Over the past few years there's been a wave of Japanese retailers that have entered the American market. In clothing retail there has been Uniqlo and Kamakura. The most recent entrant into the market is Jins. In Japan, Jins is synonymous with eyeglasses. Across Japan and Asia the company operates 350 stores where customers can pop in and under an hour walk out with a set of prescription eyeglasses. The company opened its first store in America in San Francisco's Union Square in April of this year. We recently had the chance to speak with Jins and learn more about their plans. Our interview with Jins and our review follows below.
Jins offers a wide variety of high quality frames available in both acetate and metal. The frames are designed in Japan and manufactured in China. In the company's stores, including the one in San Francisco, customers can see Jins' "Kanna" robot cut out and manufacture frames.
While there are many online eyewear retailers today, what makes Jins unique is their high level of customization. Not only are there over 1,200 frame styles to choose from, but also a wide variety of lenses - at least 10 to chose from. Perhaps the most interesting lens feature is that of the company's "blue light" blocking lenses. Blue light, emitted from computer monitors, mobile phones, and tablets, has been found to interrupt sleep cycles. Jins' blue light blocking lenses can come in both prescription and non-prescription lenses. In our review, we were able to test both a pair of prescription lenses and blue light blocking lenses. Both frames were sturdy and fashionable, and offer more classic styles than any other retailer. If you're in the market for a new pair of glasses, or an additional pair for blocking blue light - Jins is your place.
Q: How did Jins get started?
A: JINS started in Japan in 2001 by our founder/CEO Hitotshi Tanaka. He wanted to make affordable eyeglasses where you can get your glasses made in less than 30 minutes and be able to select from many different styles/colors. Please read CEO Tanaka's message on our corporate site: http://corp.jins.com/us/letterfromtheceo/
Q: What led to the decision to expand to the US?
A: As we have 350 stores in Asia (including Japan, China and we just opened our first store in Taiwan in November), we wanted to also expand in the U.S. So in April 2015, we opened our first U.S. flagship store in San Francicso (Union Square.)
Q: You've opened a store this April in SF, where else in the US can we expect to see more stores?
We are opening our second store in Santa Anita, Los Angeles in early 2016. This will be our first shopping mall launch.
Q: Where are the glasses made that are sold in the US and where do you source your lenses?
Glasses are made in China, but all our glasses are designed in Tokyo where we have a team of creative designers.
Q: Where are your customers in the US from?
A: Our visitors are compromised by local visitors from SF/Bay Area and tourists. Word of mouth has been big in generating customers to visit the store.
Q: There's been quite a few Japanese retailers entering the US, including Kamakura, Uniqlo, what makes the US market interesting for Jins?
A: We see a similar situation in the U.S. market now as it was in Japan 10-15 years ago. Glasses are expensive and it takes (about a week) to get your glasses (in the U.S. now.) We wanted to find a way to make the shopping experience more enjoyable to customers, and also make your glasses in minutes versus waiting for weeks.
Q: What differentiates Jins today, from the likes of conventional eyeglass retailers, but also from the likes of internet based companies like Warby Parker?
A: The biggest difference between JINS and WP is that we offer 1,200 different styles of frames. We also make our prescription glasses in 30 minutes with our lens-edging robot KANNA in the store.
Q: What makes a Jins pair of frames unique?
A: Service/Speed (30 minutes)/Accessibility/Multiple pairs for multiple occasions
Q: What is the design process like for a pair of frames?
A: We are inspired by trend, season and honestly our designers in Tokyo are very creative!
Q: Will Jins be releasing more frames in the US?
A: Yes, every season we hope to have new collection/frames.