Kirk & Kirk – founded by husband and wife duo Jason and Karen Kirk 30 years ago – confirmed this morning it is planning to make its first “foray into retail” this autumn.
The British eyewear designer favoured by celebrities including Robert Downey Jr revealed plans to launch a chain of pop-up shops after seeing sales boom amid the trend to look good on Zoom calls in the pandemic.
The move will see it enter the UK retail market directly, building on its current tie-up with 100 independent optical retailers in Britain and more than a further 300 around the world.
Mr Kirk said: “We’re opening our first pop-up store, our first foray into retail, in September, in Shoreditch.
“Our plan is to be nimble and grow pop-up stores. We then expect to open half a dozen stores next spring in different locations across the UK and then from that will identify opportunities abroad.”
The group is looking to hire more staff to oversee the pop-up shops in the UK, while it is also set to expand its team of independent representatives worldwide to 25.
The expansion has been largely credited to the pandemic, which saw Kirk & Kirk’s sales grow 42 per cent in the first year of the Covid crisis, while this year’s growth is expected to be 30 per cent.
Mr Kirk added: “The pandemic from a business perspective has been amazing for us.
“Most people have been having conversations over Zoom and FaceTime and so glasses become almost the only way of expressing yourself through clothing.”Jason Kirk
“More people turned to bigger glasses, more expressive glasses and more colourful glasses to invest in themselves,” he added.
The company is the only brand in the world to create handmade frames from acrylic, which have been designed in partnership with a factory, in the north-west of France, which they have worked with for the past 10 years from “start to finish” during the production process.
“Acrylic is roughly a third of the weight of acetate (what most glass frames are made of) and allows us to have big shapes and quite chunky glasses at a fraction of the weight,” said Mrs Kirk.
Mr Kirk said seeing stars like Iron Man actor Downey Jr wearing the firm’s glasses “made a massive difference” over the pandemic.
He said: “The impact of somebody with that sincerity, in the way that they dress with that genuine personality coming through, that’s our audience – that talk to our audience – so that drives our sales up immediately.”
The business continues to reap the benefits from the switch online in the pandemic, with its virtual try-on feature – which allows customers to play around with frames – used by 6,000 people last week alone.