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Sunglasses with a Social Conscious

Jul 11, 2018 03:22PM ● Published by Emily Stevenson

Now that summer is heating up, you may find yourself in the market for a new pair of shades. Not all sunglasses are created equal, though, and Charleston-based Nectar Sunglasses is making a name for itself in terms of quality and social responsibility.

While the company originally carved its niche in the surf and skate market, Nectar’s new CEO and president Andy Shoemaker is working on broadening its scope.

“I’m a little over a month into it, and it’s been very exciting,” said Shoemaker, who officially began as CEO in April of this year. “I see great potential. We are in the process of relaunching to reach other segments and different markets and niches that aren’t just within surf and skate.”

Founded in 2012, Nectar Sunglasses was born from the vision and drive of Sean Holmes, current executive vice president and COO. The company got its start in Atlanta, and also spent some of its early days in Richmond, Va., before settling in Charleston.

Charleston was a great selection for the company to target their ideal demographic: teens and 20-somethings in the surf and skate market. Now, Shoemaker is working to expand beyond that market and says that, luckily, Charleston is a great place to be no matter what kind of business you’re in.

“Charleston is just a great place to do business,” Shoemaker said. “It’s a very business-friendly community for small businesses.”

For Nectar, a big part of broadening its market includes revamping its online marketing presence and making sure that its product is available where people are shopping.

While the Nectar facility in Charleston doesn’t include a showroom, the sunglasses are sold at a variety of retailers in the Charleston area, including places like Southern Shades in Tanger Outlets and Channels on King Street. One of Nectar’s big sellers is McKevlin’s Surf Shop on Folly Beach, where Shoemaker says that they sell Nectar sunglasses one-to-one, with one being Nectar and and the other being all the others brands combined.

“Right now, I’d say we’re doing about 60-40, online versus retail,” Shoemaker said. “And I see that that retail segment will continue to diminish as we become [convenience-oriented] consumers.”

No matter how consumers are getting the product, though, Shoemaker says that the quality and design speaks for itself.

“Through trial and error and finding out the right materials, Nectar has really evolved to be a force to be reckoned with within the sunglasses world, which is a big space and a tough space,” Shoemaker said.

Big names like Maui Jim, Suncloud, and Smith’s are some of the brands that offer similar styles and functionality, but Shoemaker says that Nectar’s pricepoint is unbeatable (think $45 compared to $250 from some of the other big names).

“The biggest surprise in reception is the price point,” Shoemaker said. “People question it, ‘How can you, at that price point, compete?’ And it is a learning experience and a teaching experience to show them how we can do it the way the ‘big boys’ do it for a fraction of the cost.

"We explain to them that it’s the same lens and same material of frames and that what sets us apart is that we stand behind them for a lifetime: if you break them or scratch them, it’s a $15 replacement.”

And if buying a pair of sunglasses would help contribute funds to save the honeybee population, that might sound pretty sweet, too. At Nectar, a portion of every purchase goes towards The Bee Cause Project, an organization dedicated to helping children learn about the importance of saving our bee population. In the future, Shoemaker says the company may explore other areas as well, like skin cancer prevention.

“We’re [also] looking at other opportunities to give back,” Shoemaker said. “That’s the whole thing: We want to give back. It could be the bees or some other benevolent organization that we’re able to help that people can more or less get their arms around or relate to.”

With all of these plans in the works, it might be surprising to learn that the current team in Charleston is made up of only six people (not including outside agencies).

The current Charleston facility consists of a warehouse and an office space, but Shoemaker says that he foresees the need for more office personnel space as well as warehouse space by August 2019.

Shoemaker, who traded in his retirement for this position, says he loves the challenge and is excited to see how the company will continue to grow.

“I love a challenge; I love the hunt,” Shoemaker said. “I came into a situation that the further I dig, the more opportunities I see. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. I was just looking for something to get involved with, but now I’m in it, and I’m all in.”

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