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Grand Intentions
The Luxury and Allure of Selling High End Eyewear

By David Schwartz

Release Date: June 2008

Expiration Date: July 31, 2009

Learning Objectives:

  1. Learn the opportunity for adding luxury brand to any office.
  2. Understand what changes are needed to make the addition successful.
  3. Determine whether your office needs the luxury boost.

orange ladyThere’s an opportunity for optical dispensers looking for a healthy profit and rich rewards. Like fine jewelry and watches that hover in the $600-$1000 range, high-end and/or luxury eyewear is a new category for optical dispensers to enhance their business. The trick is finding the right formula for success—learning how to read consumer needs and desires, how to track sales, and manage inventory accordingly. Use this course to learn the trends and the methods to add luxury to any practice.

It goes against every economic indicator, but buying trends for luxury products, powerful high-end brands, and big dollar accessory items have never been stronger.

By comparison, the forecast for consumer spending in a number of other big-ticket areas is bleak. New housing, real estate and transportation continue to suffer.

This split in economic trending creates an opportunity for optical dispensers looking for a healthy profit and rich rewards. The trick is finding the right formula for success—learning how to read consumer needs and desires, how to track sales, and manage inventory accordingly.

High-end and/or luxury eyewear is not a new category for optical dispensers. Eyewear packages (the combined price of both frame and lenses) have been popular for years with prices falling comfortably in the $600 to $1000 range. It’s not uncommon, in fact, for certain materials and detailing, to exceed that $1000 mark and elevate a pair of eyewear into the same bracket as fine jewelry and watches.

img2It’s important to be aware of two factors, here. First, the optical market is currently seeing an increase in the number of high-end and luxury brand names available. By the very nature of branding, this is creating greater consumer awareness and stronger name recognition of top-drawer products. And second, accessories (handbags, jewelry, fragrances, scarves, ties, watches, and, of course, sunglasses) are a safe and reasonable entry into the luxury market for wary consumers. Consumers love the idea of being able to buy a piece of the dream, the aura, the mystique of a high-end brand. And that’s easier to do with a pair of sunglasses or a scarf than it is with a piece of furniture or a new car.

With so much awareness of luxury products, it is high time for optical dispensing pros to consider either fine-tuning the merchandise mix or perhaps, after careful study of the demographics in the area, opting to move the entire practice upscale. That said, this push toward luxury and quality products couldn’t be a half-hearted attempt or a superficial effort to bring in a handful of high end styles. In order to dispense at this level, a practice—including personnel and display treatments—must be committed to addressing the needs of this market.

img3SETTING THE SCENE

Stepping into luxury and high-end eyewear requires thoughtful consideration. There’s something to that old saying, “You can’t dress a wolf in sheep’s clothing...” Taking beautiful, expensive items and placing them on old and dusty shelves or a broken frame board serves no one’s interest, least of all the eyewear professional’s. It is crucial to consider the overall appeal of the dispensary, the type and placement of fixtures, availability and knowledge of support staff—including sales, technical and dispensing associates, as well as the demographics of current patients.

Simply put, can this practice support and sustain a shift into high-end merchandise? Before considering revising a frame product mix to include a greater number of higher-priced brands, one must have or devotedly develop a solid ground of quality service. Highly knowledgeable sales and dispensing associates, superb lens finishing and lab procedures, and the determination to deliver exemplary support for both the high end and luxury eyewear and sunwear market must be in place.

SETTING THE SCENE

  1. Stand back and take a close look at the store and display areas, upgrade where needed or add stand-alone glass cases to highlight the special collection(s).
  2. Use lights that can highlight and focus on specific products.
  3. Have the sales representative train staff on the identity of the brand and the right words to use when describing it.
  4. Add point of sale cards that name the brand and when possible accessories of the same designer (scarves, purses, shoes).
  5. Review the patient base for those that would be most interested and send them an announcement card or call and tell them that you just added a brand just right for them. It’s time for them to visit.

