“We Call It A Retail Understanding Business…”

VisionPlus talks to Kyriakos Kofinas, Commercial Head of India, Middle East and Africa, Safilo Group S.p.A, to get an insight into Safilo’s business strategy for the upcoming season

As the Commercial Head of India Middle East and Africa (IMEA) for Safilo Group, Kyriakos Kofinas is responsible for driving sustainable growth and business coverage in the IMEA region.

Before assuming responsibilities as Safilo Commercial Head of IMEA, Kyriakos has set-up the MEA Cluster by opening the Safilo Dubai subsidiary in September 2014 to start covering directly the Middle East Top Customers and to better address the regional consumer needs and opportunities. In parallel he expanded Safilo business in North and Sub Saharan Africa through Distributors. Under his leadership, MEA has become the fastest growing region for Safilo Group globally, while developing the foundation for strategic partnerships and Brand Building activities with Top KAs and with Distributors.

Safilo has an extensive portfolio that caters to consumers across target groups. From fashion to luxury and even sports, the wide range of products in each category give the opticians more variety to choose from. The extensive range also ensures that Safilo is able to cater to the varying demands of the ever-evolving consumer segment in the optical trade.

In this edition, Kyriakos shares his views on the evolution of optical trade, his association to Safilo and the growth of the brand.

VisionPlus (VP): Tell us a little about your experience in the eyewear industry, particularly your association to Safilo?

Kyariakos Kofinas (KK): My experience in the eyewear industry has been very good, both from the customer and consumer point of view. My association to Safilo started in Greece where I was working on a joint venture. I was responsible for spearheading development of a fully owned subsidiary in 2011, making it grow despite the challenging local market conditions. Later on, about two years ago, I took charge as the Commercial Head India Middle East and Africa. Moving on, in 2014, Safilo opened its first subsidiary store in the Airport Free Zone in Dubai. I believe this is an important hub office in Dubai that has empowered us to cater to our customers in and around the region in a better way.

Kyriakos Kofinas, Commercial Head of India Middle East and Africa, Safilo

Kyriakos Kofinas, Commercial Head of India Middle East and Africa, Safilo

VP: Moving on, What is your take on the evolution of eyewear trade in the last ten years in India when compared to the International markets?

KK: The evolution of the eyewear trade has been truly dynamic. In fact, I would say that the shopping behaviour of the end-consumer has also contributed to this evolution of the optical trade. Today, the consumer is more fashion oriented. This is reflected in the demand for more innovative options in terms of design, colour and overall aesthetic appeal.

For instance, sunglasses are fast evolving as a fashion accessory. People are more open to accepting new designs and styles. Even the use of prescription frame has grown considerably with the growing use of digital devices. I would say, the growing awareness about vision care and vision aids has also helped a lot.

Another trend that seems to have contributed to the growth and evolution of the trade is the focus of opticians to renovate store designs as well as improve their service standards. Right training from the companies is also empowering the opticians to understand the product better, sell better and make the most of the opportunities available.

VP: You seem to have extensive experience of the wholesaler’s perspective as well as the retailer’s perspective. How has it help you understand the demands of the optical trade?

KK: I would say that even though the nature of our business is wholesale, we need to understand the retailer’s perspective in order to be able to cater to the industry demands in a better way. In fact, internally, we call it a retail understanding business.

Having an insight into the retailer’s perspective helps in understanding the assortment of products that they would be interested in, conveying the value proposition that can help them make the right sales pitch, so on and so forth. Simply put, I think my experience helps me understand the strategy of the retailer, how they want to position themselves. Accordingly, since Safilo has an extensive range of products, it helps us understand as well cater to their demands in a better way.

VP: What is the type of training that Safilo is providing the opticians?

KK: As I have repeatedly said, the right type of training is very important for the opticians to target their consumers with the right sales pitch. For instance, it is important for the optician to understand the product portfolio before he can go out to sell it. At Safilo, we help the optician by providing the required training that helps them understand the product as well as sell it. When we host the buying days, we invite our partners to come and take a look at the new collection. This is where we provide the initial training to understand the product.

After this, our sales team and distributors that we have in the market also educates them about the latest features of the collection helping them identify the strong selling points.

VP: According to you, which is a better revenue earner: sunglasses or prescription eyewear?

I believe, both are good revenue earners for Safilo. Due to the modern lifestyle, the demand for prescription frames has grown considerably. In fact, this growth is a global trend. Of course, sunglasses are also growing in terms of their market demand. One side, this growth for the market of sunglasses can be attributed to the demand for vision protection against UV rays, glare, etc. Secondly, the weather is sunny and so there is a natural demand.

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