Carolina Lemke to open US stores

Carolina Lemke Photo: Shoka Cohen

The Israel eyeglasses chain has already opened stores in Spain and the UK. 

Carolina Lemke is expanding its international business to include countries outside Europe. Sources inform "Globes" that after opening branches in Spain and the UK during the past two years, the group is planning on also launching branches in the US.

Carolina Lemke is an Israeli optometric chain. Founded in 2011, the company makes no bones about its ambition to become an international player with branches throughout the world. Over the past three years, since it began overseas operations, the company concentrated its efforts on Europe, where it opened stores in Barcelona and Madrid, and later in the UK. The company, however, is not confining itself to opening branches; it is also expanding in the digital sphere by setting up a ecommerce website to sell eyeglasses all over the world.

Carolina Lemke is part of the Hoodies group of four companies: Hoodies, TopTen, Carolina Lemke, and Accessories London. It was acquired over a decade ago by Castro Model Ltd. (TASE: CAST), which is controlled by Esther and Gabriel Rotter. At this stage, the company plans to focus its website only on eyeglasses, which are relatively easy to market online. The very low cost of trying the product for the consumer removes an important entry barrier, and logistical management is simpler. Opening branches in the US will also help provide logistical solutions for operating the ecommerce website.

The website is an important part of Carolina Lemke's overseas penetration, but in order to succeed, it is vital to expose the site to surfers and generate traffic on it. Sources inform "Globes" that the group recently held an auction to select a digital firm to advise it in the process. Two companies whose portfolios include many Israeli customers with overseas operations reached the final stage of the auction: K Logic and Dentsu Aegis Network Israel.

Ostensibly, the group could try to market the full range of brands held by the chains it own through the ecommerce website on a marketplace-like format, as Fox-Wizel Ltd. (TASE: FOX) did with Terminal X, for example. It appears, however, that its marketing aims are different at this stage. The group is oriented towards overseas, where each of the brands it is marketing has different problems, and also faces different logistics challenges. For example, marketing the sunglasses brand, which is already internationally active and competitive in price, is not the same as marketing a basic brand like Hoodies, which has to compete in markets with excellent basic brands being offered at reasonable prices.

The logistics challenge of operating such brands on an Internet shelf is completely different, including collecting the items from the shelf, transporting them, and dealing with replacements and returns. It appears that the group has not made a final long-term decision about how it will operate online; it has decided to conduct serious online operations, but meanwhile to adapt the appropriate digital marketing for each of its brands.

At the same time, although the group's other brands are not slated for inclusion in the ecommerce site at this stage, this does not mean that no effort will be made to market them in international markets through other means. Sources inform "Globes" that the group plans to establish a Hoodies brand store on Amazon, a platform that should generate traffic for the brand from the first day. Hoodies' products have no advantages over those of other brands marketed online, but they have an important image that is likely to help them stand out on Amazon: international fashion model Bar Refaeli. She is a partner in the chain, which still uses her as a presenter. Hoodies, which was founded in 2007, has 81 branches deployed throughout Israel.

Hoodies said in response, "At Hoodies, we are excited to be in the forefront of global ecommerce with a well-respected partner like Amazon. This is one of the brand's growth engines for 2018, and we are confident that customers worldwide will recognize and like the designs and collections."

Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on January 25, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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Carolina Lemke Photo: Shoka Cohen
Carolina Lemke Photo: Shoka Cohen
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