With no experience in eyewear or optometry Bruce Jeffreys set out to found a glasses brand.
Along with business partner Jason McDermott, Jeffreys launched the German-inspired label Dresden, which offers consumers one glasses frame style in four sizes and hundreds of colours.
This simple model means customers can walk into a Dresden store—there are currently three bricks and mortar locations in Sydney and one in Melbourne—and leave with a pair of prescription specs or sunglasses in under 10 minutes.
“We didn’t set out to run an eyewear company or go into optometry,” Jeffreys told Retailbiz. “We set out as consumers to make something that would transform how people experience eyewear…
“Not knowing anything means you question really ingrained assumptions about how things are done. We’re learning quickly but not from the industry—it’s our customers who are teaching us.”
Dresden co-founders Jason McDermott and Bruce Jeffreys.
Jeffreys knows exactly who this customer is, or rather, who it isn’t. “People who enjoy paying ridiculous amounts of money for a designer pair of glasses that only cost a few dollars to make [are not our target].
“Our market is everybody else, normal people who value their time and want their glasses to be as strong and tough as they are.”
Dresden aims to give consumers more freedom by inventing a system that is completely interchangeable, right down to the lenses. Although the style is limited—to one lightweight frame in four sizes—there is a huge range of colours and the parts just snap together.
“Dresden is not about selling you a pair of glasses,” said Jeffreys. “Instead [our system] gives you a complete back up, with as many pairs of glasses in as many lens and colour combinations as you need.”
This isn’t Jeffreys’ first business venture. He also co-founded car sharing service GoGet, which he said took a similar tack to Dresden.
“Instead of owning one car you get access to a whole pool of cars on tap. Behind both businesses is the drive to make something that is annoying—like depending on a pair of expensive, fragile glasses—a thing of the past.”
So far, this approach is paying off with double digit growth month-on-month for both Dresden’s eyewear and the eye testing services performed in-store by optometrists.
The simplicity of the system also means Dresden can provide glasses on the spot in remote locations. The brand has previously partnered with Vision Australia to provide eye services in rural locations, which Jeffreys said just scratched the surface of the demand for quality eyewear outside Australian cities.
“We’re working hard to scale this up as a model, not just for NSW and the rest of Australia, but in other counties in our region…
“Our philosophy is to combine affordable eyewear with excellent healthcare. We also believe everyone deserves the same access to something that can transform your life, whether you live in Australia or in the world’s poorest countries.”
Jeffreys said he plans to continue developing Dresden’s rural eye health service while rolling out new stores and experimenting with new different retail formats, including kiosks and market stalls.
“With a flexible range of retail formats we hope this will allow us to test new markets both in Australia and also overseas.”
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