How to Start a Glasses Store

Glasses Store Image

A glasses store sells eyewear that can be either corrective, protective, or just fashionable.  Stores can be structured in two different ways: they can serve clients who were referred to the shop by established medical eye care practices, or they can be a full service store with an optometrist on staff.

Walk-ins with an up-to-date prescription or who are simply shopping for fashionable eyewear will also comprise a large portion of your clientel. Glasses have made their comeback as a fashion trend, making now the perfect time to enter into such a business venture.

Learn how to start your own Glasses Store and whether it is the right fit for you.

Start a glasses store by following these 9 steps:

You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your glasses store. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the startup and ongoing costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.

What are the costs involved in opening a glasses store?

As with most businesses, location is key. Take the time to find a space that sees a good deal of pedestrian traffic each day. Most consumers wait until they have ample time to consider their glasses options. For this reason, shopping areas are an ideal location, as many of the pedestrians are enjoying a leisurely stroll. The average cost of a 400 square foot optical shop is $30-$50 per square foot. Once you have your location, there are a number of other items you’ll need to budget for, such as:

Items you need include:

  • Displays
  • Equipment and tools - to assist in reducing expenses, many business owners purchase items used or lease many of these items can be purchased used or leased, whichever fits best into your budget
  • Inventory
  • Business management software
  • Credit card machine and cash register
  • Computer
  • Proper lighting is critical in this industry

Industry leaders estimate startup costs at between $20,000 and $85,000, depending upon the specific services you wish to offer at your store.

There are a number of franchising opportunities in this market. To qualify, Pearle Vision requires entrepreneurs to possess $100,000 in liquid capital, with a net worth of at least $300,000. Bottom line investment reaches between $410,000 and $622,000. While the initial investment is quite steep, aligning yourself with a well-established enterprise often expedites business growth.

What are the ongoing expenses for a glasses store?

Ongoing expenses are fairly low, with payroll consuming the bulk of your budget. In addition to the standard overhead expenses incurred from running a storefront, a consistent marketing strategy and ample inventory will be your second and third largest expenses.

Who is the target market?

A study conducted by the Vision Council of America revealed that almost 75% of adults require vision correction of some kind. 64% of those polled prefer glasses over contacts. These individuals will comprise a large portion of your client base. Children and teenagers in need of corrective lenses will also come to you for assistance. Additionally, many eyewear stores serve the consumer with 20/20 vision who is shopping for glasses to complement their wardrobe or complete the look they're striving for.

How does a glasses store make money?

A glasses store generates revenue through the sale of each pair of glasses. Some charge a fee for services such as eyewear adjustments, while others offer these services free of charge.

If your company also employs a professional optometrist, you can also make money by offering eye exams and basic eye care at a competitive rate.

How much can you charge customers?

Eyeglasses vary in price, depending upon a number of factors. A generic pair of glasses will go for $69, while a designer pair can cost upwards of $900. Inventory should match the needs and wants of your customers.

How much profit can a glasses store make?

Established optical shops report average monthly sales of $125,000 to $205,000 per month. Your organization’s profit is dependent upon how many people you employ, the amount of inventory ordered each month, and operational costs.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Successful entrepreneurs are constantly looking for new opportunities to expand their business. To maximize profits, consider implementing one or more of the following strategies:

  • Sell frames online to reach a broader audience.
  • Develop your own line of eyewear. Many eyeglass manufacturers offer contract manufacturing. You provide them with your designs and they manufacture them in their facility.
  • Partner with vendors that offer flexibility and a wide range of style and price points. There’s nothing worse than being stuck with a frame line or style that isn’t selling. You should also make sure that you align your business with a vendor that offers a fair exchange policy.
  • Many shop owners have found success working with an optical dispensary management firm (ODM). These consulting firms offer management services specifically designed to fit your needs.

What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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STEP 2: Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your glasses store is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.

You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.

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For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!

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You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a glasses store. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

Glasses stores may also wish to look into applying for a resale certificate, as a resale certificate allows retailers to purchase goods intended for resale without paying sales tax.

