Thursday, January 18, 2007

Made in China

Ok, so now the secret can be let out of the bag. We had some Cats made with the Made in China logo on them rather than the made in Italy logo. We were testing lenses and a new print app. But, the factory is the same one that made them before and to a great extent I was testing the impact of the made in Chine logo on percieved quality.

What I found interesting is the reaction to made in China. The feedback I got was positive for the most part and we asked for suggestions for improvement. But I was surprised how many times the feedback was prefaced a variation of "the stuff you got from China" or "unlike the Italian product"... even on this blog there are plenty of snarky "what's that made in china crap" cracks. I assume most are just friendly ribbing. But it does represent a real bias against Chinese factories.

The bottom line is just by putting "made in China" on the Cat, the product tester and customers percieved a drop in quality. Maybe more specifically, they were more critical of some aspects of the eyewear that they weren't when the logo said "made in Italy". In product testing that actually worked out well, because they made suggestions for improvements I suspect they would not have made if the frames said made in Italy. I think that is correctly labelled an irony.

The challenge for us is to make a quality piece of eyewear for that $59.99 pricepoint that is popular right now. Many of the competing brands at that level skimp on stuff the average consumer wouldn't know to check: lenses quality, optical clarity and frame quality. Instead they load up on great sounding features the consumer can readily see. On the long run, that hurts them because few people will buy a second pair. But in the short run it sells glasses.

I won't compromise lens quality, clarity or frame quality. Which puts us at a POP disadvantage since that means we have to offer fewer easily identifiable features. Shipping the product to Italy to have it printed as made in Italy costs a lot of money per pair. I had hoped that by skipping that step, we could reinvest in some improved features that have a real practical impact on the functionality of the eyewear and athlete's experience. But what I learned is that the Made in Italy stamp adds percieved value to the eyewear greater than any of the other features I was hoping to add.

More afterthoughts-
Made in China clearly evokes some negative expectations. But my experience is that the factory is the key, not the country. The reality is Made in XXX is pretty meaningless: most of the Made in Italy products you buy are actually made in Brazil or China. Hell, most made in Taiwan stuff is made in China now (and no they aren't the same). And even at a given factory, it depends on the customers instructions. Yes, the Rite-Aid Special is a cheap pair of glasses. Low quality design, lenses, frame material, etc. But that's because the customer (Rite-Aid) wants to sell at the $5-12 price point. If they asked for better product, they could get it.

Also, those who know me know that I am an advocate of good eyewear. While I love our stuff, I am more concerned with getting people under good product in general. I believe in quality eyewear. Which is why most of the $60 and below price point stuff bug me. Because most of it (not all) keeps the cost down by skimping on core areas of eyewear that directly impact the functionality of the eyewear (kind like selling a car with a crappy engine but a lot of options). There is no magic way to reduce costs. Quality costs money, and reducing costs means reducing features.

But as frustrated as I get by that (because, at a fundamental level I feel it cheats the consumer by playing and *encouraging* their lack of optical knowledge) it also great because it has really challenged us to squeeze every last ounce of functionality out of our current cost basis. That's exciting for me, because I love design and finding solutions to challenges like that. And it's great for the consumer because it means a company like ours will step up and really try to deliver *quality* eyewear with a nice feature set in that pricepoint.


At Thursday, January 18, 2007 1:37:00 PM, Blogger stokediam said...

Maybe the reaction you attribute to "Made in China" is too specific. This consumer at least figures our trade balance with Italy isn't nearly as out of whack as the one with China; therefore, ceteris paribus, I'd choose the Italian product over the Chinese. Or maybe your customers aren't that discerning?

At Thursday, January 18, 2007 2:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "Made in China" bit rubbed off my Ozones no problemo!

At Thursday, January 18, 2007 2:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

andrew~ i think it's reasonable to assume that trade / economic concerns influence peoples perceptions both consciously and subconsciously.

since the "made in Italy" Cats never saw a wide release and the "Made in China" Cats are in a pretty limited release themselves it's hard to tell how many people would think it threw as you did. I think that would manifest at the Point of Purchase.

i think what is fascinating is that regardless of the subconsious/conscious reasoning the practical result was a greater willingness to be critcal of the eyewear. i mean, that's great cause it will help me improve the stuff. but it is interesting to know that the "Made In XXX" logo has that profound an influence on the total riding experience beyond thye actual construction.

As far as discerning... well I am not sure it is. The "Made in XXX" logo is pretty meaningless. I'd need to check into it, but I think that technically the stuff you guys are using could be labelled "Made in USA". Which doesn't really reflect its origins in a meaningful way.

I want to put "Frames in China/ Lenses in Itlay" or "Italo-Chinese Made". That would be more accurate, but not sure it's legally correct.

Anon~ See I am looking out for you.


