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The Old Glasses Shop





The Old Glasses Shop


The Old Glasses Shop


Here, Digger talks to Graham at The Old Glasses Shop about Vintage and Retro glasses. These days Vintage and Retro glasses are more popular than ever, mainly due to the need for the styles that the average high street opticians and retailer simply don't stock. If you want to make a vintage fashion statement with your eyewear or are searching for a replacement to those frames you knew and loved, then The Old Glasses Shop is the place to visit.

Serving customers worldwide with authentic original Vintage and Retro glasses - these are not secondhand, they are original and unused.


The Old Glasses Shop




Digger: Hello Graham.

Graham: Hello David.

Digger:  Can you please tell us about your background?

Graham: I’m actually a lifelong sales and marketing person. Until 2004, I was the UK head of division for a multinational. And really the online business came about as a result of a cliché. I was tired of sitting in things that were moving - I was always in trains, planes and cars...never at home, and I missed my son growing up. I simply resigned and started experimenting with various internet based projects. I was fortunate enough to have a chance meeting with a gentleman in his seventies who was extremely fit and who ran an opticians group in the north. He had done since the 1940s. He was looking for something to do with a rather substantial stock of old frames that he’d built up over the years.

Digger: Had you been involved in ‘opticals’ before?

Graham: Not at all.

Digger: So when you saw this stuff, what were your thoughts?

Graham: It was one of these things where you say “I’ll give it a try.”

Digger: No previous experience necessary.

Graham: And in fact the old gentleman said “I’m not going to tell you anything about the industry, because I’m going to leave you to find out for yourself.”

Digger: The school of hard knocks. So you inherited all this stock…

Graham: Initially we were sort of drip-fed.

Digger: Did you inherit his clients?

Graham: No, nothing. They were mainly supplying opticians, but very often the stock was coming from the opticians rather than the other way around. So that’s how it came about.

Digger: Where are you getting these items from, because obviously there’s a turnaround of these items. Is it getting more difficult as people become more savvy about them?

Graham: No, the thing is that high street opticians have a limited space.

Digger: And a limited selection as well.

Graham: Yes, and therefore they only want to stock the ones they are going to sell the most of. We had a substantial amount of stock anyway – around 20,000, and indeed, six years on we still have some of that stock going through the system. But equally we have people ring up - it happened very recently, and say “We’ve got 7,000 pairs of old frames in storage, would you be interested in them?”

Digger: And this is in the UK?

Graham: Yes, the last lot came from a warehouse in London where they’d been since 1988.

Digger: Do you drive down there and check them out?

Graham: No, it’s remarkable, they send them up and we sort out what we want and then send back the rubbish.

Digger: Sounds like a nice business model.

Graham: I think in most cases, David, they’re just pleased to find somebody who wants them.

Digger: You don’t have to take everything and then can cherry pick what you can use.

Graham: There’s a fine line between vintage, retro and rubbish and there is, unfortunately, some rubbish – we got sent 7,000 and we kept 1,300.

Digger: What sort of feedback are you getting from clients?

Graham: Fantastic. We are getting an average of three calls or emails a week from people who say they are so pleased to have found them because they’ve been looking for their favourite style or to replace something they lost. And people are extremely positive - I’ve had an email today from Canada. I’ve had them from America and Australia from people who lost or had worn out frames that were dear to them and had them for a very long time and asking if we had them. And it’s remarkable how often we do have them.

Digger: Does that mean, therefore, that they’re not so available in those countries or is it because of your prominence on the web?

Graham: I think the latter but then I consider myself global because half of what we sell goes overseas.



The Old Glasses Shop



Digger: I always wonder that about The Internet because obviously it’s global by definition. But I wonder if people do discriminate and try to go to a local site if they can first and then look overseas.

Graham: Certainly we have a lot of business with Australia.

Digger: I suppose in that case it might be the ‘Mother country’ connection and also maybe lots of people living there would have originally obtained their glasses over here.

Graham: Possibly yes.

Digger: Retro and vintage so enduringly popular and they seem to be getting bigger all of the time. Why do you think that is?

Graham: I think we all know that fashion goes in circles and I do think that the majority rather than the minority of people actually have a style that suits them. And they want to stay with it, whether 100% or to a certain extent. If you find the style of glasses, like thick acrylic black frames, are what you’re used to and what you look good in, if round glasses became the fashion you wouldn’t change to round glasses.

Digger: I suppose contact lenses didn’t have much of an impact on you but is laser having much of an impact?

Graham: I’m not aware and again I think the great advantage with vintage and retro is that you change your image and mood in a second.

Digger: Yes, I imagine that some people even have plain glass in their frames?

Graham: We do sell them and we charge £15 to fit non-optical, non-prescription lenses into them.

Digger: Does that happen very often?

Graham: Yes.

Digger: People going for a look.

Graham: But you can change your look completely with a pair of glasses. We’ve actually given up ‘sexing’ glasses because we never fail to be amazed by what men buy and what women buy.

Digger: I suppose these days anything goes. So what are the best aspects of what you’re doing?

Graham: I think there’s two answers to that. One is from a satisfaction angle – we are really making people happy and relieved because they have found the style of frames that they want. It’s not a sales pitch – we really do get calls from people saying how pleased they are to have found us. From a commercial aspect it’s great because it’s a niche market.

Digger: What would they have done before The Internet? Struggled.

Graham: Yes. Although I suppose before The Internet the ranges of glasses carried were less focused (to use a pun.)

