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More than 100-years-old, Moscot’s Lower East Side store is decidedly a New York institution. And worldwide, the eyewear company has 15 retail locations. But that’s not to suggest that physical retail is the company’s sole focus.
“We started our transition [to go] fully into digital several years ago,” Zack Moscot, a fifth-generation Moscot and the company’s chief design officer, said on the latest Glossy Podcast. “So when the pandemic hit, we were able to pivot and really step on the gas when we needed to.”
Along with the company’s direct-to-consumer sales channels, it has wholesale distribution in Europe, retail partners in Asia and “selective distribution” through retailers in the U.S. “We partner with those that help tell our story, and understand who and what we are, and don’t view us as just another eyewear brand,” said Dr. Harvey Moscot, a fourth-generation Moscot (Zack’s father) and the company’s CEO.
The company’s history is a key differentiator, said Zack Moscot. “Very few businesses, especially in America, make it to the fifth generation and keep it in the family,” he said.
And the company is just as selective about where it sets up its own shops.
“We get offered opportunities in malls. We just never felt like we could really portray ourselves in a mall environment,” said Dr. Harvey Moscot. “Where we have the opportunity to select a location that feels right for the brand, that reminds us of the Lower East Side in New York City — which happened in London, which happened in Amsterdam — those are the areas that we seek. It’s those kinds of creative epicenters.”
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Keys to longevity
Zack Moscot: “We tell stories very well, because it’s all real. So reinterpreting or just expressing who we are in new and fun ways through video content and through digital content is something that we’ve been successful with. Our fans enjoy watching it and engaging with us. From a product perspective, we launch seasonal collections. So we are very much running on a fashion calendar, in terms of having newness in fall and spring. And on top of that, we have a lot of friends of the brand, such as Todd [Snyder] and other designers that have been customers of ours, and other celebrities and artists that have always just been customers of ours or patients of Harvey’s. And a lot of times, [collaborations] are just about meshing our culture and our DNA with who frequents our shop experience and getting to know them.”
Health care x fashion
Dr. Harvey Moscot: “That’s always been an intrigue for me — the evolution of eyewear to become a fashion accessory. It took way too long. [Glasses] were always a health-care device. And I come from a health-care background, as an optometrist performing eye exams for 25-plus years. so I get that side. But eyeglasses are the first thing you see on someone’s face. So they’re not only providing vision, but they’re also making a statement about your tastes and your fashion preferences. And you always need to see clearly, and you always need eye care, so falling into that zone of health care and fashion was helpful during the pandemic. You need to continue to see well, especially more so [as you] spend more time on computer screens and personal devices, so that’s definitely been something that’s helped [business].”
Zack Moscot: ”We were prepared. We started our transition [to go] fully into digital several years ago. So when the pandemic hit, we were able to kind of pivot and really step on the gas when we needed to. And that is something we did. While we’re not a very large company, relatively speaking — we’re a fairly small family business — we are global, right? So we had some tactical ways of shipping worldwide, speaking to all of our customers internationally through different channels and then, on top of that, sprinkling on some great technology such as virtual try-on. And that has been a great tool for us online, just to help people try-on frames while they’re at home. Virtual try-on has been around for quite a bit. But we’re so focused on a proper fit that we offer multiple sizes in a pair of frames; we don’t believe one frame fits all, which really speaks to our heritage and our craft. So our virtual try-on is true to scale. Someone can see how a frame fits in different sizes. And that’s been key for conversion for us online, as well.
The void of the in-store experience
Dr. Harvey Moscot: “Moscot Music [events] started a very long time ago, on a rainy day with no customers. I was playing my guitar and my friend started singing. And I thought it was a great way to bring in music, which has been near and dear to my heart — growing up and playing guitar. We used to have great events in our shops and showcase up-and-coming musicians. There were limited amounts of venues 15 years ago in the Lower East Side when we started it. And it was a great way to bring new people to the brand. And it was authentic. It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, let’s bring music into the brand.’ Zack’s a guitar player and songwriter. I’m a player. We have a lot of staff, family members that are great musicians. We hire people — if someone’s a musician, the interview usually goes pretty well. So it’s just a funny thing that’s part of our creative backgrounds. And we miss it.”