Police investigators in Everett, Washington finally have their man. They recently arrested a 36-year-old homeless man they say is responsible for stealing 80 pairs of designer sunglasses from an optometrist in Marysville. The theft occurred in October 2019.
Needless to say that the incident was not isolated. From coast-to-coast, optometrists and eyewear boutiques are reporting thefts on a regular basis. Some involve shoplifters walking out with a few pairs tucked in a purse or pocket. Other thieves are more brazen, breaking in after hours and snatching dozens of pairs at one time.
The question is, why? What is so exciting about stealing a inexpensive pair of plastic shades when more valuable items can be had? The answer is as simple as following the money. When it comes to theft, money is always the root of the problem.
Walking Away with $15K
The Everett theft produced losses estimated at some $15,000 just for the stolen Oakley sunglasses alone. That does not account for damage done to the building. So, let us do a little bit of math. Take $15,000 and divide by 80 and you have a retail price of $187.50 per pair – for sunglasses.
Imagine being someone who would love to have a brand-new pair of Oakleys. Your budget is limited, and you cannot really justify a price rapidly approaching $200. Then you hear about someone your friend knows, someone who can get you the exact same pair for just $100. From whom are you likely to buy your new sunglasses?
Retail Prices Driving Theft
Olympic Eyewear, a Salt Lake City manufacturer and distributor of more than two dozen brands of designer-like sunglasses, says that retail prices are driving theft. They explain that there are essentially three tiers of sunglasses in terms of retail pricing.
The top tier is populated by all of the biggest Luxottica brands. They are priced at the higher end of the scale. The middle tier is occupied by companies like Olympic. They produce high-quality eyewear that sell at prices in the sub-$100 range. Finally is the budget tier. This is occupied by companies that offer a little less quality in exchange for pricing typically at $25 or less per pair.
It is not often that you see second and third tier sunglasses stolen by thieves. No, they are after the high-end brands because they know that’s where the money is. There are plenty of people who want high-end products but either cannot afford them or are unwilling to pay the price. They are the target audience for thieves.
An Ironic Situation
When you step back and look at the reality of the eyewear industry, there is plenty of irony in the idea of thieves stealing expensive sunglasses only to sell them on the street at discounted prices. That irony is found in understanding just how much it costs to make a pair of sunglasses and get it to market.
According to a Los Angeles Times article published in January 2019, a typical pair of plastic eyewear frames can be manufactured for under $10. Yet go to any optometrist in search of a pair of prescription eyeglasses and you will find that the average price for a pair of frames is more than $230.
One would expect prescription eyewear to cost more due to the fact that lenses are custom-made. And yet, the L.A. Times explains that retail customers are paying hundreds of times more than the cost to produce prescription eyewear. Sunglasses are priced just as high yet cost even less to manufacture.
And now you know why stealing sunglasses is so popular. It is ironic, really.