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Choosing Eyewear for Everywear and Anywear�The Billion Dollar Opportunity

By Mary E. Schmidt

Release Date: August, 2006
Expiration Date: August 31, 2009

Learning Objectives:
Upon completion of this program, the participant should be able to:

  1. Understand current photochromic market conditions and dynamics
  2. Learn methods to better understand and meet real patient needs
  3. Agree on the minimum everyday, everywhere eyewear requirements for everyone
  4. Understand the advantages of the newest technologies in photochromics and polarization

Faculty/Editorial Board: 
Mark SachsMary E. Schmidt is a professional trainer and practice consultant, specializing in the eyecare field. She provides full scope paraoptometric and optician education with a focus on dispensing skills and patient care. Her emphasis is on organization and professionalism. The American Optometric Association and the American Board of Opticianry have accredited her programs. Schmidt was one of Vision Monday's 50 Most Influential Women in Optical in 2005.

Credit Statement: This course is approved for one (1) hour of CE credit by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Course #: STJM111-1 Please check with your state licensing board to see if this approval counts toward your CE requirement for relicensure.
This course is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from VISION EASE LENS.

The current optical market is ripe for new eyewear options. Almost half the U.S. population is over 45�the patient base that buys more eyewear more frequently. While the general marketplace replaces their eyewear about every three years, the 45 and older age category changes eyewear every two years, according to Jobson Optical Research. As a result, new options that provide better benefits are creating more opportunities for eyecare professionals.

In a survey by Jobson Optical Research, when told of their benefits and cost, 35 percent of consumers suggested that they would purchase photochromics.
Yet according to Jobson/VCA's VisionWatch, a consumer panel that reports on eyewear purchases and experiences, only about 14 percent actually bought them. As a result, about 20 percent of eyewear consumers that showed intent to purchase photochromics didn't actually buy them.
35% intent to purchase � 14% actual purchase = 21% missed opportunity

The opportunity lost is two fold. The value in sales is about $1 billion i.e., if there was 35 percent intent and 14 percent actual purchases, that's about 20 percent of the 75M eyewear purchasers per year (.20x75M) or about 15M potential sales/year. At an average add-on of $65/pair, 15M purchases equal about $975M, an incredible amount.

20% x 75 million purchases = 15 million purchases
15 million purchases x $65 average add-on = $975 million

Aside from these lost dollars, the patient lost the benefits of convenience and protection provided by photochromic lenses.

1 patient with unmet needs + missed incremental sales $ = 1 incredible opportunity

To best target the opportunity, it's important to know how market dynamics have changed. Photochromics have grown to >14 percent ('05) from 5.8 percent ('96). Polycarbonate and progressives have been the major drivers of this growth. Polycarbonate has grown to 35 percent ('05) of all photochromics from 22 percent ('03). Progressives are nearly half of all photochromic sales. So just who's wearing photochromics? 13.5 percent of 45 to 54 year olds and 16.1 percent of patients over 55 choose photochromic lenses.

What does it all mean? Add photochromics to grow your practice and include new photochromics, especially in polycarbonate multifocals because it has the capacity to grow the market. It is important to focus on presbyopes because they are more sophisticated about healthcare and more open to the optical options available to them. In addition, ECPs should focus on polycarbonate because it is the number one growing lens material.


The 45 to 54 and 55 plus age categories provide the most opportunity for ECPs to sell photochromics, progressive lenses and AR mainly because of its size�nearly half the U.S. population falls within this age group. So you can easily see the opportunity.

Beyond being numerous, this group tends to be more educated and savvy. They seek out and want the best healthcare solutions for themselves and their families. In fact, they often ask about eyewear options they've read about and researched on the Internet. Sometimes they know more about their choices than we do. Therefore, be prepared to discuss new technologies and eyewear options. Consumers will pay more for technology, especially when it delivers differentiating benefits.

Today, opportunities for both the ECP and patients exist in new photochromics and polarized sunwear products.



Recently, a new lens family was introduced that addresses the needs of these baby boomers. Up until now, flat top photochromics were available in only plastic and mid-index. With polycarbonate at about 35 percent of the lens market, there is a demand for a traditional bifocal in both lightweight poly and convenient photochromic. Now for the first time, patients can have both. After 10 years in development, Vision-Ease Lens has launched a new photochromic technology that resulted in the first and only photochromic polycarbonate FT28 and ultimately other bifocals and trifocals. This new photochromic, branded LifeRx, is also available in a progressive design to provide a menu of options for the baby boomer. With a more complete lens toolbox, more patients can be better satisfied with their eyewear.