In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information:

Certificate of Occupancy

A glasses store can be run out of a storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease office space:
    • It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a glasses store.
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or build office space:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your glasses store will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

STEP 7: Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

How to promote & market a glasses store

In this industry, networking is your most effective marketing strategy. Develop relationships with doctors and eyeglass repairmen in your surrounding area and work out a referral system. Get to know the needs of your customer base. Stock the shelves with those items and market directly to them. Social media is a great resource for promoting your business, sharing the latest trends, and informing your customers of upcoming news and specials. The Opticians Association of America offers members valuable industry data and business tools to assist in promoting your business.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

To build a solid foundation, establish a loyal customer base. Delivering quality products and services is the most effective way to retain current customers and attract new ones. Word travels fast and is often a business’ most effective marketing tool.

STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

Start A Glasses Store In Your State

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Is this Business Right For You?

Eyewear professionals or individuals who are passionate about fashionable eyewear should consider entering this industry. Since much of the day is spent consulting clients, this profession is best suited for entrepreneurs who enjoy working with and helping people.

What happens during a typical day at a glasses store?

The specifics of your daily tasks largely depends upon the role you plan to take within the company. Many optometrists expand their practice to include eyewear sales, in an effort to increase profit margins. If this is your vision, a majority of your day will be spent in the exam room. In fact, entrepreneurs who choose this route advise others just starting out to hire a skilled optician to manage this aspect of their business. A financially savvy optician should be experienced enough to ensure quality goods and services are delivered to each client. If you’re not a medical eye professional, your days will be structured a little differently. If you have the necessary optician experience and knowledge, you could take on the management role yourself.

Duties would include:

  • Analyze goods costs
  • Set retail prices
  • Negotiate with vendors
  • Oversee staff to ensure they’re knowledgeable and capable of offering outstanding service
  • Marketing
  • Networking with medical eye professionals in the community

If your vision includes taking a more hands-on approach, a day on the floor would include the following activities:

  • Consulting with the client to identify their needs. This encompasses inquiring about their day-to-day activities to determine what type of frames would be best suited for their lifestyle. s
  • Conduct eye wear adjustments
  • Measure and fit frames
  • Prepare work orders

Upon opening your store, you’ll likely want to take on the role of administrator as well. This reduces overhead expenses, setting the business up for financial success. As the business grows, you can employ an assistant to handle these administrative tasks.

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful glasses store?

Those dominating the industry possess strong leadership qualities, including communication, the ability to delegate, and the drive to succeed. When working the floor, customers will look to you for guidance regarding their glasses selection. When the client walks out that door, their appearance is a direct reflection on your company. You must be able to sensitively deliver honest advice, educating the customer before making their final decision. Marketing and networking will be instrumental in achieving short and long-term goals. If this is not your strong suit, consider bringing on a team member that can focus on this aspect of your business. Strong negotiating skills would also prove beneficial, as you’ll be purchasing glasses and lenses wholesale from vendors in order to complete sales orders.

What is the growth potential for a glasses store?

Approximately 60% of an optometrist’s revenue is generated from the sale of frames and eyeglasses - a fact every optometrist considering expansion should consider. As glasses continue to increase in popularity, eyewear stores stand to realize persistent sales growth. Franchise opportunities with well-established enterprises such as Sterling Optical and Pearle Vision offer entrepreneurs a unique opportunity to build a robust business. Many realize such great success that they’re able to open multiple stores across the country.

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Take the Next Step

Find a business mentor

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a glasses store?

The following are some tips from successful eyeglass store owners:

  • Contact The Vision Counsel to identify lenses labs in your immediate area. Interview several labs and inquire about their pricing and business policies before committing.
  • Use actual and projected patient volume data to ensure your inventory levels are accurate.
  • Eyeglasses are often marked up 10 to 20 times over manufacturing costs. Consumers are now aware of this data and take the time to shop around. Conduct thorough research to ensure you’re able to offer competitive pricing while still maintaining a healthy profit.
  • Get to know your target demographic. If they’re the type to only frequent establishments that accept insurance, contact the insurance companies to find out how you become a provider and what the reimbursement structure is.
  • If partnering with an optometrist isn’t part of your business plan, make sure your research supports this decision. Having an optometrist on staff simplifies the process for customers. If you can take care of all their needs at once, you’re more likely to gain them as a client.

How and when to build a team

Unless you plan to bring an optometrist on board, you could operate the store yourself initially. When you’re ready to start building your team, make sure you hire professionals who possess the skills to fulfill their responsibilities. Universities with an optometry program and your state’s optician association are great resources for finding qualified staff. You should also offer periodic training sessions to ensure your staff is aware of new innovations in the industry.

Next Steps

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