INTERVIEW WITH ADRIAN MARWIRTZ // LESS IS MORE | MORE OR LESS
ADRIAN MARWITZ’S LEAN DISTRIBUTION STRATEGY
At only 33 years of age, Adrian Marwitz ranges among the rather young generation of eyewear designers. His eponymous eyewear label, which he founded in 2013, is known for high-end titanium frames. But recently Adrian has decided it’s time for a new direction in distribution and marketing. This move was inspired by the painful realization that the eyewear industry is undergoing fundamental structural changes. True to the motto ‘less is more’, the Munich-based brand is pursuing a radical step towards becoming a leaner and more efficient organization. It might even inspire other labels to do the same…
Hello Adrian, with ADRIAN MARWITZ you have been part of the industry for six years. Now you are pursuing an entirely new direction?
What was wrong with the way things were going?
Ever since we started, we have always seen strong growth. But with our increasing number of customers and distribution partners also came a rising level of demands. More colors, more shapes, more advertising, more new models. Everybody wanted something different. But most importantly, they wanted more and always lots and lots of new stuff. Every sales rep and distributor needed their own, entirely new set of samples. At one point, our collection consisted of nearly 300 frames. And that means 300 pairs of glasses that first need to be manufactured just to have something to show people – without having sold a single one. At 15 sets of samples you’re looking at producing 4500 pairs of glasses.
What was the problem?
For a high-end label looking to protect our brand, it was almost impossible to sell all these frames. Plus, we had to keep everything in stock to fulfill customer requests in a timely manner.
Are you not prioritizing certain products in terms of stock-keeping?
You would really have to be a genius to be able to predict which model in which colorway will sell the most.
What were the ultimate consequences of this pattern?
This way of doing business leads to large amounts of leftover stock and unsellable inventory. It leads to producing way too much product, which you end up throwing away – or letting it rot in your basement. And that hurts!
How are you going to break the cycle in the future?
First of all, we are looking to produce the minimum possible amount of excess inventory. So as a result, we are only producing based on demand. This means a bit longer wait time for our customers, but they can have a better feeling selling the product. We are currently testing the direct logistic connection between manufacturer and optician. It makes no sense for the product to first be delivered to us. Direct shipping is better and has a lower environmental impact. Plus, we are also currently working with Fraunhofer IGD on further automated processes.
So you have completely eliminated your own warehouse?
We only stock product in rare exceptions. For instance when we can be certain that a model in a specific color is going to get lots of sales.
What are the consequences for your collections?
The philosophy behind our collections remains unchanged: only three new lines per year.
Is that your version of mindfulness and sustainability?
Sustainability has become such a trendy catchphrase. The whole thing just makes sense. It’s an attempt to encourage our small optical community to change its ways. Mindfulness is the logical consequence. Independent opticians are also forced to hold their own against the increasingly strong competition from online opticians and ‘retail brands’. In my opinion, that works best by offering a counter-movement. Alerting consumers to problems while trying to act differently.
What will change in your distribution structure?
I have already parted ways with several customers and markets that didn’t share our philosophy. We are only accepting new accounts in exceptional cases while focusing on Germany, Switzerland and Taiwan. Our long-time Swiss sales rep will also cover Germany. But he will only be there two times per year. In my opinion it’s really sufficient to visit opticians once or twice annually. All my customers also confirmed this view.
So will you be using tradeshows more to connect with opticians?
No, just the opposite. We will no longer exhibit at tradeshows. The exchange with customers is going to happen directly, either on the phone or in real life.
Why are tradeshows no longer relevant to you?
Tradeshows have become a mere marketing battle. Who can afford the prettiest and most buzzing booth? Who has the best paid actors pretending to be customers? Who has the coolest outfits and can act the most arrogant? The whole thing has entirely lost its sense of humanity and the food is mostly gross anyway.
You will also no longer be running ad campaigns. Instead you are looking to focus entirely on products. That’s really against the current trend of brands looking to tell more stories around their products in order to charge their brand with an image.
That’s our story right there. We don’t need an artificial image. We have a real statement, and that is our product.
The eyewear industry is still marked by an extraordinarily large number of brands and sales outlets. Is that going to change?
Clearly. Many opticians have realized this fact and have already changed their positioning to bank more on ‘independent brands’. But most of them are always choosing the same ones, rendering the whole thing senseless. Many are also still buying brands that are available at huge chains or online retailers. In some absurd cases, they even work together with online retailers as ‘partner opticians’. All in hopes of attracting online customers into their stores. So they’re making little to no money, but somehow feel that they’re ‘digital’.
What exactly are the threats for the traditional retail system?
Most obviously digital transformation, which we should not and cannot try to defend ourselves against. We just have to be conscious of it and find a system in which we can still maintain our position in the market. New concepts such as Viu or Ace & Tate and Mr. Spex are looking to fundamentally transform the industry, and they will. These are the so-called ‘digital disruptors’ in the classic sense. Companies with lots of venture capital and marvelous growth rates. But ultimately, their success is not due to the ‘evil’ end consumer, but the inertness of the ‘old’ industry.
In how far will you be able to make a counterstatement with your new concept and strategy?
I believe that I’m the first in our industry to go down that route. It’s a pilot project, so let’s see it as a pioneering effort. We will have to see if it’s going to work out. If not, it’s not the end of the world.