Coastal Contacts’ e-commerce plans come into focus

In 2008, Coastal Contacts Inc.’s headquarters, located at East Broadway and Renfrew Street in Vancouver, occupied just over 600 square feet – less space than a 1-bedroom apartment. Due to such small quarters, the company had just two small glass-cutting machines at the centre.

Now, the Vancouver company is tearing down walls in an ambitious expansion. By the end of the renovation, Coastal Contacts will occupy well over 4,000 square feet, and boast eight, larger glass-cutting machines.

Coastal’s expansion isn’t unjustified: its revenue growth has been exceptional, rising from $1.3 million in 2009’s first quarter to nearly $4 million in 2010’s first quarter. And that revenue increased further in this year’s second quarter by over 20% to $4.7 million. Their staff is also growing rapidly, having hired 60 lab techs in two years, and more than a dozen in just the last couple of months.

Coastal’s communications manager Jennifer Harvey recently told Business in Vancouver that they expect to be the top online eyeglasses manufacturer in a year. It is already in the range of top three. 

One might expect this growth can be attributed to the B.C. governments decision last month to remove the requirement that only optometrists and opticians can dispense eyeglasses in the province. But Harvey told BIV that B.C. was only a fraction of the company’s market, and affected revenue negligibly.

On a side note, this decision by the government has outraged optometry organizations, including the Canadian Association of Optometrists, which argued in a statement to the B.C. Minister of Health Services that the provincial government is attempting to “re-write national and global health care standards.” And that the minister, Kevin Falcon, is “openly and publicly” saying that members of the public with no eye health symptoms have no need of an eye health exam, which the organization firmly states is “NOT good health policy.”

Coastal Contacts has a Canadian-specific subsidiary, Clearly Contacts, which is celebrity-endorsed by retired NHL hockey player, Vancouver Canuck Trevor Linden.