Rem Eyewear Sees BTB Opportunities on Web

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Rem Eyewear Inc., a wholesaler of eyeglasses, debuted a Web site as an online marketing tool to reach out to its optical-store customers.

The site showcases brands like Converse, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Timberland, Rembrand, new york and lauren hutton, which are made under license by Rem, Sun Valley, CA.

"The challenge was to maintain the brand essence and integrity of our licensers, matching it with our branding," said Michael Ross, vice president of marketing at the 49-year-old, family-run Rem.

Eyewear is a $14 billion industry, the company said. There are 38,000 sales outlets, 60 percent of them independently owned and the rest part of chains like Sears Optical, Pearl Vision, Target, JC Penney and Cohen.

Creating the site was a delicate matter. While there is little of the whiz-bang air about it, the site has to balance all the brands Rem represents. The intent is to present the brands in a way that showcases their features without making them compete.

For instance, since each brand's image differs -- from Barbie's bright pink to the earth tones of Timberland -- Rem represented them in muted blue to tie the brands together.

In another example, the Rem Eyewear logo appears on the home page when the site is called up. But it disappears into the background when a user clicks on a brand name.

The site will offer brand profiles, customer service help and job-opening information. Add to that the latest news and comprehensive eyewear catalogs for each collection down to colors and sizes of respective frames.

Rem will promote the site in trade newspapers as part of a dealer awareness campaign aimed at larger players like Pearl Vision, Sears Optical and Lenscrafters as well as smaller optical stores. Ads will run in 20/20, Eyecare Business and Vision Monday, asking readers to visit Rem's site.

Rem's sales representatives also will promote the site to their accounts.

In addition, Rem will run a promotion to capture and increase its base of customer e-mail addresses. Once a critical mass is reached, an e-mail newsletter will go out to draw more attention to the site.

The goal is to drive retailer traffic to In phase two, the company will add a surround-vision effect to offer detailed views of the featured frames.

In the spring or summer, plans call for e-commerce capability on the site, with systems and protocols for ordering, order tracking and shipping confirmations. But that does not mean Rem will dispense with its sales force.

"This is a face-to-face business we're in," Ross said. "We don't suppose that a lot of ordering will take place over the Web site. But it'll be set up to do such."

Ross still expects four out of five orders to come via the sales-rep channel.

"Web companies have underestimated the difficulty in changing behavior," he said. "Changing behavior is just so hard and takes so long and costs so much. A lot of times people don't want to change their behavior. I don't want to try to change behavior. I want to enhance the services."

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