Behind the Counter: Third Eyewear

Third Eyewear started as an accessory brand in the founder’s fashion store in South Africa. It took off and a brick and mortar store was launched. That’s when Jonathan Franco got involved. He started refining the brand and business, becoming eyewear specific and opening another store before purchasing the whole business.

We caught up with Jonathan to find out about how he’s running his retail biz with Vend, including ecommerce and wholesale, and is continuing to grow Third’s cult following at festivals, on social media, and in the streets.

Tell us about what Third Eyewear is and the brand?

Third Eyewear is super affordable and super trendy. It completes a fashion look without breaking the bank. We have quite a big cult festival following. There’s a festival in South Africa called Africa Burn which is like Burning Man in the US. The week before Africa Burn is our busiest week. We bring in a lot more extreme styles and new frames.

You have to constantly be affordable and up with fashion. That’s the key thing to our retail business. We have an organic cult street following on social media — a lot of people tag us and love the brand.

Around 70 – 80% of our online sales are from Instagram straight to the online store. People send us cool photos of themselves in Third Eyewear and we share them on Instagram. We’ve started growing our following further by getting a few influencers on board.

What’s makes the experience in your eyewear store different to other retailers?

In South Africa most eyewear stores have all of their product locked away which can be very intimidating. You have to ask to try things on and someone stands there while you try on sunglasses.

In our store we create a more fun environment. Everything is open and you can try on anything. We encourage people to take photos in-store and share them on social media.

We employ trendy staff that give good fashion advice, are really switched on and oriented with the latest fashion trends. We invite customers to feel comfortable with frames that are a bit wilder, reassure them it’s cool and they can pull off the look.

I think this a great experience for customers in South Africa and that’s a distinguishing factor for our stores.

We also choose our store locations very carefully — the right area in the right location, which keeps with the coolness and street style we’re trying to achieve. Our stores are on hipster-type cool streets, which distinguishes us, as most retailers in South Africa are in malls.

We feel the youth see through big retailers very quickly and a brand can lose its promise by going into a big retail mall. You get a lot of foot traffic in a mall and slightly higher turnover but you might be losing your cool following.

What challenges are you facing as an independent retailer in South Africa?

It can be challenging for independents to compete with larger retailers on product. There’s a fear that a chain retailer is going to get the same or similar product and sell it way cheaper. I feel that edge that independents have is that you can curate a range if you have confidence in what you’re doing.

I travel to Paris and Milan twice a year to see what the trends are and keep current. In doing so, I can have an edge over the competition as we independents are often much more switched on to fashion and adapt to it a lot quicker. Big retailers have long forward-planning models, they can’t adapt quickly.

Independent retailers can also win on brand. People like to have an identity and know the product, where it’s made and where it’s sold. That’s why I stick to the street and cult following.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in retail?

Getting the right technology in place. I’m a firm believer in that — once we got the right technology in place it increased our turnover by three-fold. It’s amazing.

With Vend we’re managing inventory and sales better. Before we switched to Vend, there were no names on our products, so we couldn’t re-order best-sellers or see if there was stock missing. When I took over this business this was the first thing I changed. Vend shows us how we’re doing every day so we can immediately see if somethings not correct.

What were you looking for in a point of sale system – what attracted you to Vend? How has Vend made an impact on your business?

I was familiar with Vend and knew it was easy to use from using it in a previous business. When I got involved with Third Eyewear I said this business is screaming for Vend! I wanted something cloud-based and super simple. The integrations were also really important − Vend’s integrations with Shopify and Xero were what our business required and I needed the integrations between all three to be seamless.

Vend has made an impact in various areas, particularly in stock management. We’ve saved a tonne of time by setting up reorder points meaning Vend automatically generates a list of exactly what we need to reorder. Vend gives us insights into what styles are doing well and what’s not doing well. At the end of the day I can see exactly what the stores have done which is great – and when I’m travelling I can access it remotely which is great.

Vend gives us a full overview of our reporting and we can go into as much detail as we want which is a really great tool in terms of getting an overview of your business and how it’s going.

You can dig really deep into every part of your business with Vend.

What integrations are you currently using with Vend?

We’re currently using Xero and Shopify. I chose Shopify as it integrated with Vend and could tell me what styles were online, meaning I don’t have to have someone fully dedicated to the online shop and constantly monitoring stock levels.

It’s been great because it’s made our customer satisfaction a lot higher as previously we were selling items online that we didn’t have in stock and it would be disappointing for our customers. Now customer satisfaction is a lot better. Xero covers everything we need for accounting — it works so well that it sends out invoices without even touching it.


About Lucia Afanasy

Lucia joined Vend in New Zealand in 2017 before flying across the world to join the London team. She works on all things marketing across the UK, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Her passions and work experience include retail, production, and social media. When she’s not in the office, Lucia loves exploring London, planning trips, and trying to keep her plants alive.