Digger: What are the unique selling points of The Old Glasses Shop when compared to your competition?

Graham: First of all I’m not actually sure we’ve got any competitors in the sense that we don’t have copies made of old ones i.e: Retro. All of our glasses, or 99% of them, are genuine vintage but they’re brand new. And people tend to associate vintage with used or what have you but these frames have just been in storage for a very, very long time and have been forgotten about.

Digger: What’s the oldest batch that you’ve had?

Graham: We found a ticket on them saying 14/6d.

Digger: That would be fourteen shillings and six pence in old money  which means they were pre-decimal in 1971.

Graham: In fact I’ve got some in front of me and they’re made of tortoiseshell. I’d say they were probably – they’re not glasses in the sense that you and I would recognise them. You know opera glasses?...

Digger: Yes.

Graham: If you can imagine those without the binocular bit?

Digger: Like pince-nez?

Graham: Yes like those but they’ve got handles. And these say ’Guaranteed British Made OTC' whatever that means. These are probably the thirties.

Digger: What are your retro passions? If you came into this by accident I wonder do you have any?

Graham: I’m just an old fart and I’m really not interested in what the marketing people are trying to persuade us to wear or look like.

Digger: But is there any retro music style that you like, for example?

Graham: I’m definitely a seventies music fan. I loved the glam rock. I still play it. My youngest daughter is sixteen and I like Elbow and Kings of Leon and what have you.

Digger: We’re going to see Elbow in March as a Christmas present!

Graham: Absolutely fantastic.

Digger: A great band, aren’t they?

Graham: Superb.

Digger: The Seldom Seen Kid is a classic album. I bought that one first and then went back and bought their earlier albums and you could see how they evolved and developed.

Graham: Do you know? You’ve just literally repeated a comment I made on the very same subject to my daughter. You can actually see how they’re matured into their full potential. If you ever go onto Youtube and see them performing with the BBC Orchestra it’s just outstanding.

Digger: We interviewed Mike Dixon who was the MD for that, so I’m going to put your ad on that interview page as well as the interview we’re doing with Maggie Stredder of The Ladybirds who was known as The Girl With The Glasses in the fifties and sixties.

Graham: Thanks. I’m definitely an Elbow fan. It’s a classic album in every sense of the word.



The Old Glasses Shop



Digger: It is a wonderful album.

Graham: What’s your favourite track?

Digger: I don’t know. I don’t think I have a favourite, I just like the whole album to be honest. I don’t know when the next one’s due, do you?

Graham: I don’t. I’m one of these people who someone will tell me “Do you know the Elbow album’s been out for six months” and I say “No.” I’m so busy David that the world tends to pass me by quite frankly. A terrible situation, but true.

Digger: It’s not uncommon in small businesses. People are being torn in every which way and we must be the hardest workers in Europe.

Graham: It’s madness, it is but I would obviously like to get to the stage with The Old Glasses Shop at some point where it’s a saleable enterprise. But I don’t want to do it at the moment because, frankly, it’s a good business.

Digger: What sorts of labels and brands are you stocking there at the Old Glasses Shop?

Graham: The vast majority of our frames are original designer brands - Dolce and Gabbana, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, Jean Paul Gaultier, Versace etc etc. A new development is that we have started doing prescriptions so that our customers receive the completed glasses if they prefer.

Digger: What other developments are there Graham?

Graham: You’ll be amazed what I’m into. I’ve done e-commerce consultancy for Sage for a few months, I’ve just taken on a new client, who’s basically into therapy practice. And I have garden ornaments, both reclaimed and new.

Digger: Do you have problems knowing what hat you’re wearing sometimes?

Graham: I am actually just reorganising the staff to relieve some of the pressure on that side. Certainly you can put your mortgage on the fact that our best selling line will always be round glasses .

Digger: Yes, John Lennon ones?

Graham: That style, yes. And out of that lot of 1,300 that I picked the other week there were probably around 150 pairs there of round frames that still need to be photographed. Definitely the round frames in the UK.

Digger: Michael Caines? Audrey Hepburns?

Graham: No, we’ve got acrylics and they are becoming a more popular part of the business. But if I had to pick one style and only had one style to do it would definitely be round. And children’s round as well - we have authentic vintage children’s round frames as well. They also sell very well. I’ve actually got a pair of Kookai ones in front of me and they’re sort of twenty years old – it’s like half a pair of glasses that rests on the end of your nose. I wish we could get more of those. They are always in demand and I struggle to get hold of those.


The Old Glasses Shop




Digger: Do you know the demographic of your clients?

Graham: Right across the board. Young people are very much into vintage and we have an Old Glasses Twitter account with 4,600 followers.

Digger: That is good.

Graham: And we only started six months ago. We just pump out on there, and on our mailing list, the glasses that we add. And those followers are all over the world. Young people looking to be trendy and older people looking to get hold of ones they’ve always worn.

Digger: Well, thanks Graham for letting us know all about The Old Glasses Shop and best of luck with the future as well. 

Graham: Thanks David. 




Website The Old Glasses Shop
  Vintage, retro and Round Classic Spectacle Frames for those who don't want to follow the flock

The Old Glasses Shop

We sell vintage, retro and round style designer glasses. Our old fashioned spectacle frames offer huge money saving discounts on Designer vintage Glasses and designer retro spectacle frames direct from all of the leading Designers.

Tel: 01434 270684







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