Why This Danish Brand Refuses to Sell its Eyewear Online


This company has a radical vision.

LINDBERG recently released its Sirius Titanium collection. With a patent-pending interchangeable lens and inner-rim system, this design takes eyewear to the next level by allowing users to easily change their lenses to adjust to any situation.

It’s hard to imagine a business without a website these days. And with online shopping retail sales predicted to grow steadily to US$370 billion in 2017 in the US alone and €191 billion by the same time in Europe, you’d be daft to ignore that revenue stream, right? Well, cutting-edge Danish eyewear brand LINDBERG isn’t really interested.

Sure, they have a slick website, but you can’t buy anything through it and perhaps that adds to the allure. These are no ordinary eyewear, so it stands to reason they can’t be acquired through ordinary means.

When asked why they’ve chosen not to sell their eyewear online, LINDBERG CEO Henrik Lindberg says simply, “Because our eyewear demand a different service level. Our eyewear are custom-made and fitted to the individual and no computer program or website can replace the service and fitting you get when measured up by an optician.

“Each nose is different and many factors, like choosing the right lenses and size by optimal face-to-face fitting, tak[ing] in weather conditions, humidity level… again, no computer program can do that.”

He concedes their new sunglasses range could potentially be sold online, as they’re a bit easier to fit than LINDBERG’s prescription eyewear, “but we choose not to – again, we custom-make each frame and assure perfect fitting by an optician”.

When he says that, one can’t help but think our obsession with the instant gratification that online shopping provides all feels a little like Veruca Salt from the much-loved story, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (“But I want it now, Daddy!”). Yes, there’s the matter of convenience but some things are worth the effort and time.

With its measured, hands-on approach, you might think the business would be threatened by online optical retailers, like Clearly Contacts and Sneaking Duck offering quick alternatives, but the truth is they’re barely a blip on LINDBERG’s radar.

“We don’t see it as a problem,” says Henrik. “[There’s] no effect to our business model or bottom line.”

When it comes down to it, though they’re all in the optical business, it’s clear they’re not selling the same product. “Many brands sell online as they don’t sell bespoke eyewear,” explains Henrik. “We’re known for excellent quality, tailor-made comfort, lightness, flexibility and adjustability. It means we’re involved from beginning to end.

“Compared to competitors we’ve cut out the distributor, which allows us an unusually fast turnaround time, consider[ing] it’s a tailor-made product. LINDBERG operates with a game-changer modular design system that means wearers get the eyewear their personal fashion mojo dictates – not what happens to be available in the optician’s displays on any given day.”

And, he adds, “There will always be customers seeking no compromise.”

It’s as simple as that; people looking for eyewear online will find them. But people looking for a bespoke, entirely individual expression will find them in a former lathe factory on a quiet, small-town residential road in Denmark, chosen for its “very home” feeling and location, with employees often biking to work.

“Because the LINDBERG manufacturing and growth model does not involve mass production of frames in high-volume series, the company is able to keep all key activities in-house and maintain meticulous, vigilant control over logistics, quality and business practices. This is also possible due to the strong knowledge and loyalty of our employees,” shares Henrik.

Though the eyewear is assembled in Denmark, fittings are done at select opticians around the world. And having been in the industry since before man walked on the moon, they rarely seek out retailers, with opticians coming to LINDBERG. “We’ve always tried to work with the best as our eyewear demand specialists’ expertise. At the same [time], we ensure our clients get the ultimate service and turnaround time. Today it’s hard getting anything tailor-made that is ‘payable’ but also has a normal delivery time. A suit, for example, with some of the high-end brands easily takes three to five months before delivery. We aim at delivering our bespoke eyewear within regular time of ordering and fitting prescription lenses.”

Though it requires a little more action than simply clicking ‘add to cart’, the LINDBERG process is rather simple. Opticians display a full range of each model and help customers choose from a variety of frame sizes, colours, finishes, materials and different temples and temple tips. Once hand-made in Denmark, the finished frame is air-couriered to the optician where the customer’s name is engraved.

And in a world where companies are told they need to constantly reinvent themselves to stay relevant, Henrik and his team at LINDBERG have, again, ignored the memo. Instead they stay competitive based on an enduring principle: they refuse to deliver a “compromised” product.

Having been granted an exclusive Danish royal warrant (“By Appointment to The Royal Danish Court”) and with their eyewear worn by celebrities like Brad Pitt, Kate Bosworth and Helena Christensen, it’s clear they have found the right approach in their business. And if it ain’t broke, why fix it? They employ the same business model as they did when they first started making their own eyewear in the early ’80s, but that’s not to say they’re luddites.

“Every time new technology or machines are available in the industry we invest in the best and custom-make it to our frame production. Our engineers build them to our needs. We still use some of our original tools that work just as well today solving the same needs as back when we started the business.”

Having trained as an architect before co-founding the business with his father Poul-Jørn Lindberg, Henrik admits this has “probably” rubbed off on his way of considering eyewear and the processes and details involved all the way from workshop to end user.

“I made a clear, strategic decision that for LINDBERG getting bigger is not an objective in itself,” says Henrik. “I stay accessible to all employees at all times. As I like to say: I’m the helicopter and a pain in the ass. I like to be part of the shortest decision process and I am always available and anybody can ask me anything.”

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