Avia Collinder, Business Writer
Unicomer Jamaica Limited, the operator of the Courts furniture chain, has diversified into optical services and is spending US$100,000 per store to offer eye testing and upmarket eyewear.
The chain piloted the Courts Optical Store in December at its Cross Roads and Constant Spring branches and since then has been promoting deals to secure market share.
Its products can be bought on hire purchase, in much the same way that its furniture and appliances are priced.
Unicomber Jamaica Managing Director Dennis Harris says another four eye centres are planned for 2013. Total projected spend is US$600,000, he said.
Courts Optical stocks designer frames such as Vera Wang, Tommy Hilfiger, Guess by Marciano, Perry Ellis, Vogue, Ray Ban, Converse and Extreme - all at varying price ranges. The upmarket names can now be acquired on credit.
"Customers can purchase their eyewear on up to 24 months credit, which gives them the flexibility to pay for their glasses over a period of time. This is a great advantage, because many persons are unable to afford the one-time cost for glasses and therefore do not wear them," Harris said last Wednesday.
Portmore is next
The next eye centre will open in Portmore.
"We would like to have Courts Optical in all our top locations," Harris said.
The chain is hiring trained personnel for the new in-store service. With the exception of lenses, which are outsourced to a laboratory, all services are handled in-house. That includes frames, contact lenses and free eye examinations, the company says.
The optical division "is an opportunity to grow our business, expand our reach in the marketplace and meet the needs of our customer base," said Harris.
"Eyewear is an important need and our credit financing is a great facilitator that is not available elsewhere in the local market."
This year, Unicomer also plans to expand its distribution centre, upgrade some stores and improving other aspects of operations, Harris added.
"Improvement in our IT systems will also take place, including an upgrading of our e-Commerce site," he said.
The Unicomer Group operates more than 700 retail stores in 19 countries in the Americas, 130 of which are located in 11 Caribbean jurisdictions and the United States.
In Jamaica, Courts operates 29 stores nationwide. Its Constant Spring store was expanded at a cost surpassing US$4 million, Mario Guerrero, managing director of Unicomer Caribbean and the US, said at the store's reopening in December.