At Thursday, January 18, 2007 3:12:00 PM, Anonymous Trev said...

I must have gotten a pair of the good Italian ones, and not the bad Chinese ones, cuz mine dont specify where they are made, so I'll assume they're made in Italy.

At Thursday, January 18, 2007 3:14:00 PM, Blogger stokediam said...

Andrew?? FWIW when I bought my last batch of "quality eyewear," it was online and I didn't even see the "Made in XXX" label. Turns out they just say "FRANCE": I'll try to figure out the "profound influence on the total riding experience" that has on my way home tonight. Do I ride Frenchly? Do I have a French 'tude? Hmmm.... You could have separate labels on your lenses and frames?

At Thursday, January 18, 2007 3:29:00 PM, Anonymous andrew said...

Sorry - I brought this up on the "custom dye frame" post from a few days back. It's stupid, but I think the China stigma does carry weight. My Ozones with the red lens are awesome glasses and the clarity WAY better than any of the previous stuff we've used. Despite that - I still noticed the China tag on the frame. I chalked it up to the price point.

As stupid as it is - I think you'd score higher in marketing cache by having "Italian designed" on there or something. Who cares where the plastic is extruded and molded? It's like $3 Chuck at Trader Joe's: "Bottled in Napa". Grapes from Bakersfield and about 15 other places...but bottled in Napa.

At Thursday, January 18, 2007 3:34:00 PM, Blogger P-Dog said...

Stoked ~ that's wierd. I swear the id said Andrew when I looked at it earlier. Maybe I am crazy? Blogging with a baby will do that. Speaking of which I have a pair of cheap, low quality Chinese eyewear for you. Or high quality, Italian eyewear. Depending on which "Made in" we used.

And what is FWIW? And why can't I log into the upstairs PC????

At Thursday, January 18, 2007 3:53:00 PM, Blogger P-Dog said...

There's the real Andrew! And don't be sorry, this is why I have you guys on the eyewear. It's valuable feedback. Like I said, I am actually glad that people felt more inclined to critique the eyewear, as long as it's constructive.

At Thursday, January 18, 2007 3:57:00 PM, Blogger stokediam said...

FWIW = for what it's worth. As for the PC upstairs, it's in the baby domain? Maybe she changed the password. Is sounding like Andrew something I should be worried about? And I have another hat for you. O.A.D. suggested it should go to Mr. FC 500.

At Thursday, January 18, 2007 7:22:00 PM, Blogger stokediam said...

Sorry, Michael, I know it was 500 AND EIGHT miles.

At Friday, January 19, 2007 12:24:00 AM, Blogger CROW said...

I bought and ate a bag of fozen broccoli which was a product of China. I had really bad gas!!!

At Friday, January 19, 2007 9:55:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its not so much that the product is made in China or Italy, think about all the resources used to get your eyewear from point A to point B.

At Friday, January 19, 2007 11:42:00 AM, Blogger P-Dog said...

Anon ~ I don't understand what that means.

At Friday, January 19, 2007 1:01:00 PM, Blogger stokediam said...

See the latest edition of Outside magazine on how to be a locavore--consuming nothing that wasn't produced within 50 or 100 miles of your home. The fuel required to get your Florida grapefruit to Seattle costs a whole lot more than the grapefruit and depletes scarce resources. So shipping components of your quality eyewear around the world for various phases of production only increases the costs to all of us (more pollution).

At Friday, January 19, 2007 2:43:00 PM, Anonymous Coach Localvore said...

you folks want I should bend some local copper into Axley frames for the environment and all?

At Friday, January 19, 2007 11:02:00 PM, Blogger P-Dog said...

it's funny you mention that because it is my not so secret long term goal to actually make the frames inhouse. i am not sure that's economically feasible thanks to economy of scale.

until we do that, the dirty little secret is I (or any other eyewear company) have very little control over where stuff comes from. i may be wrong, but I believe even the famous CA eyewear company who complains if you even look at them funny (cause, just mentioning their name regardless of context is using them to promote your own product) doesn't make their own stuff inhouse anymore.

of course, my desire to do that has less to do with environmental concerns as much as it does control in general. of course, i also believe that for the most part green policies are economically beneficial and most free-rider dilemas are not the freemarket but rather crony-captilist policies that protect industries from the ramifications of their own actions.

But, I studies economics so you really don't want to get me going (again).

At Saturday, January 20, 2007 5:38:00 PM, Blogger craigerific said...

why dont you just leave the lable off and when people ask, tell them to buy a pair of oakleys or rudy projects that are all made in china or taiwan and then pieced together in the usa so they can say they are made in the us. I wore the chinese glasses today and they worked better than the italian ones. Oakleys arent worth the $5 they cost to make and the $100 you pay for them, rudy projects are so 2001 so therefore my brothers company, Axley, are the better eyewear company to support.


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