Rocco Basilico

Oliver Peoples’ chief executive officer Rocco Basilico is settling into his role at the top, having spent his first year in office beefing up the brand’s retail operations.

For this, the 28-year-old executive has earned acclaim in business media at large, this year being named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list.

Whilst in New York to attend the list’s celebratory mixer, as well as mark the opening of Oliver Peoples’ newest store in Brookfield Place — its fourth retail location in Manhattan — Basilico spoke with WWD about the state of the eyewear industry and the continued importance of brick-and-mortar.

WWD: Oliver Peoples’ has made strides in the last year to expand its brick-and-mortar presence. Why focus on retail stores, when there is so much buzz about e-commerce?

Rocco Basilico: Right now we have about 30 stores in the world, and the idea is to double that at some point. I mean, for us, we have a very different product for sure. I really still believe in physical stores, I think it’s a way to get brand awareness out there. Look at the visibility of this [Brookfield Place] store, there are thousands of people walking through here everyday.

WWD: Why is there a focus on New York?

R.B.: In New York we have a stronger following than in Los Angeles, and the brand was founded in L.A. In New York now we’ve covered all of the city from top to bottom, we have a store uptown, in Midtown, SoHo and now Brookfield Place. There is an allure around the brand that when you become an Oliver Peoples’ customer, you always go back. We are doing a lot to try to improve service this year, developing unique prescription lenses that are branded also.

WWD: How has the retail expansion plan taken effect?

R.B.: I think what we have done, we’ve begun seeing the effects in the last six months. We’ve been seeing significant growth in sales. We started this process of opening the stores and there is a point when you say, “Is this going to work or not?” Now I can definitely tell it’s working, I can tell from this quarter’s sales. We are growing double digits in the U.S., comp-store sales have grown 15 percent. Sales in general have grown 40 percent because we have more stores now. We will ideally close the year at 30 to 40 percent growth, no comp.

WWD: What is next in the retail expansion plan?

R.B.: We will open in Hong Kong in 2018, and after this would be in Shanghai. We are also looking in Paris, that city is a bigger market for us than New York.

WWD: Do you see any opportunity in licensed goods?

R.B.: We do collaborations, not licenses. We have a few more in development right now — for both Oliver Peoples and Alain Mikli. But I do not see us ever doing licensed goods.