From Prada to Gucci, Ray-Ban to Dior, the shelves at Spectacle Hut are always packed full with the latest eyewear trends of your favorite brands.
Spectacle Hut, a local optical retail giant, currently with 40 outlets island-wide has been delivering amiable, specialized and detailed eye-care service since 1997. Founder Gary Khoo Tat Min, 41, manages, oversees and directs Spectacle Hut as well as its subsidiaries, Blue Eyes USA and Eye Bejewelled.
BIRTH OF A VISION
Khoo graduated in 1995 from the United Kingdom with an honorary degree in Optometry. His humble beginnings started with a job in an optical shop in Ang Mo Kio. He shares that his boss was absent most of the time due to the property boom in Singapore’s market and left the care of the shop entirely in his hands. The one and a half years of experience not only empowered Khoo with the skills necessary to be a good optician, he also picked up the tools of the trade in running a business.
Thereafter, Khoo began to help out his then-girlfriend Sara (now his wife) frequently at her own optical shop despite his own busy schedule. Seeing their labor, her mother encouraged the both of them to start a joint venture to open an optical store in Clementi. Their partnership birthed the retail giant that Spectacle Hut is today.
The early days of the business was undoubtedly their busiest as Khoo and his wife had to work long hours from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. “On Sundays, we would go to church in the morning and rush to work later on. We could not afford to fall sick and it was amazing we did not,” says Khoo.
After observing the industry for a period of time, Khoo realized that at that time, the 20 qualified opticians were overcharging customers while the other 600 or so optical stores in Singapore did not practice proper eye care techniques. As such, Khoo had a renewed vision for Spectacle Hut, which was to provide both credible and affordable eye care service in Singapore.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF SPECTACLE HUT|
Since then, the business has flourished into what it is today. Khoo believes that it is the divine appointment of God that helped prospered his business. “We were, in many instances, at the right place at the right time. We were first in acquiring new innovations and products, launching them ahead of our competitors. For example, we were selected by fashion houses such as Armani Exchange, Bottega Veneta, Vivienne Westwood, David Yurman and Juicy Couture to be the first to launch their eyewear products.”
However, it has not always been a smooth ride for Khoo. There was a time when his supply of stock ran into a brick wall. His suppliers were threatened by other optical retail giants to cut supplies to Spectacle Hut, failing which, they would be unanimously boycotted by the cartel. His suppliers eventually threw in the towel as the cartel made up a significant portion of market share. By the grace of God, Khoo met a big supplier who empathized with his situation. Touched by Khoo’s sincerity in making the effort to search for suppliers abroad, he agreed to supply stocks to Khoo directly, cheaper than what he had been getting previously.
With regards to his competitors, Khoo states that in business, “we cannot be forever enemies or forever friends.” He was surprised by a personal apology by the boss of an optician shop that was involved in the cartel during the supply stakeout.
Personally, Khoo believes that in all the years that he has been running the business, it has always been done with the wisdom and grace of God. He consistently prays together with his wife in their Business Breakthrough Group cell group meetings for divine wisdom, positioning and favor of God. “Sara and I really believe that if the Lord doesn’t build the house, we will labor in vain.” Holding on to God’s promises and doing his best are two weapons that have helped him combat negativity during times of crisis. It has helped Khoo and his wife find a sense of peace amidst turbulent times.
SEEING THE FUTURE
Spectacle Hut has expanded beyond local shores, namely in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing. Moving away from the highly saturated optical scene in Singapore, Khoo believes there is much to be tapped on from the overseas market scene, especially in China, due to population size and rapid urbanization.
However, the cards have to be played differently. In China, legalization issues, consumer preferences and other factors are considerations that Khoo has to keep in mind while operating the store in Beijing. In fact, they recently only opened their second and third stores in Beijing after spending two years conducting market research.
The move to Beijing is not the only shifting of operations; Khoo also has plans to move into a new office building. The new site, located at Henderson, is 12,000 sq feet, nearly double of their previous office. With the additional space, Khoo has plans for a showroom where warehouse sales can be conducted. Furthermore, a training room that can accommodate up to a 100 people will be another feature in the office. Khoo hopes to bring in table tennis tables that are not only meant for staff recreation but also to encourage bonding and teamwork through the sport itself. Moreover, he desires that the room be purposed for the use of both cell group as well as marketplace meetings. To sum it up, it “will be a place to work, play and pray.
This unique service provided by Spectacle Hut requires their trained optometrists to fit a special form of semi-hard lens onto (usually) children that is able to control the speed of myopic progression. It is worn just before going to bed, giving a crystal clear vision after waking up in the morning. The gentle molding of the lens overnight will correct myopia so neither spectacles nor contact lenses are required during the day. This technique is widely practiced in countries such as the U.S., U.K., Australia and Hong Kong, where optometry techniques are more advanced.
To find out more about Spectacle Hut, visit www.spectaclehut.com.
ON LASIK, CONTACT LENSES AND SPECTACLES
For those placing their hopes on Lasik surgery to correct their vision, Khoo has the following advice to share: “LASIK slices through the cornea and has its risks. Moreover, the long-term side effect has not yet been documented. Eye doctors do not subject themselves to LASIK so this speaks volumes about the risks involved. I personally feel that it is invasive and unless your life is severely hindered, it is better to keep your eyes intact and healthy especially if one may require eye surgery later in life for parts such as the glaucoma and the cataract since these are the two eye surgeries that are more commonplace.”
Khoo keeps his verdict short and sweet on the much-debated topic on eyewear. His final judgment: “Contact lenses are for that once-in-a-lifetime events while spectacles are necessary for giving your eyes a break.”
Aptly, he quips, “You forgot about sunglasses. It is a must in Singapore for eye protection against UV rays and preventing wrinkles.” He adds that they are your most fashionable weapons out in broad daylight. And whether they are in front of your eyes or on your hair, a pair will make you look glamorous.