Sunglass Hut Signs R/GA To Expand Brand's Online Presence

Looking to more fully leverage its fashion élan and designer cachet online, Sunglass Hut has signed the R/GA agency to "expand its online presence."

The existing sunglasshut.com site, while cleanly designed and functional, offers only the most basic online shopping and other tools, such as by-brand search and a store locator.

Sunglass Hut and R/GA are keeping mum about specific plans for the site, but R/GA's announcement stressed sunglasses as a growing fashion accessory category, and hints at offerings designed to help consumers "understand fashion trends and select products that will aid them in achieving their own style" and "expand the brand's visibility in nontraditional ways."

R/GA chairman/CEO Bob Greenberg described the challenge as capturing "this new positioning" online and creating "strong, integrated campaigns that resonate with customers in new and interesting ways."

Presumably, plans for a good deal more interactivity and engagement are on the drawing board at R/GA, noted for its focus on creating customer-centric experiences that change brand perceptions.

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According to parent Luxottica Group S.p.A.'s forecast for 2007, it plans to "further extend the SH brand to profit from growth in demand for fashion and luxury sun wear."

The online initiative appears to tie in with Luxottica's expansion of brick-and-mortar retail in the U.S. and other established markets such as Asia-Pacific and Europe--as well as in newer markets such as the Middle East and South Africa (where existing wholesaler business is now being complemented by acquisition of retail chains).

High-end designer sunglass brands sold on the site include Adrienne Vittadini, Anne Klein, Arnette, Bolle', Brooks Brothers, Bvlgari, Dolce &G, DKNY, Oakley, Prada, Ray-Ban, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Vogue, among others. (Next year, SH will manufacture and distribute a Tiffany-branded line of sunglasses and eyeglass frames.)

Watch brands include Arnette, Dolce & Gabbana, Nike, Skagen and others.

Last year, Luxottica reported worldwide net sales of $5.9 billion*, up 14.1% over 2005. Retail sales accounted for about 70% of total net sales. In 2005, retail sales increased by 40.5%--driven by performance in North America, as well as that year's acquisition of Cole National.

SH's total 06 sales are not broken out in year-end financials; however, Luxottica noted a 6% increase in comparable store sales for SH in last year's third quarter.

* This sentence was corrected after the original story was posted.

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