Celebrating 20 years in business, Michael Holmes Premium Eyewear has cemented itself as one of Auckland’s leading optometrists and eyewear retailers. Founders Michael Holmes and Kay McFarlane – business and life partners – took a chance on a retail space in Newmarket all those years ago, and have never looked back since. Maddie Irvine sat down with the husband and wife duo to find out the secrets to business longevity and how Michael Holmes Premium Eyewear sets itself apart from the rest.
N. Tell us about your journey and how Michael Holmes has got to where it is today.
MICHAEL & KAY. Michael is the optometrist and Kay the business visionary. 20 years ago, we walked the streets of Newmarket looking for an ideal location for our new optometrist/optical store. We had a clear plan from the outset to be different and wanted to offer a collection of the world’s most beautiful artisanal eyewear ranges, not previously available in New Zealand. Newmarket has always had a strong independent fashion scene with many New Zealand independent designers located in and around Teed Street, so we narrowed our search to Teed Street. Rents were high and we were a new business so couldn’t afford the sites at the top end of the street, nearer Broadway. The location we could afford at number 25 was at the time a carpark with a leaking roof ! The landlord had plans to convert the space into a shop, so we took a leap of faith and signed up for basically a few carpark spaces, which were eventually turned into our shop. When we first moved in 20 years ago, there was a varied collection of businesses around us. The only one remaining from those days is the stunning Cartier For Flowers, and apart from that everything else nearby has grown up around us. It’s been great to watch and be a part of the Teed Street community, particularly the lower end which has come alive with independent New Zealand owned businesses. We know our neighbours and all support each other, we adore Darren and Erin from Madder & Rouge, Jo from Belloro, Alma from Cartier, Tony Sly and Jeff from &Sushi. The energy of being around so many other inspiring and successful independent businesses has been a huge positive and kept us moving forwards.
N. Michael Holmes offers customers a range of independent, artisan eyewear which is not offered in many mainstream retailers and optometrists. How do you go about your buying process?
M & K. We have a very rigorous set of criteria for buying. Our instore collection features only the most talented independent designers from around the world, hand making frames from the highest quality materials. Independence in the eyewear industry is vital because the designers can create freely without constraints. Our personal aesthetic leans more towards modernism so the designers we select for our store offer bold styles in unique colourways but without any unnecessary adornment.
N. Resisting pressure to become a chain is a bold move and one which has clearly paid off for Michael Holmes. What are your secrets to business longevity?
M & K. As an independent we can control and take care of all aspects of business from the beautiful eyewear we select, our service standards and the team we work with. Doing it our way means we create enjoyment and pride. Customers appreciate positive businesses doing things well and we’ve been fortunate to have built up a large customer base over the years of very loyal spectacle wearers.
N. What is a common misconception about wearing glasses and how do you help your clients overcome it?
Some people worry that wearing glasses as they age will make their vision worse. As with any misconception, the key is information and we take the time to discuss, explain and support the client to feel confident about their decisions.
N. You have scooped up several awards over the years at the Newmarket Business Awards, taking out the People’s Choice Award in 2021. What do these awards mean to you both personally and to your business?
M & K. We’re very proud to have won six awards over the years but the People’s Choice is the one we most cherish. We don’t have a big budget for advertising so without our amazing customer support we wouldn’t be here. Not only do our customers generously refer their friends and family to grow our business, they take the time to vote for us, and we couldn’t be more grateful!
N. As we spend more and more time in front of screens, blue light glasses have become ever popular as both a fashion accessory and to reduce the effects of exposure. Are they worth the hype?
M & K. Going by the research, in short, the answer is no. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) have noted “… there is little evidence with respect to using blue light blocking spectacles to improve visual performance. In addition, there are no studies showing such filters can conserve macular health.” Filtering out blue light from screens isn’t necessary in general use but there may be a benefit to reducing screen time or using night mode settings on digital devices to reduce interruption to circadian rhythms and sleep.
N. Newmarket’s best kept secret?
M & K. I’m not sure how much of a secret it is, but we love Maison Vauron in McColl Street. Jean- Christophe and his amazing team offer the best service and advice.
N . What has been a career highlight so far?
M & K. To be honest there isn’t one event, but we’re incredibly proud of having grown a successful optometry practice and eyewear store. There’s a lot of joy on a daily basis thanks to the wonderful customers who continue to support us.
N. What’s next for Michael Holmes?
M & K. We have some very exciting plans for next year with the addition of our own eyewear range.