By Megan Harman
Omnichannel eyewear company BonLook is continuing with the rapid expansion of its network of stores across Canada and is beginning to add optometric services to some of its stores, to enable customers to have their eyes examined right on location.
In March, Montreal-based BonLook partnered with independent optometrist Dr. Poonam Lakhani to open an optometric clinic in BonLook’s store at Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. The clinic offers services including comprehensive eye exams for adults and children, contact lens fittings and aftercare.
“We’re really excited about this,” says Sophie Boulanger, co-founder and CEO of BonLook, which specializes in trendy, affordable prescription eyewear. “It’s been a long time coming for us. It’s an extra service that our clients were asking for.”
Having an optometrist right in store creates a more convenient experience for customers, Boulanger says, since having an eye exam is usually the necessary first step in the process of buying new prescription eyeglasses.
“The eye exam is often the trigger for purchasing new eyewear,” she says. “By offering this service, I think we can really capture clients right away when they have the intent of purchasing. So, it’s more convenient for our customers.”
Many other eyewear retailers, such as LensCrafters, Hakim Optical and New Look, follow a similar model of providing optometric services within their stores.
Eventually, Boulanger says she hopes to have optometrists within half of BonLook’s stores. At a minimum, she says, at least one BonLook store in each city where the company operates will offer optometric services.
Limited space presents a hurdle at some locations, Boulanger notes. Some of the chain’s stores are only about 600 square feet in size, which doesn’t leave sufficient space for an optometrist’s office. However, she says more than half of BonLook’s stores are large enough to support the services.
The rollout of optometric services comes as BonLook has been growing its physical retail presence aggressively in recent months. Since October 2018, the chain has opened five new mall locations: CF Chinook Centre in Calgary, Edmonton’s Kingsway Mall and West Edmonton Mall, CF Pacific Centre in Vancouver and CF Polo Park in Winnipeg.
“We’ve been keeping ourselves busy, expanding mostly in the western market,” Boulanger says.
BonLook, which originally launched as an e-commerce brand in 2011, now operates 32 stores across Canada in addition to its online sales channel. The brand’s goal is to have 40 stores by 2020.
Boulanger says the company’s success is attributable in part to its focus on fashionable frames, particularly for female clientele—a market that she says has been neglected by other eyewear providers. BonLook treats its products as fashion accessories, with a design team travelling the world regularly to keep tabs on new trends, and new collections being introduced all the time.
“We always keep it very exciting,” Boulanger says.
The customer experience is also something that sets BonLook apart from the competition, according to Boulanger. Specifically, she says the company invests heavily in technology, in an effort to create a smooth and efficient sales process for customers.
“It’s a bit hidden from the customer,” Boulanger says, “but it’s key to the experience in stores.”
The company plans to continue its push into the western market in the coming months, including opening a new store at Richmond, B.C. this summer. BonLook also has its sights set on the Maritimes—a region in which the brand has not yet established a physical presence.
Beyond that, Boulanger says the company is also exploring the possibility of international expansion.
“We’re excited to continue to grow,” she says. “With the success we’ve had in Canada, I think our business model could be interesting elsewhere too. Our offering is distinctive from our competitors, so I think there’s a place for us on the market.”