Business Overview

Eyewear has become a critical part of an individual’s personal style. It offers insight into one’s tastes and is the perfect accessory to complete any look. As a result, many consumers invest in multiple pairs of sunglasses, insuring they have the “right” pair each time they walk out their door. To meet this growing demand, entrepreneurs are investing in online and brick and mortar retail stores, offering consumers a multitude of options to choose from.

Who is this business right for?

The most fitting owner will have an eye for fashion and design, as well as a clear understanding of what their potential clients are looking for. They genuinely enjoy keeping up with the latest trends and are passionate about sharing their information and experience with those seeking their guidance and knowledge.

What happens during a typical day at a sunglasses store?

Managing a retail business requires a significant amount of work each day. You and your staff will be responsible for:

  • Interacting with customers, addressing any questions and advice they may have.
  • Changing out displays, re-stocking shelves, pricing merchandise, and making sure the shop is clean and free of any hazards.
  • Developing and maintaining relationships with merchandising vendors.
  • Implementing and overseeing of marketing/advertising campaigns.

Additionally, there are a number of administrative duties that must be tended to each day.

What is the target market?

Consumers shopping at sunglass shops aren’t looking for a cheap pair of disposal eyewear. They want quality and believe that you get what you pay for. They are devoted to making a fashion statement and possess the disposable income to do so.

How does a sunglasses store make money?

Sunglass stores, whether online or with a brick and mortar, generate revenue from each pair of glasses sold. Experienced entrepreneurs indicate that, when aligned with the right manufacturer, profit margins are much higher than many other types of retail establishments.

What is the growth potential for a sunglasses store?

Studies indicate that, while only 20% of consumers have a need for corrective eyewear, virtually every individual will shop for sunglasses during their lifetime. This significantly expands your pool of potential customers. Additional factors, such as low cost per unit, high profit margins, increasing demand, and low shipping costs leave much room for growth for entrepreneurs considering this as a business venture.

Getting Started

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

While you do not have to be an expert in eyewear, it would prove beneficial to possess knowledge regarding the different shapes, tints, and styles. This will help insure each client walks out the door with the best product for their individual needs. Experience and strength in customer service would also prove beneficial. Those interpersonal skills will additionally assist you in building and maintaining relationships with merchandise distributors - a critical component to your business’ overall success. Experience in the retail industry is recommended, as it can provide invaluable insight into running this type of establishment and understanding the needs of your customers.

What are the costs involved in opening a sunglasses store?

Upfront expenses will be largely dependent on your storefront location and the merchandise you choose to invest in. Costs will be significantly lower if you decide to open an online only store. Doing so will limit you, in some capacity, as many consumers prefer to try sunglasses on prior to purchasing.

Startup costs include the following:

  • Location - Sunglass leaders such as Sunglass Hut occupy 400-600 square feet in an area with a lot of foot traffic
  • Stock of sunglasses that appeals to a variety of different customers. If you plan to target one specific audience, be sure to understand what it is they are looking for and invest accordingly.
  • Shop decor and sunglass displays
  • Materials/fees to support your marketing campaigns
  • Computer system and POS software
  • eCommerce website design and hosting
  • Insurance

If your business model calls for an online store only, make sure you have enough space to store all inventory. It should be easily accessible and each pair must be stored properly for safe-keeping.

What are the steps to start a sunglasses store?

Once you're ready to start your sunglasses store, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

  1. Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
  2. Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your sunglasses store is sued.
  3. Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
  4. Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your sunglasses store keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  9. Establish a 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.

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

Where can I 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.

Recommended: offers video courses and a supportive online community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Try one month membership for for free.

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

Experienced entrepreneurs in this industry offer the following advice:

  • Conduct thorough research prior to getting started. There are a number of organizations overseas that can ship you the same product at a fraction of the cost, increasing your profit margins.
  • When considering merchandising distributors, choose a supplier that: offers quality products, delivers quality customer service, support, and product delivery, and has a large selection of products to choose from.
  • Remember that product is only part of the equation. Consumers are most drawn to a brand. Make sure your brand sends the message of value and quality.

Growing Your Business

How to promote & market a sunglasses store

Regardless of your business model, your marketing campaign will be pretty much the same. Social media is a very affordable way to promote your product, with a reach that extends far and wide. Instagram is an effective way to reach those entrenched in the fashion industry. Experts recommend taking a two-part approach: marketing influencers and analyzing competitors. Couple this with promotional giveaways and gifts and you will have a solid foundation of loyal followers in a short amount of time. Additionally, shopping websites such as Kaboodle and Polyvore are great tools for driving traffic to your website.

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

How to keep customers coming back

The key to building a solid reputation in the fashion eyewear community is quality product and customer service. Every successful retailer will tell you - word of mouth can make or break you in this business.

How and when to build a team

While managing an online-only store can help increase your overall profits, you will want to hire a few employees once the business really gets going. Owners with a storefront should consider building a team from the beginning. There are a number of administrative duties that must be attended to on a daily basis, and the risk for burnout is high. Each employee should be knowledgeable on each product offered and must possess an outward appearance and demeanor that properly represents your brand.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a sunglasses store business. 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, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

For information about local licenses and permits:

Certificate of Occupancy

A sunglasses store business is generally 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 a location:
    • 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 sunglasses store business.
    • 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 a location:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your sunglasses store business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

Reduce Personal Liability

Structuring your business as a limited liability company (LLC) ensures your personal assets are protected in the event your business is sued.

What is an LLC?

Form an LLC in 5 easy steps

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

The average price for a pair of sunglasses is $100 to $350.

What are the ongoing expenses for a sunglasses store?

Owners should consider the following ongoing expenses when considering their short and long-term goals

  • Cost for retail space
  • Costs associated with retail space
  • Inventory investment
  • Standard administrative costs associated with running a retail space and/or online business
  • Payroll taxes and associated expenses
  • Advertising/marketing and networking
  • Insurance

How much profit can a sunglasses store make?

Sunglass retailers realize one of the largest profit margins in the fashion industry, charging a markup of up to 1000%. Successful sunglass business owners have reported a profit of $75,000 to $100,000 annually.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Store owners should consider selling additional products in their retail establishment. Accessories that complement the products they currently sell is a great way to increase profit margins and establish the business as an industry leader.

Next Steps

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