Sunglass style no longer consists of only the various subcultures and tribes, although they definitely still exist. Today, it is every bit as much about individuality, self-expression and innovation. Maui Jim is the largest independently owned sunglass brand in the world and through recent partnerships with the likes of VSP and Manchester United, the company has created a bevy of momentum to remain resilient in a highly competitive and monopolized industry. Maui Jim president and COO shares his insight into what drives the company forward.
The story and evolution of Maui Jim Sunglasses
Maui Jim sunglasses were born on the beaches of Maui in the 1980’s and designed to protect eyes from the harsh rays of the island sun. Today, Maui Jim is recognized for unparalleled “Aloha Spirit” and customer service as well as patented PolarizedPlus2® lens technology, which blocks 100% of UV rays and eliminates glare while enhancing color, definition and depth perception. Maui Jim sunglasses have earned the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation as an effective UV filter for the eyes and surrounding skin.
“We were originally sold on the pool decks of the resorts in Maui for all the vacationers who either forgot or lost their sunglasses and quickly realized that the long days of sun in Maui is no place to be lacking sunglasses,” explains company president/COO Mike Dalton. “Sure you can put on a hat to shade your eyes from the sun above, but that doesn’t do anything to reduce the glare from water and sand. People would buy our sunglasses while at the pool or the beach, and they would become some of our best salespeople; showing other people around them how great the lenses were. We knew we had a product people loved and needed, as evidenced by their loyal following and powerful word of mouth advertising. Over the years, we have continued to invest in our technology so that Maui Jim is now synonymous with superior lens technology, yet we deliver styles that are traditional and can be worn anywhere, by anyone. Our goal remains the same to this day; to deliver the world’s best views, full of color, clarity, and detail.”
What is Maui Jim’s competitive advantage?
MD: “There are three key advantages that have helped us secure our space in the market as an independent option for consumers and retailers; our products, our people, and partnerships. We believe in delivering the best, and never feeling resigned to rest on our laurels; we continuously reinvest in technology, design, and lens materials.From our world-renowned customer service team, to logistics teams, to our prescription lab, and everywhere in between, we hire the best people in the industry who deliver 100% Aloha to our customers every day. Walter is a firm believer in the fact that partnerships are based in relationship; the partnerships we build are done with face-to-face meetings, tours of our facilities, and handshakes to seal the deals. We value our retailers and the solutions they bring to match our products with shoppers in a way that the consumer expects.”
What is your biggest risk as it relates to Maui Jim and the business?
MD: “The biggest risk to our business is the consolidation of the industry. When you have one gargantuan entity that manages the entire vertical process (lens casting, frame and lens production, retail, and insurance) it limits choice for the consumers. Fortunately, consumers are becoming more invested and educated about their purchases and are making their preferences known through their buying behaviors.”
How are you able to maintain sales growth when you have the conglomerate sunglass brand(s) conquering the market share?
MD: “It’s several things; the consumer making decisions based on who’s really behind the label, the way we treat our customers, and the way we leverage our partnerships with independent retailers. All those things matter to the end consumer, who is ultimately the one in control.”
How do you intend to market to millennial’s and gen Z? Will it be more PR or advertising focused?
MD: “Interestingly, our fastest growing consumer is aged 18-34, and we are actively engaging in marketing activities that speak to that consumer in a meaningful way. Each generation has methods that appeal to them, and our approaches are as multi-pronged and diverse as our consumer profile: digital on demand, cable media, out of home, PR, event sponsorships and subscription media.”
What are consumers seeking today in sunglasses and glasses overall?
MD: “We’re seeing the trend that consumers are looking for superior polarized lens technology, top-tier frame construction, and support on the back-end after the purchase. Not just a chat bot on a website, but an actual, live person to call if need be and excellent support from our retailers.”
What has been your greatest achievement as it pertains to the brand?
MD: “I am most proud of our commitment to our customers; both our accounts and consumers. There’s a reason we have such enviable loyalty—we strive to make sure every person who buys a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses or eyeglasses feels that appreciation and that they are a part of our ‘Ohana (family).”
How has technology aided you in the development of your brand?
MD: “Given the congested marketplace for sunglasses and eyewear in general, we were very intentional about how we wanted to carve out our niche. We started as a lens company and we knew that in order to differentiate ourselves from the competition, we would need to continue to reinvest in proprietary lens technologies. Anyone can make a sunglass lens that utilizes a polarizing film, but not everyone can combine the properties of the polarizing film, premium coatings, and proprietary lens materials into a patented formula that also enhances colors. Our PolarizedPlus2® does all of those things and is in every pair of Maui Jim sunglasses—both non-prescription and prescription. We saw a need in the industry to provide one single source for frames, lenses, and a lab production, so we took what makes us the leader in prescription sunglass production—our processes and fast turnaround times—and made the leap to optical frames. The single source delivery is totally counter to what is currently available in the optical industry. Typically, the eye care professional orders their own inventory for the frame board, and then they send the frame to a contracted lab (or their own lab) where it is paired with stock lenses from a different vendor. The variety of vendors and suppliers in this scenario leads to headaches for the consumer when there are problems or changes. We saw a streamlined and seamless consumer journey as an opportunity. On the optical side, we targeted two use cases of proprietary materials for the needs of our current population; digital eye strain with Maui Blue Light Protect Lens™, and challenges of the aging eye with our Maui High Contrast Lens™.” Simply put, we are willing to put the time, energy and focus into defining ourselves and the leader in premium lens technology space.
Why should people try this brand?
MD: “If you’re someone who values seeing the world with the best color, clarity and detail and you want to buy from a brand that truly values its customers and is an independent option, take a look at Maui Jim. We have something for everyone. We promise you won’t be disappointed.”
What are you future projections and growth strategy for the next few years?
MD: “With the recent opening of our second prescription lab in Germany, we will continue to focus on growing our prescription sales in Europe and beyond. We also recently launched our partnership with Manchester United as their official vision partner. The goal with this union is to grow our presence globally through their highly engaged fan base. We have co-branded our frames with their team logos so Man United fans can express their club loyalty. And we’re close to launching a new lens material in styles that weighs the same as just two pieces of paper.”
Top three reasons to purchase Maui Jim sunglasses:
- A diverse selection of over 200 styles — of which 95% can be fitted for prescription
- Superior lens technology to deliver uncompromised and protected views
- Unparalleled customer service and support after purchase
There’s always something new at Maui Jim. We’re proud to carry the latest styles at Hillmoor Optical, and always excited to introduce people to this outstanding sunglass brand. Stop by and try on your style today!
8958 U.S. 1, Port St Lucie, FL 34952
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Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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