Rosely on the heels of its expansion into watches, Roots Canada, the fashion clothing manufacturer and retail chain, is taking a look at eyewear.

In May, Toronto-based eyewear distributor Centennial Optical will debut Roots Vision, a line of frames for prescription lenses that is being designed by a fashion frame designer in Milan.The same designer is working on a line of sunglasses called Roots Sun,...

In May, Toronto-based eyewear distributor Centennial Optical will debut Roots Vision, a line of frames for prescription lenses that is being designed by a fashion frame designer in Milan.

The same designer is working on a line of sunglasses called Roots Sun, and children’s versions of Roots Vision and Roots Sun.

The children’s lines will be called Roots Kids and Roots Kids Sun

Allen Nightingale, Centennial’s national sales manager, says the Roots collection will eventually comprise about 50 styles of prescription optical glasses and sunglasses.

Nightingale says he hopes to have 12 optical frames and eight sunglasses frames available for the launch date, adding he projects the line will be available in 1,000 prescription eyewear outlets within three months of the product rollout.

He says he expects the brand will eventually be carried by most of the country’s 3,000-odd prescription eyewear outlets, including doctors’ offices.

The Roots Sun line will be carried by prescription eyewear specialists and Roots stores.

At present, there are 90 Roots stores across Canada, including 17 outlets that have opened in the last six months.

Nightingale says Canadians spend in the area of $90 million annually on prescription eyewear.

Last Spring, Cosmoda, a Toronto-based distributor and marketer of fashion watches, began shipping a licensed line of Roots watches.

Roots co-founder Michael Budman says that arrangement has been working well, adding his sense of the market is that ‘there’s a big demand for products with our name on them.’

Nightingale is bullish on the prospects of the Roots brand in the eyewear category.

‘We expect this brand will be a very powerful brand in the marketplace,’ he says.

Nightingale says that while the market is flush with designer eyewear, there is plenty of room for the Roots brand because it has appeal across all regions and markets.

Designer brands are typically strong players only in the high end of the market in urban centres.

He says he will promote the Roots glasses in optical trade publications and fashion magazines.

Centennial creates its ads in-house.

Nightingale says he is in discussion with Roots about various cross-promotional ideas, including giving eyewear purchasers coupons for a minimum of 10% off purchases at Roots.

Budman says the firm is open to ‘exploring other licensing opportunities where it makes sense.’

Product lines under consideration include home furnishings (Roots made a brief foray into furniture in the 1970s), hosiery and socks.

As well, Budman says Roots is open to experimenting with new distribution channels.

In the fall, Budman says Eaton’s began carrying Roots shoes ‘as a test in 10 or 15 stores.

‘We’re not opposed to selling our products outside our own network of stores,’ he says.

‘I’ll listen to anybody’s proposal about Roots, but one thing you can be sure is our brand will never be promoted or discounted.’