(This story was updated on 4/13/2023.)
3D-printed customized snow goggles. Helmets safe for climbing as well as skiing. Eliminating plastic packaging from products.
Those are just a few of the trends Smith Optics has identified for future business initiatives.
The company has been a top performer for its parent company Safilo Group for the past few years.
In 2021, Smith became the largest owned brand in Safilo’s portfolio after posting record revenue results, according to Safilo financial filings.
Italy-based Safilo is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of eyeglasses and sunglasses.
In the first half of 2022, Safilo described Smith’s performance in North America as “outstanding,” most notably in Smith’s key categories of goggles and helmets. Safilo reports full year results later this week.
Taryn Ryan, Smith’s global head of marketing, took the role at Smith in January 2022 after about five years with eyewear brand Oakley.
Ryan recently sat down with The Daily to identify several key areas that the Portland, Oregon-based Smith is focused on in the near future.
The first is customization, specifically its Imprint 3D Goggles, where a customer can scan their face with a smartphone and the goggles are 3D printed to fit.
“We’re solving a problem because some people feel that they could have a more optimized fit,” Ryan said. “Maybe their nose doesn’t fit perfectly in the nose bridge, or there’s some aspect where they feel like it could fit better.”
The second: The pandemic spurred a lot of people to seek out the backcountry.
To cater to that, Smith designed a helmet, called The Summit, that’s certified to use for climbing, but also offers the same protection as a downhill ski or snowboard lid.
The third is alpine eyewear that offers the coverage of a snow goggle but with the aesthetic of sunglasses.
“It shows that people are spending a lot more time, all day, from morning to night on the mountain, and using that product to tour up before they come down wearing a goggle.”
Professional skier Cody Townsend helped design both the helmet and the eyewear.
Ryan said Smith chose to work with an athlete such as Townsend because he shares the company’s values of community.
“A lot of people that we work with demonstrate that and also are trying to help more people access the outdoors as well,” she added.
One other initiative that’s relatively new to Smith is offering prescription eyewear direct to consumers.
A customer can send Smith their prescription and the company will customize them in-house at its lab in Utah.
“We want to make it accessible and easy for people to buy prescription eyewear that will help them have a better time outdoors,” Ryan said. “So that’s a really exciting space for us.”
And lastly, the company is trying to remove all of the plastic packaging from its products.
For example, no more plastic windows on the goggle boxes.
Also, the Smith Mag goggles come with a sock made out of post-consumer recycled plastic.
Ryan said Smith has weathered the inventory issues that the industry has been facing since the second half of last year.
“We’re in a good position,” Ryan added. “We haven’t had to cancel any new projects that we’re bringing in. We’re ready to support our accounts with new inventory.”
Smith is coming off a three-year growth streak and planning to keep that going.
“We’ve got new products coming,” Ryan said.
“I know some other brands might have had to cancel some of their new products. And that’s not nice for anybody. That doesn’t make me happy, because it’s not good for the industry overall.”
The Local Level
Ryan also emphasized the importance of having boots on the ground in local markets as a global brand.
For example, Smith Optics recently ran a campaign in the U.S. for its winter season with the tagline We Run Cold, highlighting how its customers love snow and mountain activities.
Take that campaign to France, though, and run it through a translator and it comes out reading We Are Cold, which doesn’t quite evoke the same meaning.
“You might be getting some raised eyebrows from your French consumer,” said Ryan.
To combat that lost-in-translation problem, the company leans on local marketers who know how to amplify the brand in that territory.
“People who are local, endemic, who speak the language and understand what trends might be happening in the community and what motivations the specific markets have,” Ryan said.
She emphasized the importance of creating campaigns that will translate not only in the United States, but also in other markets.
“It’s important when you’re leading a global brand to always be listening to what’s happening on the ground, and not only devise your strategy from a top-down point of view, but to be using a lot of insights that come from those markets in devising the strategy,” Ryan added.
Bart Schaneman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.