Japan’s largest eyewear brand by volume acquires a stake in the share capital of Fittingbox and joins Fielmann, the leading German optical retailer, which has been an investor in Fittingbox since 2018.
TOULOUSE, France (Vision Monday, Wednesday, September 22, 2021) — Fittingbox, the software company based here, has announced that JINS, a Japanese leader in eyewear retail, has become an industrial shareholder in the company. The founders of the Fittingbox noted that the investment in the share capital by the Japanese eyewear brand now joins Fielmann, the leading German optical retailer, which has been an investor in Fittingbox since 2018, as VMAIL previously reported. The new investment enables earlier investors to exit, mainly French venture capital funds Kreaxi and LBO France with its SISA fund, while the founders used the opportunity to strengthen their equity position in the company, the announcement said.
With joint forces, Fittingbox, JINS and Fielmann will now accelerate the digitization of the eyewear industry, the announcement continued, noting that Fittingbox will extend its global footprint, increase investments in R&D and new products.
Thomas Ruetzel, managing director of Fielmann Ventures, said, “Fittingbox is a major driver of the technological change that defines the future of our industry. JINS represents customer-centricity, innovation, and forward-thinking—a great match that also broadens Fittingbox’s geographical reach.”
Fittingbox stated it is now global, as the expansion in Asia will complete that of Europe and the U.S. “JINS, being a key player in Asia, has been innovative since its creation, either in-store, through stunning shop designs, original frames collections and lenses made affordable, or online, being at the forefront of eyewear e-commerce. Paving the way for innovative eyewear retailing, this investment will help JINS accelerate in this direction, continuing to grow their market share in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, and the USA, as well as entering new countries and regions,” the company said.
Toru Kaieda, senior director of global digital strategies and alliances, commented, “JINS has a strong presence in Asia, where Fittingbox will have a strategic focus in the years to come, and we are very proud to be part of its expansion. For the past few years, we have witnessed a great deal of innovations in the consumer eyewear buying experience. If I had been asked 10 years ago whether I would buy a pair of glasses online, I probably would have answered ‘No,’ because I was worried if the frame and lens selected online would actually fit me in real life.
“Now, thanks to the technologies developed by Fittingbox, we are able to offer our customers with opportunities to try and compare frames and lenses before making purchases and give our customers the confidence to shop them online. With new technologies emerging almost every day, we believe that there are many more innovations to be made in the eyewear industry and we are very excited to join forces with Fittingbox and Fielmann to lead innovations in this time of great change.”
The JINS investment comes in the year of the 15th anniversary of Fittingbox, just after a major rebranding, based on four key areas of Fittingbox’s business: Virtual try-on digital frames, an optical toolbox for eyewear businesses and open innovation. As the COVID pandemic forced eyewear retailers into more contactless commerce, the need for virtual eyewear shopping increased and Fittingbox “built an ecosystem of innovative solutions as the industry repositions itself for a new era,” the company said.
Benjamin Hakoun, Fittingbox CEO and co-founder, commented, “We created the business when we were students 15 years ago, the previous financial investors helped us set up the business and accelerate it and we thank them for their commitment and help during all those years. We opened a new chapter in 2018 with the entry of Fielmann as a minority shareholder and this was the right momentum to let enter a second industrial, JINS, which will bring value both as an investor and as a strategic customer. A tech company still there after 15 years is not common, so it proves that the vision was right. We want to build the best digital ecosystem so that the entire eyewear industry can benefit from it.”
Michel Desbard, LBO France Gestion, added, “We are very pleased to have supported the technological and commercial development of Fittingbox since 2014 to make it a world leader in the digital transformation of the optics sector. We are highly confident in the company’s ability to achieve its ambitious roadmap, notably in terms of international deployment alongside its two key strategic shareholders.”
Fittingbox reports that it had 54 million virtual try-ons in 2020—a 300 percent increase from the previous year and will beat it significantly this year as it has already achieved those numbers in June 2021. The database of 3D frames now tops 110,000 designs. The company is producing over 4,000 digitized frames per month. Customers like Dior, Maui Jim and Transitions are working with Fittingbox as well as thousands of retailers, eyecare professional centers, manufacturers, and brands around the world. The company’s research and development team has almost tripled in size over the last 30 months.
“We’re problem solvers,” said Ariel Choukroun, Fittingbox CTO and co-founder. “People want to look good in eyewear, irrespectively of their path to purchase—online, instore or omnichannel, so we have invested our resources in making the virtual eyewear shopping experience as pleasant and effective as possible. Our rebranding reflects our renewed focus on the power of technology to change the eyewear industry. “We are a deep-tech company. We have 60+ talented experts on our R&D team, bringing knowledge of artificial intelligence, computer vision, machine learning and UX/UI to the eyewear industry. With these incredibly innovative resources, we are able to co-create with our partners and the players in its ecosystem to support the eyewear industry during a period of major changes,” Choukroun said.
CapM Advisors (François Huré) acted as financial advisor to Fittingbox. Squair (OlivierLopez, Asmae Loudiyi) served as legal advisor to Fittingbox and DS Avocats (Bernard Tezé, Emma Quercy) in France and TMI in Japan served as legal advisor to JINS.
Based in France, with offices in the U.S., Fittingbox provides cutting-edge, interactive solutions and digital content to eyewear professionals. Fittingbox also builds and maintains the world’s largest database of frames photos and 3D models of frames.
JINS, founded in 2001, is a leader in the Japanese eyewear industry, operating stores in Japan and five other countries and regions around the world and also operates one of the largest eyewear e-commerce websites in Japan. It also offers a full range of services in its online store and mobile app, and continues to create new purchasing experiences, such as AI-based recommendation service that scores the “fitness” of the frames to the wearers.
The Fielmann Group is a listed family business with headquarters in Hamburg, providing fashionable eyewear, contact lenses, and hearing aids at the best prices. The company serves its 27 million customers in 15 European countries through an omnichannel business model.
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