Sunglasses Magazine met up with Jeoffrey Nathan, owner of Coastal Urge—an outdoor retailer with three locations on the East Coast—at Outdoor Retailer’s Open Air Demo in Utah this summer. Here’s some insight into how he maintains a successful sunglass business throughout the year.
SUNGLASSES: What part do sunglasses play in your total merchandise inventory?
JEOFFREY NATHAN: Sunglasses are a huge part of our business. It’s a year-round purchase, not just summertime. It’s a great gift for birthdays and other special occasions. We sell different types of brands for each demographic. We’ve got the Ray-Ban® customer who wants something for style and what the movie stars are wearing; and then we have the Kaenon customer who’s an athlete out on the water all day and wants to wear what the pros are wearing; and then we might have a Costa Del Mar customer, who’s a fishing customer. It’s pretty neat because all these different demographics come in and are usually doing outdoor stuff, but they might be doing different activities.
SG: How do the brands you carry vary within your different stores?
JN: The Bald Head Island location in North Carolina is more of a high-end, private tourist island destination where we sell a lot more sunglasses for fashion than function. The other stores in Wilmington, NC, and Newport, RI, also have style-conscious customers, but we also get people who want to buy sunglasses specifically for fishing, snowboarding, kayaking, or paddle boarding, etc. And then we also get a lot of people, too, that don’t necessarily just buy one pair of sunglasses. A lot of our customers come in and buy two pairs. They’ll get a dark lens for when they’re on the water to protect their eyes more from the reflected glare, and then they’ll also get a lighter lens sunglass for later in the evening or driving, or just for being out about the town, where they don’t want to have a super dark lens.
SG: Do you always recommend polarized lenses to be worn on the water?
JN: Definitely. We don’t carry anything that’s not polarized. Everything that we carry is stuff that I would personally wear. I’m pushing people toward bigger frames that have more protection from the glare coming in from the sides because that’s what can hurt your eyes a lot from squinting, even though you may not realize it. But I’d say mostly people already know what they want when they come in; however, I like to try to get them into something they haven’t tried before. So if they come in and say they’re looking for a glass lens, I might say, “Hey, well, this polycarbonate lens is actually lighter and it’s the same clarity. So if you go outside and try the two side by side, tell me what you think, and we’ll find what works for you.” I don’t try to push somebody based upon my opinion. I let them make the decision. But I put two pairs of sunglasses in front of them and narrow down what I think are two of the best options for them and their budget.
SG: Being that you’re a higher price point store, how do you deal with customers who don’t want to spend more on a pair of sunglasses?
JN: Very rarely people will come in who want an inexpensive pair of sunglasses; and that’s usually somebody on vacation who just lost his sunglasses. People usually want to save some money and they don’t realize they’re saving money on sunglasses but they should protect themselves, so I figure I’ll just give them a demo. Some of our brands give us free demo packages, so I’ll send somebody home with a pair of sunglasses to try them out on her boat or out on the water and see what works best for her.