Jodi Bricker: It’s an incredible brand and we love creating a buzz and energy in the world through our campaigns and product.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is about putting the customer at the centre of everything and when we show up, that gets us into hypergrowth.
We’re focused on our direct channels and owner-owned shops, we’re sharpening our focus on getting the experience and product right and having some incredible collaborations like we did last year with stars like JLo and Chrissy Teigen. In the US, we’re the top eyewear brand in our US majors like Nordstrom, we’re the best performing eyewear brand at The Iconic and the top-selling brand at Culture Kings.
It’s really fun to take a brand where you’ve got a great product at a great price and buzz and deliver it to the customer, no matter where they want to shop.
IRW: Quay experienced 30 per cent growth last year. What do you think was behind that?
JB: It’s always a combination of things. It always starts with the product and having something your customer covets that’s priced well. Our difference as a brand is we deliver fashion at an affordable price and it’s not common in this industry – it’s very overpriced, boring and intimidating.
We’re fun, fashionable and affordable and I think the product that we deliver is great, but it’s also about the way we deliver it – our customer gets it, she understands and she’s in it with us.
IRW: What are some of the challenges at the moment for the business?
JB: When you’re growing at this rate, it can be really intoxicating to want to grasp everything all at once. We’re cognisant of where our brand comes from, its core values, what matters to the customer and how we want to grow but still stay small and personal for our customer.
IRW: How do you select which personalities to collaborate with?
JB: We’re always on the hunt for the next person we want to collaborate with. When we’re looking at partners, it’s important to us that we’re aligning with people who share the passion and sense of confidence that’s so integral to our identity, and that we’re syncing up with people who are multi-dimensional, share our brand values and are genuine fans of our product. Culturally, our fingers are always on the pulse and we listen to our community on social media, so we know what they’re talking about and what’s important to them.
[Celebrity] Chrissy Teigen was a big part of that last year, and we just announced her as the face of our second QUAYXCHRISSY campaign, which is available online now. The latest drop is a full sunnies and blue light collection, including really fashionable but wearable shields, as well as the return of some of our cult favourite styles that we elevated in dreamy pastel colour combos and romantic detailing.
IRW: What are some of the plans for the business in 2020?
JB: We’ll continue to focus on omnichannel and delivering in all channels. It starts with product; we’ve got lots of innovation coming up. We put blue light filtering glasses on the map last year and we’ll continue to innovate in that. Not many young people understand that when you’re reading and looking at your screen, they’re easier on your eyes. It’s not for old people, it’s for people who need a boost. We’re going further with our light-blocking glasses, which is super- important in Australia, as well as new product for customers and personas.
We’re continuing to open stores in the US and double our footprint and we’ve got some new partners across the globe in Europe, we’re now offered in Krys Optical, a chain across France. We’re increasing our presence in boutiques and New Zealand, and we’re expanding further into Asia this year.
IRW: At the moment, Quay is mostly offered online in Australia, but do you see physical stores opening in the future?
JB: We’re always exploring the market and that was a big reason I came out to Australia recently – not only to understand where the brand was born, but also the landscape. The country’s so different – where people live, where stores are located – particularly in Melbourne and Sydney. What I loved about [Australia] is it’s an interesting combination of city, beach, food and fashion. We’re exploring across both Sydney and Melbourne – where would be the best place if we launched our store?
IRW: Tell me about the education campaign you ran with Chrissy. What was that about?
JB: Initially the plan was to educate people on how to pronounce ‘quay’ because no one was saying it properly, apart from people in Australia. People have been pronouncing it ‘kway’. So we wanted to have fun with it, and who better to have fun than Chrissy?
A bit of what’s happening culturally is around education, particularly in the US in terms of affordability. You’re so lucky it’s built into [Australian] society, but it’s a huge topic in the US for the demographic of our customer age group. So we decided to go further with education and offer up 10 scholarships and host a contest on sharing self-expression and what it means for you. We picked the winners from 1000 entries. It was eye-opening to see how creative this generation is, and so it was a real privilege to give 10 $10,000 scholarships to the next generation.
IRW: Do you see Quay launching other community initiatives in the future?
JB: Absolutely. It’s really important for the team here that the brand is more than just sunglasses. We think it’s table space for brands to do good in the world, so we’ll continue to explore what’s important to the customer and the team at Quay. There’s much more to come on that front.
IRW: How would you describe the eyewear industry right now?
JB: At the moment, it’s completely monopolised. It’s a really fascinating industry where there are a few people who own all the market share and set the price and experience.
