The FINANCIAL -- These are some of the most luxury designer sunglasses you will ever lay eyes on. They allude so well to the jewellery that the Cartier name is so well known for. Roniko will make these sunglasses the ultimate jewellery for Georgian faces in 2008.
In March 2008 Roniko will present Cartier at the opening of its new flagship optic store at 19 Rustaveli Ave. The company claims it’s going to be a symbol of Roniko’s commitment to success since the closure of its central store in August. The FINANCIAL interviewed Roland Javakhia, Roniko founder, regarding the company’s New Year special offers and the big new openings planned for 2008.
Q. Roniko offers special Gift Cards enabling card owners to give their friends a free choice of presents. How popular do you expect the product to be as a New Year gift?
A. Giving free choice to a friend could be considered the best present ever, especially as New Year is coming up. Buying a Gift Card at Roniko optical stores means that you pay the concrete amount of money that will be fixed on the card.
Unlike last year’s promotion when we offered GEL 50 and GEL 100 cards, a Gift Card owner may choose any of our optical products under the amount fixed on the card.
If the price of the optical product selected by the Card Owner exceeds the fixed sum, the owner may add extra cash to complete the amount required.
If the price of the optical product selected by the Card Owner is less than the fixed sum, surplus will be returned to the Card Owner on a new card.
Q. Roniko has been operating in Georgia since 1996. Could you remember the top success highlights of the past 11 years of the company’s activities?
A. My friends and I opened the very first optic store in 1992 and since then the optic business has been our mainstream and sole occupation.
We do fair business! We never deceive people! Roniko customers are always told about the origin of the brand and hence we have a fairly diversified price portfolio. Honesty, devotion to our business and a customer-oriented focus are the very three pillars of the company’s ethics.
Another advantage about Roniko compared to other optic store operators is that we have a direct supplier, Luxottica Group, and that’s why our prices are so competitive and our products- so fresh!
Competition is only an advantage for the market if you deal with purely healthy competition. I see that Jabadari optics has the longest traditions in the field. Kenari could also be regarded our competitor, bur to some extent we’re partners as well.
Q. How do you handle the fake brands’ realisation by various retailers?
A. I happen to travel a lot outside Georgia and to our country’s advantage I would say, for instance, that in neighbouring Azerbaijan there’s a huge amount of fake goods.
Fighting against fake production realisations is an international concern and indeed, it’s a problem in Georgia as well and particularly in terms of Roniko’s concerns.
Q. Which are the best-seller brands of 2007? How impressive are the current year sales statistics?
A. I’m personally quite delighted with our number of consumers. Around 12 000 people visit Roniko stores monthly, 10% of which are direct consumers of our products. We sell an average 1 200 items per month.
Best seller brands as a rule come from Italy, followed by France, then Germany. Ray Ban remains the ultimate best-seller eye-glasses both in the Georgian and international markets for the last couple of years. As for the favourite brand of 2007, it’s Prada. Dolce & Gabbana was a great success in 2006, with Chanel and Chopard replacing the latter this year.
As for related sales statistics, at least 3 Ray Bans are sold at Roniko daily, that’s 1 500-200 items annually.
Since December 2007 Roniko has started selling the medium-price brands Vogue, and Killer Loop - an average GEL150-160 each. That’s a new line of products targeted at the segment of the population who cannot afford GEL 400 value glasses.
As for much cheaper products, we offer Hong Kong made frames for starting prices as low as GEL 15.
We also offer individual orders which take only 2 weeks before the customer gets the desired product with no extra costs.
Q. Down payment has become a great success in Georgia lately. Could this phrase be used with the same success in regards to Roniko?
A. A joint project that Roniko launched in cooperation with Bank of Georgia in terms of initiating down payment services at our stores has been an outstanding success. To Roniko’s benefit I can say that we acquired a brand new class of customers and these are people with a highly exquisite sense of style but a bit short of finances to provide complete coverage for the products they really deserve.
In 2007 by means of downplaying services we got an additional 1 000 customers. Mostly GEL 300-350 value eye-glasses are being sold by means of down payment.
Q. Roniko stores are presented at Megaline and GTC trade centres. The first is running a special promotion of discounts on the previous year’s brands. How impressive are sales statistics?
A. The actual aim of opening stores at trade centres is a part of the company’s advertising campaign as in terms of financial feedback these stores are less effective compared to ones located in the centre of the city.
A minimum number of remaining stock products are sold at our Megaline store for a huge discount and hence are sold out in a very short time period.
As for GTC, we have highly expensive offers and the same is true of Goodwill as well.
Q. Vision of Roniko? How actively are you involved in CSR activities?
A. In terms of CSR vision inside the company, I’m proud to say our employees, who were left with no job since the closure of the Rustaveli store, will continue working for Roniko’s new stores. Overall 68 people are employed at Roniko and the number is constantly being increased.
As for staff trainings, in 2007 Roniko in cooperation with Kenari organized 3 international seminars for doctors. Essilor representatives were brought from France to deliver lectures to the local colleagues and the other one was the Ciba Vision Caucasus seminar in Tbilisi on contact lenses, also a foreign specialist delivered separate qualification courses to the consultants.
By the way, Roniko is running an Essilor promotion giving Crizal Alize coating for free. Crizal Alize is a high quality coating the value of which is EUR 22 which we offer for free to our Essilor customers.
As for charity activities, I prefer to keep those confidential as things done in God’s name need no promotion.
Q. How often do you participate in optic expos abroad? In Georgia?
A. It’s been 10 years already that Roniko has not missed the chance to participate in any of the world’s optic expos. The two most prestigious optic exhibitions are: MIDO in Milan in May and the October one-SILMO in Paris.
We’ve been attending these two expos over the past 10 years which have given us the next best opportunity to learn all the news in the optic industry and acknowledge the latest know-how of current world tendencies.
This year Roniko was supplied with Ermenegildo Zegna, Chopard, MONT-BLANC, Cavalli, Ferarri, Tom Ford brand by De Rigo, and Marcolini. Yet, Luxottica Group, the world’s leading designer, manufacturer and distributor of prescription frames and sunglasses in the premium and luxury segments, remains our premium partner. We have long time partnership experience with the latter.
Luxottica Group is a global leader in eyewear, with nearly 5,800 optical and sun retail stores in North America, Asia-Pacific, China and Europe and a strong brand portfolio that includes Ray-Ban, the world’s best selling sun and prescription eyewear brand in the world, as well as, among others, license brands Bvlgari, Burberry, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, Prada, Versace and Polo Ralph Lauren, beginning January 2007, and key house brands: Vogue, Persol, Arnette and REVO.
Q. How different are brand prices abroad and in Georgia?
A. Partnership with Luxottica Group enables Roniko to set prices that are highly competitive not only within the local market but across borders as well. The price difference could be as much as EUR 30-50 for one and the same Prada, Ray Ban models at Roniko stores and at any other optic store abroad.
Q. How much has the number of the company’s stores increased in 2007?
A. At present Roniko operates 10 stores and by March 2008 the 11th one will be opened at 19 Rustaveli Ave. which is going to replace our flagship store at 30 Rustaveli Ave. which closed in August. During 5 years of activities, the latter has been regarded one of the best optic stores in Europe by experts, though the new one is going to be even more promising.
Furthermore, another optic store will be opened at the Goodwill hyper market by the very end of the year.