DL Mugshot new01Gun Trade News speaks to Denzil Lee, the man behind Sunglasses For Sport, about its ‘Evolution’ range of eyewear and what the advantages of having your own brand are

Sunglasses For Sport, formerly a retailer, has launched into trade sales with its Evolution range of eye protection, made specifically for shooters. Denzil Lee, the man behind Sunglasses for Sport, clearly knows he can handle it: “I have had a long career in sales and marketing, starting in 1978 working for some large companies and holding senior marketing roles. In August 2000 I decided to start my own marketing agency – Next Step Marketing Ltd (NSM) – which I still run today. From 2002 for about five years NSM handled the marketing for Sundog Eyewear in the UK and that’s what got me into the sunglasses and eyewear business – it gave me the idea to start Sunglasses For Sport Ltd in March 2007.”

Coming from a shooting family, Denzil started shooting at the age of 12: “We lived in Norfolk for many years and my father Dennis was a contemporary of Wally Sykes, Paddy Howe, Doddy Dodds and Mike Reynolds. He’s 83 now and still shooting! Needless to say that, Sunglasses For Sport has sunglasses and eyewear for all sports, I have put a disproportionate amount of resources into developing the shooting side of business. From the outset I wanted to also have my own brand of sunglasses – the Evolution range – and although we now sell 18 different brands including some big names like Oakley, our biggest volume of sales is actually Evolution. I am still an active clay shooter and chairman of the Phoenix Shooting Club – a long-established clay club in north Hampshire.”

So what really drives the business? Denzil says: “We sell a huge range of sports eyewear – over 750 models – catering for all types of sports. Most of our sales are online, via the website. The shooting range is the largest part of our revenue and we now have the biggest selection of shooting eyewear in the UK – an unrivalled choice of brands and models including Pilla – we’re an authorised full line Pilla dealer. It is the Evolution range – manufactured especially for us – that we wholesale to the gun trade.”

Having a product line made to your specification, says Denzil, opens up a whole new world of possibilities. “It has taken us some time to hit upon the right shooting eyewear formula – Evolution Chameleon is our third shooting eyewear product since we started the business in 2007 – but this time we’ve got it right! It has all the features that shooters look for but at really sensible prices. Stockist margins are very attractive at over 50 per cent gross margin.”

DSC_860401 Denzil’s business ethos is very much customer-led and the business strives to provide exceptional service to members of the public and to Evolution stockists: “If something goes wrong for whatever reason – a frame failure for instance – we will do whatever it takes to put things right, even if it’s well outside the warranty period. The overall business philosophy is to offer high-quality, competitively priced eyewear backed up by first-class service.”

Trading in general has been a difficult business for a lot of companies since 2008 but Sunglasses for Sport has developed from a standing start into a strong business with high potential for future growth. Given the interview-standard question about his children and grandchildren to get involved with the business, Denzil says: “I would, and I have already dropped heavy hints to my son and daughter, but it’s all fallen on deaf ears! They have their own career plans in mind – and it doesn’t involve sunglasses.”

And if he won the lottery, would he still turn up to work tomorrow? A resounding yes: “I genuinely get a buzz from running the business, and with lottery money behind it, the sky really would be the limit.”

With a growing list of stockists, you might think that it was hard to balance the trade side of the business with selling direct. Denzil explains his strategy for keeping everybody happy: “I know it’s a bit contentious but it’s a fact of modern commercial life that lots of brand owners sell direct to consumers and to the trade. Oakley does it and so does Pilla. The key thing is that not everyone wants to buy online – many prefer to pick up and try on first-hand in the shop or at the shooting ground. To make it work and not upset your retailers, you must maintain full RRPs and that’s what we do – we do not undersell our stockists. We sell Chameleons at the full RRP and don’t discount the prices. That means our stockists can sell at the same price as us and still make over 50 per cent GM. Our goal is to have lots more stockists – gun shops, shooting schools and shooting grounds – not just selling Evolution Chameleon but also some of our other Evolution interchangeable eyewear sets like Fusion and Wing.”

Evolution Chameleon  Orange02Taking the Evolution range to the trade, what makes stocking the Evolution range such a good idea? Denzil doesn’t hesitate: “I really do think that value for money-wise the Chameleon range is hard to beat. The eight colour options cater for all clay colours, light and background conditions. Lenses are Class 1 optical quality and comply with EN166 for impact resistance. The one-piece lens gives totally unobscured vision and they are really light and comfortable for all day wear. And at £20 they are an impulse buy. We also have a four-lens interchangeable set at just £44.95 – fantastic value. We supply a free eight-piece counter top stand with the initial order and delivery is free on all orders over £50 (ex vat).”

Not only that, but the Evolution brand is manufactured exactly to specifications tried and tested by Sunglasses for Sport – meaning that the company controls every aspect of the glasses from design to manufacture to distribution. Denzil confirms: “The great thing is that we deal directly with factory – they are made in Taiwan. Taiwan is centre of excellence for sunglass manufacturing – the government there has poured huge sums into supporting this industry and it’s paid off. The quality control is exceptional – there is no such thing as a ‘bad batch’, at least not in our experience. And as we’re dealing directly with the factory there are no ‘middlemen’, hence our very competitive trade prices. Specification-wise, for shooting we test them to ensure they comply with EN166 for impact resistance and every single model we sell regardless of lens colour is UV400 rated, providing the maximum protection from UVR.”

For anyone interested in becoming a stockist for the Evolution range of eye protection, contact Sunglasses for Sport Ltd at info@sunglassesforsport.com


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