But customers are telling us that they don’t feel like they have a ton of choice and there’s not a lot of joy. So this is where it’s exciting for me to be part of Quay, knowing our company values are anchored around self-expression. We believe it should be fun, inclusive and without compromising style. We’re delivering on that every day and we want to keep disrupting the category in that way.
I think people are so used to [eyewear] being just one way, it really is about them needing to understand that you can use eyewear as an accessory and mix it up, like a pair of shoes or belt – it’s a great way to make something functional but also fashionable, so there’s a certain amount of educating the customer. First is knowing what their style is and having fun expressing it. We’re at a price point where you can buy more than one pair and wear them in different ways.
Then no-one understands what their face shape is and what looks good, so we try to help people identify their face shape and size so that they’re bringing the best out of their features. That’s the experience in our shops and online – it’s about educating people on how to identify what looks best on them.
IRW: Tell me about the virtual try-on feature on your site.
JB: When you go onto Quay.com, you take a picture of yourself and it identifies your shape and size and puts the glasses on your face as you’re shopping through the site. So instead of looking at a model, you become the model, you can see your proportions, how it looks on you and with your hair colour.
IRW: Given Quay drops so many different lines quite frequently, would you consider the brand to be fast fashion?
JB: I wouldn’t because these are not throwaway items. These are items many people use every single day and it has true functionality – every pair protects your eyes and sight, whether they’re blue light or sunnies. There is a real need for them, but the bonus is that you can add fashion and self-expression into the mix. We put quality into our product because we want you to wear them over the course of the lifetime of the product, so we like to think that we have everyday styles, then we have special styles you wear for outdoor sports or a festival. Fast fashion is about throwaway products and it’s not how we built our product line or brand.
IRW: Quay is a pretty progressive company. Where does that work culture come from?
JB: Coming from Australia, it’s part of the DNA that we want to preserve. We have a young customer and they’re still figuring out who they are and expressing all sides of themselves, so we are always being challenged by our customers to stay ahead and move with them.
So being a mum of teenagers, we take pride that our customer is pushing the boundaries so we have to continue to push them. It’s in our DNA. If someone else has done it before, we want to one up ourselves, we want to do something with a twist or do it in a bigger, bolder way. That’s part of our culture and that comes across as progressive.
We really appreciate that all of our customers are honest with us and they have a medium to do that. We’re strong on social media, we’re one of the top eyewear brands there. We’re in a relationship with the customer and most businesses don’t think about it that way – they think about being in service, but we’re in an ongoing relationship with them, which makes us think about what we’re doing and how to change it up going forward.
We think our customer is progressive and we’re following them. The biggest thing that we do is try to make sure that first and foremost we understand who our customers are and make sure that our decisions reflect that, whether it’s who we collaborate with as a celebrity or social media influencer in addition to who we hire here.
One of my favourite things about Quay is that the majority of our customers today are women and the majority of our employees are also women and as is the CEO. It was thoughtful that we had a female CEO to reflect the customers. We don’t only hire for that, but we think that it’s important we understand and reflect who our customer is.
IRW: One of the things I hear about a lot in the sector is that there’s a real need for greater retail leadership and training for the next generation in our industry. What are your thoughts on that?
JB: It is such a dynamic industry so there is a constant need for current talent to evolve and grow and also for new talent and perspectives to be added and included. I was lucky I had exposure across multiple business phases and channels including retail, wholesale and online. I found tremendous value in combining the scrappy and chaotic nature of startups with the management skills and strategic acumen required to run a multibillion-dollar business. I was encouraged by my mentors to keep moving into new roles.
As leaders in the industry, we owe it to the next generation to develop them along the spectrum of these experiences and encourage them to seek out those opportunities if we can’t provide it within our own organisations. I have a dream to create a formalised mentorship and apprenticeship network across the retail industry where we share talent in order to solve some of our sector’s biggest issues and opportunities.
IRW: You’ve worked with some great companies in the past. Can you tell me about what you learned from them?
JB: I feel grateful, because I feel like I got a PhD from some of the greatest retailers in the industry. At Levi’s and Gap Inc, I was lucky to work across every stage of the growth, whether it was starting the Old Navy business with five people in a conference room or launching the internet business as online was emerging. I also learned how to manage iconic American brands, starting and scaling them, turning them around and launching new brand extensions. I honestly have seen it all before, so it’s fun for me to apply that complete experience here at Quay and take this brand to a billion and beyond.