This is especially true when polycarbonate lenses are up to 30 percent thinner, lighter and flatter than comparable powered plastic lenses.


Current Photochromic Technologies
Imbedded Film


Surface Treatment
� Flat top or any other lens style
� Photochromic dyes behind
front cover
� 100% UV protection

� Manufacturer controlled
� Glass, plastic and mid-index materials
� Photochromic dyes
throughout the lens
� 100% UV Protection

� Front surface only
�Uniform density
� New generations
darken and fade faster
Limitations Limitations Limitations
� Available in Poly only, one source
� Dye fatigue may discolor
lenses over time
� Dyes are temperature sensitive

� Not available in Poly and
High Index plastic
� Less clear in the fully
faded state*
� Dye fatigue may discolor
lenses over time
� Dyes are temperature sensitive

� Multiple manufacturers
� Less clear in the fully
faded state*
� Dye fatigue may discolor
lenses over time

� Dyes are temperature sensitive
� Photochromic surface more fragile
Examples Examples Examples

Photogrey Extra,
Photobrown Extra,
InstaShades, various
molding systems

Transitions Optical products


Film technology is what differentiates this new photochromic.

First a highly sensitized dye is dispersed in a special urethane polymer film. This chemistry allows the initial dye to be clearer in the absence of UV so that LifeRx photochromic lenses frequently cannot be distinguished from clear polycarbonate lenses. The film is then encased in polycarbonate and molded onto the front of a SF poly blank placing the photochromic layer ~0.4mm below the front surface of the lens. This concept is novel as well as being covered by five patents. This allows any lens style and the base curve to be created on the front surface. The added backing of blank thickness makes the lens suitable for any Rx. In addition, the front surface can be made spherical, aspheric or multifocal.

The poly film covers are made from a special non-UV absorbing polycarbonate so that the photochromic dyes can react completely in the presence of UV. UV is absorbed by the rest of the lens blank so these lenses are 100 percent UV protective. The lens remains transparent until exposed to UV and then rapidly changes to a darker density. The speed is fast and meets the expectations of wearers. Lenses also fade faster than other competitive photochromics. This technology uses a single organic dye molecule to darken the lens. This ensures that the color remains the same during activation and fading. In the past, when dyes were made of multiple pigments, photochromic lenses could pass through a number of different colors while darkening and fading. Therefore, for the ECP, the benefits of this new film technology include: the same color concentration in any prescription, any polycarbonate lens style is possible, no possibility of peeling or crazing, and a lab or manufacturer can use any scratch-resistant coating for durability or AR compatibility. There is no risk of damaging photochromic coating and the AR can be stripped if needed.

For the patient, assure them of superior performance, absolute clarity in the clear state; faster fade back, more potential lens styles, 100 percent UV protection in a thin, light and highly impact and superior abrasion resistant lens.


Clear and fast are patient benefits that sell photochromics. In the following graphs, the patient performance benefits are displayed. Use them to describe the way that a patient can expect their lenses to perform and meet the expectation that was set at the dispensing table.

Clear as hard-coated poly lenses. Here the measured transmission values of both clear poly and LifeRx are the same. All data is from a Colts Laboratories evaluation; data is available from Vision Ease Lens upon request. Lenses are dark and after 30 seconds can achieve sunglass density (72 degrees F). Lenses that change rapidly better meet a patient's expectations.


Lenses also fade back up to 30 percent faster. The graph below shows that in the first minute, lenses are 35 percent light or 65 percent dark; after two minutes over 50 percent light. Patients will appreciate the faster fading characteristics and if better for the harder to satisfy, then these lenses will likely please everyone else.


So, armed with this data, begin to attack the billion dollar opportunity.


While polycarbonate is known for its high-impact strength, its abrasion resistance is enhanced by modern chemistry hard coatings. Look for poly lenses with high Bayer test values. Bayer is a relative measure of the abrasion resistance of lenses when compared to uncoated plastic. Also, the harder the hard coat, the more durable and abrasion resistant the AR.