It should be noted here that even these peripheral considerations to selling a luxury product conform to basic premises as detailed by Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a research firm dedicated to helping retailers understand the idea of and allure of status.

Accordingly, Pedraza emphasizes both products and service must always:

  • Display consistent and superior quality
  • Portray uniqueness and exclusivity
  • Be valued by people who are admired and respected
  • Make owners/perspective owners feel special

In addition to those standards portrayed by the Luxury Institute, it is imperative that the dispensary reflects all of this top-drawer quality in store fixtures, displays, storefront and window treatments, waiting facilities and the all-important fitting environment. When it finally comes down to a patient being faced (in every sense of that word) with eyewear and sunglasses, it is crucial to set the scene. Do this and you are ready to dispense a product steeped in brand-name quality and brand-known status. And your patients will be ready to heed your advice—and increase the bottom line.

VIP TREATMENT

Entertaining the task of dispensing luxury to eyewear patients/consumers means rolling out the very-important-person red carpet. The brands demand it. The frames demand it. The lenses (and rich layers of lens treatments) demand it. The quality of service requires it. The price requires it. And, most importantly, the patient expects it.

This VIP status is not exclusive to luxury eyewear. It is basic to selling any highly desired luxury item or marketable service.

And on that note, but specifically applied to concerns of dispensing, all of the following points must be treated as primary considerations.

img4Customers/patients deserve—and believe it or not, expect—nothing less than a treatment, style and range of comfort as superb as the eyewear product being presented. This includes attentive one-on-one dispensing, with absolutely no disruptions or intrusions, as well as open consultation advice during every step of the process from exam to fitting. Even the experience of waiting must be given consideration. Attention must be pre-focused on reading materials that promote the best in top-notch eye and health care, publications that enhance and reflect high-end product advertisements and rich, lifestyle choices.

In lenses, consider progressives like Shamir Autograph and the extra fitting measurements taken to return a lens that is considered for the as-worn fitting position. This ensures the most faithful replication of the doctor’s prescription in the lenses. Or, consider adding Crizal Avancé with Scotchgard as the luxury AR that is available to everyone on a premium Essilor progressive like Varilux Physio 360°. Regardless of the frame chosen, all lenses should also deliver the identity of luxury.

Nothing in the process can—or should—slip in quality. Cases must be perfect. Lenses must be continually cleaned to a jewel-like shine. Sitting must be at once relaxing, yet appropriate to mirror reflected adjustments.

Money is being invested so customers feel better starting with a presentation of the best in frames, lenses and potentially accompanying sunwear. Saving money and cost cutting has no place in this opening position. It sets a wrong course and a destructive scenario. It cheapens the whole experience.

For example, “Try this Dior frame. Its inspiration is the floral detailing found in clothing and accessories from the runway, finished exquisitely in Swarovski Crystals”.

The “try on” should never be rushed. Aim high and let the patient pace the process and the level of attentiveness required. Most luxury experiences include the plateau of the sale as part and parcel of the process leading to a high-end purchase of a luxury brand product.

img5Never skimp on presentation. Display cases must be impeccable in appearance. Trays should be lined in high-grade fabrics and coordinated to each specific brand. Of course, they are clean and not faded.

CUSTOMERS/PATIENTS EXPECT

  1. Treatment, style, and comfort as superb as the eyewear being presented
  2. One-on-one dispensing
  3. No disruptions or intrusions
  4. Consultation &advice during every step of the process
  5. Pre-focuses reading materials that promote the best in top-notch eye and health care
  6. Publications reflect high-end eyewear and rich, lifestyle choice

Signage must never confuse the message; a unified and coordinated vision must be on display.

Show frames as if every item is a piece of precious jewelry. Handle each frame delicately. Encourage that delicate touch for the patient. Keep the dispensing tray and table mix of frames at a minimum of two or three at a time so that there is never confusion over what selections have been made and eliminated.

Others can’t match this kind of service. So, to be a high-end retailer, you can't afford to err on customer service, it’s what will build your reputation.

