 2015
I spoke to brand founder Stefan Hunter on all things Iolla at their quirky showroom in Finnieston to find out more on Scotland’s new eyewear brand…
Who Are IOLLA?
IOLLA is a Scottish eyewear brand that is really all about giving the customer the best possible product, price and experience. We design, manufacture and sell a full range of glasses and sunglasses all priced at £65 including prescription lenses and coatings.
Founding the Brand
We opened the doors for the first time on 29th July 2015, but really started trading at the very start of August. By September 2015 was when it felt like a proper business, we had customers, we had sales, we were getting feedback. We believe buying glasses can be easy and fun and we fundamentally believe you should try a pair of glasses on so having a physical space is key for IOLLA. So, in the future we envision having physical retail spaces all over the country. We do sell online as well and we try to do that the best we possibly can from a customer service point of view but right now our focus is firmly set on the showroom concept.
Choosing the Market
You research and understand markets then you think of solutions for the consumer problems, that’s what I believe. Where IOLLA came from was looking in-depth at the optics market and really talking to people. My business partner and I got in a room with 100 people and from there we just asked a few questions about the optical market. We looked at how people buy glasses and the negatives, we got responses like ‘it’s expensive’, ‘there’s poor choice’ ‘there’s too many offers, ‘I get upsold all the time with extras like putting a coating on..’ and for me, I thought someone has to do something about that because I care so much about customer service and solving customer problems. Why it was in optics? Because my business partner Brian is in optics, he’s an optometrist by trade and owns a domiciliary optical company.
Eyewear with a Difference
We thought, from talking to people, that having to buy glasses when you get an eye test causes problems in the experience. Generally, the choice is poor, it can be really expensive and not a great buying experience. Our tag line is ‘a new way to buy eyewear’ because we believe we’re offering a totally unique way to buy glasses. IOLLA was born with the aim to offer the high quality products that you would find in high end optometrist but at a fraction of the price. We also think there is a different, better way to retail it. When you walk in to a high street optician, you see glasses advertised for £35 then walk out having paid £105 and you’re thinking ‘how did that happen?’. We wanted to change that, so at IOLLA we have have no hidden costs, we include most thinner lenses and anti-glare coatings as standard. That means you know exactly what your paying, before you choose which makes the buying experience so much better.
I went to university in Glasgow and now I live in the West End, I believe that people in the West End are really open to trying new things. The reason I personally liked Finnieston was because this street only has two or three big brands, like Tesco, Sainsbury’s. It’s all really local, independent stores and IOLLA is a small, independent business so it’s a perfect fit.
Iolla in 3 Words
Fun, empowering and unique.
The Customer Journey
I want customers to find us online, browse our collections, add their favourite styles to the ‘try it on’ list and really get to know our concept. We would then like them to come into the showroom, be greeted and have fun choosing some eyewear. I want to create the experience where people feel they are welcome. Once an order is placed via our platform, their details are then sent for their glasses to start being made. We’ll then deliver most glasses within 7 days.
We have three pillars of our proposition; the price, the product and the experience. I think being able to match three amazing propositions into one bundle is what makes IOLLA unique. Marketing agencies ask us who IOLLA’s target market is and we can’t really answer because we believe that IOLLA is for everyone. We try and create a range of eyewear which can appeal to everyone, an alternative to where people buy glasses is what is making us unique. We firmly believe our customers will leave with a smile on their face!
Before we designed the new range my favourite style was Bruce, it’s an absolutely solid frame which is never going to lose its shape. We’ve also got new metals in which I’m really happy with, small touches like adding the IOLLA logo to the nose pads gives them another level of detail. The rose gold colour we’ve just introduced also looks really good. I love seeing bolder and more adventurous styles such as Muir on other people because I think it’s a statement. I’ve seen some of our customers transform their look by picking some audacious IOLLA styles. You can take someone that isn’t comfortable wearing glasses and give them a whole new confidence just through some styling advice.
We are launching three new frames, Rowling, Inglis and Lennox, all named after famous Scottish women. They’re distinctive shapes and materials add to an already diverse collection. These styles will also look amazing in our polarised sunglass range launching this summer. We are also looking at expanding our retail proposition to bring the IOLLA proposition to a wider audience.
Iolla is located at 1313 Argyle Street, Finnieston, Glasgow, G3 8TL or visit their online platform at iolla.com.
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