Polycarbonate's benefits should be explained to all patients. ECPs should discuss how important 100 percent UV absorption is by explaining how unfiltered UVB rays can cause cataracts. They should also explain how accumulated UVA is linked to age-related macula degeneration (AMD); 80 percent of retinal damage can occur before age 18.

Polycarbonate and photochromic lenses are a good choice for all patients because they absorb virtually all the UV and protect the wearer from the above health risks as well as ensure the best impact protection.


Consumers seek good merchandisers that provide more choices, so have fun dispensing eyewear. Know everything about the products you sell, provide products that answers individual wants, needs and demands.

Good dispensers translate and uncover unknown needs. While photochromic lenses seem complex, know the features and benefits perfectly. In this way, every dispenser can provide expert advice and recommendations. Inform patients that they can be comfortable in every light condition, by enjoying the convenience of lenses that change as needed, provide 100 percent UV protection and are available in a lens style perfectly suited for their lifestyle.

Photochromic lenses can be suitable for everyone�from seniors to kids, contact lens wearers to post-surgical patients. While some patients remember the drawbacks of early photochromics and may be reluctant to invest in the technology again, explain and demonstrate to them that photochromic lenses are vastly improved.

Provide a questionnaire or have a Q&A session with the patient to determine their needs. This can help target potential users in every demographic. It also helps patients realize there are many options for eyewear. Individualized needs require more than one pair of glasses, one of these might be photochromics, so tailor your presentation to match the lifestyle of the wearer.

Make sure the entire office is committed to photochromic dispensing and discussing photochromics with every patient. Place photochromic lens literature in the reception area and in optical. Describe and demonstrate lens performance. First, on a white background, compare clear polycarbonate to a photochromic lens; demonstrate that there is no difference in clarity. Then, go outside and activate the lenses in normal sunlight (a lamp with a broad spectrum UV bulb is convenient if outside conditions are not favorable).

Wear photochromic lenses yourself. Show patients how your personal lenses darken and lighten. Patients are impressed when the optician speaks from firsthand experience.

Of course, the doctor has the greatest influence on the patient's decision to purchase ophthalmic products and services. If the doctor recommends photochromics based on the patient's examination outcomes, it's likely that the patient will purchase what has been recommended.

Most patients want to know the latest, the hottest, and/or the most technologically advanced product they can find. Position the latest technologies in photochromics as the best. Talk to patients about the technology behind the lenses. Having a pair of glasses that multi-task can be irresistible to your patients.


If eyecare professionals have more selections to offer patients interested in light sensitive lenses, then the portion of patients that had intended to buy photochromics actually can. New photochromic technology offers substantially improved wearer benefits in a broad range of availability. Patients have the choice of lenses that areclear indoors, darken and fade quickly, adjusting to all light levels for comfort and visual clarity, provide 100 percent UV protection, in an ultra abrasion-resistant coated polycarbonate.

Scripting, Terminology and
Trademark Respect

Ever had someone say "Is Pepsi okay?" when you asked for a Coke?
Understanding and respecting trademarks is important so here are some definitions and suggestions when talking photochromic trademarks.

Photochromic: Lenses that darken or change when exposed to sunlight.This term may be used to describe any lens, in any material, sold by any manufacturer that has this particular product attribute.

LifeRx Photochromic Lenses: A trademarked name held by Vision-Ease Lens to be used only to describe LifeRx photochromic branded lenses.

Transitions Photochromic Lenses: A registered trademark name held by Transitions Optical and to be used only to describe Transitions branded products.

Trademark correct�
"Yes, you can order a LifeRx polycarbonate photochromic flat top bifocal" "Do you want that plastic changeable tint lens in brown or gray?"

Trademark incorrect�
"Yes, you can order a polycarbonate Transitions flat top bifocal" "Do you want that plastic lens in PhotoGray or PhotoBrown?"

These are inappropriate uses of a trademarked name.
"LifeRx lenses are the Transitions lenses that are available in a polycarbonate flat top bifocal."


New eyewear options and improved technology better meet patient needs. Photochromics present an excellent way to target and capitalize on that opportunity. New photochromic technology offers substantially improved wearer benefits and the ability to better meet a real patient's needs. This provides benefits for the optician, doctor, manufacturer and practice, making a big part of the billion dollar opportunity yours. �