Craig LaManna next to Maui Jim's Manchester Union display at Vision Expo
A pair of recent developments buoyed indie premium sunglasses supplier Maui Jim’s usual sunny spirits even higher at last week’s Vision Expo East eyewear/eyecare trade show at New York’s Javits Center.
First is the new multi-year partnership between the Maui-based, Peoria, Ill.-headquartered company and England’s powerhouse pro soccer team Manchester United Football Club (MNU), which has won 66 trophies in its 140-year heritage.
Maui Jim now becomes Manchester Union’s official vision partner, and will supply its teams with glasses from its sun and optical collections. Maui Jim eyewear will also be available to fans at MNU’s Old Trafford Megastore, and will later launch co-branded eyewear collections geared to fans.
“All the players will wear our sunglasses as part of their uniform, as well as our non-ophthalmic glasses,” said Maui Jim’s ophthalmic marketing director Craig LaManna at a Manchester United display setup inside Maui Jim’s standout Vision Expo booth.
“We’ll be up on all the digital boards during the games, and will have a full Maui Jim shop in their London megastore as well as in Manchester,” added LaManna. “We’ll also have new cases and cleaning cloths, and collaborations to come for specific glasses for Manchester Union.”
Most exciting for Maui Jim, though, is the marketing opportunities presented by the MU partnership.
“They have 850 million fans globally,” said LaManna. “They’re huge in Asia and Europe, and we need to build our awareness in those markets. Even if we get one-percent of their fans interested in buying our product, it’s 8.5 million! Even a quarter-percent is tremendous.”
LaManna noted that Maui Jim has other such partnerships with other teams and players in other sports—most notably as the official supplier of the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) World Tour. But the new pact with Manchester Union could really help extend its reach outside its North American market stronghold.
The second big recent development for Maui Jim is its new partnership with vision care health insurance giant VSP Vision Care.
“They focus on independent retailers and we saw a lot of similarities between them and us,” said LaManna. Indeed, VSP Global president/CEO Michael Guyette saw Maui Jim as “a like-minded company” in a press statement, one with a similar commitment to supporting “the growth and success of independent doctors.”
The Maui Jim/VSP pairing brings patients of practices participating in the VSP Global Premier Program money-back guarantees on Maui Jim prescription eyewear. Those practices will have access to exclusive savings, dedicated customer service and complimentary staff trainings.
LaManna noted that Maui Jim is now in its second year following the launch of its ophthalmic portfolio, and is well underway in growing it.
“We’re building a sales force to sell ophthalmic-only, have done some trade advertising, and have built another side of our website for eyeglasses,” he said.
“Our owner was traveling the world with our president and visiting the big accounts in Europe and Asia, and they kept asking him why not get into ophthalmic—because we’re so easy to work with. We know we’re late in the game, but we have what we call ‘the Theory of One’: One manufacturer making sure everything works, and one customer service phone number. If there’s a problem, one phone call takes care of it, and everything is one all-inclusive price, with no add-on costs.“
“So we see this as a big opportunity for us,” concluded LaManna.