Make sure the frame mix is distinctive and relatively exclusive. Don’t layer on brands to confuse or conflict with the identity of a targeted merchandise mix. If your range of inventory does not include a frame or a specific brand that is requested, make sure you are educated enough to provide viable alternatives. Every brand has a competitive brand. Every price-point has a complementary priced product. It is important not to overstock, to offer too much of a good thing. Know your clientele and cater specifically to their desires. Too much of a good thing is still too much. And too many choices can inhibit the selling process.img8

Fill in the spaces between luxury brand categories with some exclusive boutique collections or brands not commonly known. Such a selling structure breeds positive exclusivity and in-the-know value for both the dispenser AND the consumer.

All dispensers and sales associates must know key, signature features of any given luxury brand presented to a customer. That knowledge needs to broadly encompass signature elements as they relate to all products of the brand (for example: leather and belting features of a handbag) and the eyewear of that brand (logo treatments, hinge elements, colorations).

Here’s an example of a Gucci design element and its use. This texture logo detailing is used in handbags and watches. Men as well as women readily identify this textural logo with a particular style and fashion. Don’t miss showing, describing and using this brand’s identity to deliver what patients specifically look for in Gucci products.

IMPECCABLE STYLE

High end branding is not immune to the ups and downs of fashion trends. But within that arena there are elements of style that are classic and enduring. Actual good taste is quite timeless and there are fashionable crests that remain solid directions of what is tasteful and what is not.

img6Simply said, it is crucial to stay current, ahead of the trends, and always within the boundaries of good taste. It is a delicate—but obtainable—balance. Here are some current and timeless trends worth considering. Remember, you must always remain open, fresh and aware of what is trending in ALL luxury markets in order to stay on the cutting edge of dispensing luxury eyewear. Read fashion magazines; look for spectacles and especially sunglasses ads, they are the same ones that your patients are seeing. Note when designers use eyeglasses on their models on the runway. Also, look through the Sunday newspaper and its inserts for sunglass ads. High fashion and luxury is being advertised. Also visible is the retail price. This actually helps predispose the patient and helps them understand the cost of style.

Fashion designers continue to thrive on glamour, retro-visions, and previous style dictates of the 50s, the 60s and the 70s in order to deliver products that are at once modern, yet respectful of the past. Eyewear is equally a part of that designer planning. Rena-ta Espinosa, who writes for Fashion Wire Daily said in her Mar 20th description about the introduction of Jimmy Choo sunwear, “Inspired by oversize frames from the '70s and ‘80s… they're perfectly in keeping with the Jimmy Choo vibe of fame and fabulousness, being one of Hollywood's favorite labels for completing a red carpet look.”

img7Design elements are brand specific and ensure the timeless appeal of the best brands. Here, this Gucci frame (GG2793) sports the iconic bamboo horse bit. The bamboo handle bag was first introduced in 1947. It has become an important icon for Gucci and is a functional identifier that is sought by patients. As a subtle brand identifier, it is being used in shoes, handbags, and timepieces. Be sure to point it out when showing this frame.

Show frames as if every item is a precious piece of jeweleryCurrent prescription frame styles are trending away from the diminutive and unisex blandness that resonated during the 90s. Use branded frames with temple treatments that will help you promote and dispense them.

Premium materials rule any luxury product and eye-wear is no exception. Stay well versed on custom and colorful zyl treatments from both Europe and Japan. Stay keenly aware of developments in pure titanium and beta titanium, gold, silver, aluminum, platinum, horn and wood treatments, and frames featuring subtle combinations of both plastic and metal. Be prepared with a healthy but rich assortment of both rimless and semi-rimless styles. The top brands all exhibit strength in any number of these material wisdoms.

Describe to patients the beauty the newest custom colorations, innovative filigrees, zyl layering and state-of-the-art hinge capabilities.

Look to promote extravagant details and unique accents. Consider jewels (especially diamonds), precious crystals, leather trim, fabric inlays and patterns, lace work patterns, engravings and lavish logo treatments.

