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Reading Glasses for Women and Men | TrendyGlasses.net

A Brief Company History Of Foster Grant Inc

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Samuel Foster and Bill Grant founded Foster Grant in 1919 as a manufacturer of women’s hair accessories in Leominster, Massachusetts. To begin with, the company did well, but in the mid-1920’s began to run into trouble when women’s hairstyles changed from long to short. Foster Grant was one of the first businesses using plastic injection molding, and began to manufacture sunglasses in 1929.

The sunglasses were sold at the Woolworth’s store in Atlantic City on the Boardwalk. They were displayed along with other medical aids and were the first ever to be sold as a product over-the-counter. Up until this time, anybody who wanted dark glasses or tinted glasses of any description had to have them made by an optometrist.

Foster Grant’s sunglasses caught on in Atlantic City, and in the depression years of the early 1930s became extremely popular. Very soon, movie stars were wearing them, among them people like Greta Garbo. The fashion for wearing them spread rapidly, and even the king of Egypt had a pair. Sunglasses became synonymous with wealth and glamor during a period when people had very little of either of them.

Although Foster Grant sunglasses became the “in thing” among the wealthier people in the world, the company soon had quite a number of competitors. The factory at Leominster began turning out a number of other plastic injection-molded goods such as hair curlers, combs, and barrettes. By 1938, Foster Grant owned more than 100 injection molding machines.

During the Second World War, the factory was refitted for defense manufacturing, but continued to make sunglasses, and did very well immediately after the war. In 1965 it introduced the campaign “Who’s behind those Foster Grants?” using the faces of film stars such as Peter Sellers, Anthony Quinn, Raquel Welch, and Woody Allen. Even though the advertising involved people who were rich, the company’s sunglasses were aimed at mass markets such as Walgreens and Woolworths. Most of them were priced at between $2 and $10, although the company had a few that sold for $15.

From the 1970’s onwards, Foster Grant was bought and sold by a number of different companies. In 1980 it had sales of $150 million but consumer demand dropped. Not only that, 80% of all sunglasses sold were imported. By 1985, sales had dropped to $60 million and by 1989 dropped further to $50 million. In 1990 the company filed for bankruptcy and was bought by a competitor for $4.9 million. The company changed hands several more times, and with what turned out to be a master stroke, acquired model Cindy Crawford to promote the product. By the late 1990’s the company was once again in a strong position, and in 2002 signed NASCAR racing driver Jeff Gordon as another celebrity spokesperson. Foster Grant entered thousands of new retail outlets and began to look at international markets.

Today the company is based in Smithfield, Rhode Island, and is once more in a strong position.

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