Logos are, in fact, a specialized category. Study a patient’s preference for either bold or subtle logos and take THEIR lead here when it comes to presenting eyewear. Many times the logo represents the whole brand’s philosophy and following in a letter treatment that goes right to the heart and head of a consumer. An understanding of the power of logo-ing can never be underrated when considering the concept of luxury eyewear.

A good deal of luxury’s appeal is often hidden. Be aware of a frame’s inner delights including contrasting colorations inside the temple pieces and frame face, endpiece details, microscopic hinge details and even the wearer-driven attribute of how a frame folds, closes and positions itself in a luxurious case.

Cutting edge technology is fashion that functions. img9

LUXURY LOVES COMPANY

A key element of luxury is the ability to build a wardrobe of eye-wear for the consumer. Never underestimate the power of add-ons— readers, sunwear, and accessory items, even a spare pair. There is potential here in both men’s and women’s categories.

Although a brand may strive for a sense of exclusivity, that uniqueness does not rule out association of other products within the brand’s domain. And just as that association extends to other products (like eyewear) the extension also brings into play wardrobing for glasses specialized to other purposes, other lifestyle decisions and, most importantly, the all-important addition of sunglasses to the mix.

img10Letting your customer go with just one pair of glasses is actually vision care neglect. Sun protection is the responsibility of the eye-care professional. At the time of any purchase it is the duty of any ECP to offer the advice and availability of appropriate sunglasses. And that extension should take into consideration any number of factors including driving, a range of sport activities and (coming full circle) the glamour and drama of luxury branded sunglasses. (See the Star-Struck sidebar for more information on this “added” value to luxury.)

Sunglasses are actually the most powerful branding message carrier. It is usually sunglasses that play out the brand loyalty factor in stage, screen, red carpet and fashion runway coverage. To avoid that arena is tantamount to sidestepping the work companies put in to marketing their products through advertising, product placement and via the celebrity driven coverage of the media. Availing a practice to that sort of advertising and marketing by association is perhaps the smartest “luxury” step any optical practice could exhibit.

Breaking Away- Sáfilo provided some of Tinseltown’s newest and hottest celebs wih cool shades recently at the seventh annual “Breakthrough of th Year Awards” hosted by Hollywood Life magazine in Los Angelos. After each award, the recipients and presenters were escorted to gifting suites by Solstice Sunglasses Boutique/Sáfilo and other companies. Award winners showing off thier new sunwear are actress Leslie Mann (9) from the film “Knocked Up” in Stella McCartney 76s, music producer J.R. Rotem (10) in Bottega Veneta 61’s, “Lost” star Elizabeth Mitchell (11) in Giorgio Armani 556’s and Edgar Ramirez (12) from the movie...

stars

STAR STRUCK
SUCCESS BREEDS SUCCESS.

And the success of selling eyewear and sunglasses is increasingly tied to the appearance of eyewear on the faces of celebrities. Consumers are enthusiastic for the brands and luxury glasses associated with their favorite celebrities. Spotting a frame in a movie or a sunglass at an awards-event red carpet begins a journey of “wanting” and “needing” the same.

Playing this high profile frame-game has some unique and rewarding advantages. And although the bid toward luxury is lucrative, it is once again well worth reminding ECP’s that none of this high-valued advice falls on the dark side of manipulating customers. It’s about offering quality goods in a quality environment. Quality eyewear is a win/win situation for dispensers AND patients.

That said…look to the stars:

Read magazines that prominently feature celebrities and other icons of fashion and style.

rayKeep these magazines in plain sight, and don’t hesitate to point patients to a photo or an ad to illustrate the wearability of a style.

Consider installing a flat screen TV and running footage from fashion shows, celebrity events and award shows on a continuous loop.

Hang and display artwork that reinforces this connection at point of sale.

Host themed trunk shows—a staple of the luxury market— tied to key events: A Night at the Oscars, or On the Road to Cannes, are just two examples.