Accessing Accessible Luxury
By Maryann Macchiaverna
Release Date: March, 2013
Expiration Date: April 15, 2014
Upon completion of this program the participant should be able to:
- Recognize and understand the Four-Step Blueprint for luxury.
- Understand manufacturers' Accessible Luxury strategy.
- Identify steps that help your customers acquire luxury eyewear.
Maryann Macchiaverna is a graduate of Raritan Valley Community College, New Jersey with an A.A.S. degree in Ophthalmic Science and a B.A. in Mass Communications from Mary Baldwin College. She works as an optician dispensing and is proficient in benchwork.
This course is approved for one (1) hour of CE credit by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Course #SWJHI503-2.
This course is supported by an educational grant from Lafont, Match Eyewear, The McGee Group, ProDesign Denmark, Ogi Eyewear, Viva International Group and WestGroupe.
"Accessible luxury" are words that intrigue, excite and entice. We all appreciate luxury in some way, shape or form but in uncertain economic times, luxury can be hard to acquire. When luxury is also combined with the items we need, that ultimately gives us a real sense of fulfillment. How can luxury be made accessible? Many frame manufacturers give consumers the components of luxurious eyewear and make it
attainable, affordable and accessible.
The Guilt-Free Experience
20/20 editor Breanna Benz has her own idea of accessible luxury. She said: "I live in New York City and recently took advantage of something called Broadway Week, a one-week span where most tickets are two for the price of one. As someone who is no stranger to coupons and bargain shopping, I find a sense of pride in snatching up a deal—the best of both worlds, with quality and sensibility. Nothing feels better than finding exactly what I've been waiting for but in a moderation that allows for a guilt-free experience."
On the evening of the show, she said: "I sat in the theatre with my friend, bathing in the glow of the brilliantly gilded ceil ings, breathing in the aged-red velvet seats. I've been to a few other Broadway shows, and once again I felt like Cinder-ella; my time was short but I'd soak up every cent of luxury while it lasted. After an admired small screen star gave her New York Times-heralded performance, we gathered our things and emerged, still smiling, just two girls walking from anywhere to anywhere, on a city sidewalk."
A Four-Step Blueprint for Luxury
Purchasing a new car, a boat or even new jewelry initiates the feeling of luxury. They also can give us a feeling of gratification. Purchasing new eyewear that provides affordable and accessible luxury can have the same effect. When luxurious eyewear sits front and center on our face and is made with quality materials and craftsmanship, we begin to feel better about ourselves. Identifying the four components of luxury is integral to any successful optical department.
First, identify the kind of frames that convey luxury that you would like to deliver to your patients. It may be the types of materials, craftsmanship (design, texture, embellishment or color), or selection of brands with these attributes, along with a variety of price ranges that impress patients with the kinds of accessible luxuries that are included.
Second, provide accessibility to your patients. This means that your office provides enough samples to display and try on in a comfortable setting with good lighting and mirrors. Keep in mind that ambiance, elegance, politeness and courtesy coincide with purchasing eyewear and creating a feeling of luxury.
Third, merchandise your inventory and its availability by constructing a Facebook page for your optical department and the luxury brands you carry. All customers that "like" the page can be offered preferred pricing. If they refer five friends, provide them an additional markdown in price. Create a Twitter account and ask to "follow" your customers. For all that allow you to do so, offer them additional cleaning kits, further preferred pricing on additional pairs like sunglasses and computer or reading eyewear.
Ensure that all customers' e-mail addresses are on file. Send any updates on new luxury frame lines you are carrying and advertise any special deals you are currently running (month/ seasonal, etc.). Invite customers to attend a trunk show, which are always quite enjoyable. Hire a caterer to serve hors d'oeuvres, play soft music and create a suitable atmosphere for purchasing luxury eyewear. Invite frame reps to display and educate your clients on all aspects of why their line is deluxe. Add excitement by asking a frame designer to attend and mingle with the guests and answer questions. Providing a luxurious atmosphere appropriately coincides with displaying and selling luxurious eyewear. Make your customers feel special. For all who purchase eyewear that particular eve ning, offer other incentives for additional eyewear or upgrade them to the most premium AR at standard AR pricing.
Fourth, stay current on trends; it's critical. Attend trade shows like Vision Expo to stay current on all aspects of the industry and meet and greet old and new vendors alike. Subscribe to all optical industry publications and display them in your optical department for your patients to read as well as for yourself.
Luxurious and Accessible...
All in One Sentence
Absolutely. It only takes being creative on the ECP's part. First, it's important to know and understand each sense of luxury. Luxury is a feeling of lavish living. While not a necessity, it is an enjoyment of comfort and expensive taste. So, how does one deliver luxurious living and some enjoyment of the luxurious lifestyle? Bridge the gap between high-end and low-end eye-wear. There will always be a market for high-end luxury frames, but what about those frames that add some luxury but are more accessible?
For example, Guess by Marciano, manufactured by Viva International Group, is styled by Marciano and reinvents modern style. They combine chic and sophisticated quality frame materials, in a brand recognized by both women and men. For customers who have a creative side and artistic flair, consider a Lafont frame with its dynamic colors and trendsetting designs. Terrific craftsmanship and an array of textures and embellishments signal eye-catching luxury. New examples of this work can be seen in the retro collections where a number of manufacturers offer "re-edition shapes" but with contemporary colors and textures.
When talking about a Zig Eyewear frame, tell patients that they "...are fun and decorative, designed with crafty architecture and pleasing to the eye." Describe the style as a "sophisticated use of architectural elements that make the temples flexible yet stable with a flair for design."
Morel, a frame manufacturer for more than a century created its Öga brand in 1997, as a refined line with Scandinavian designs. Say: "These frames incorporate the Kusk flex system that combines a flexible plastic frame material (called TR90) and stainless steel for a sleek, minimalist look but projects high-fashion." The unique design provides high durability and adjustability for the ECP. The GANT frame illustrates the complex combination of layered zyl. Say to patients: "Look at how the layers of color provide an accent to the colors you wear as well as make the frame noticed. It gives you the luxury of a bold variety of new colors and classic design."
Understanding a manufacturer's brands and their identities, and the ability to communicate those will give a consumer confidence that they are purchasing from a reputable company. Your customer might want to know: Is the manufacturer animal friendly? Are they eco-conscious, carbon aware or donate to the community? Does the company have board members that maintain integrity in the community and the industry? These and other additional moral aspects play a significant role in a consumer's purchase. Know about your vendor's businesses; they add an identity of knowledge and accessibility to yours.
The Excitement of Acquiring a Bit of Luxury
Eyewear can be a substantial purchase for many patients. But it can be an exciting experience when a bit of luxury is part of the result. Here's how to show your customers that it is accessible:
1. Make eyewear selection an event, similar to a substantial purchase, which requires the right amount of time and thought. There should be no rushing a patient into a purchase where you point out the luxury attributes of each component, particularly when it's eyewear that sits square on their faces.
2. Never assume what a patient can or cannot afford. We all can afford to feel good about ourselves so sell up and slowly take down the price if you have to. Introduce various price points but never sell a customer cheap.
3. Eyewear for occasions such as black-tie affairs, luncheons at the country club or a night at the opera; whatever the event, offer the ability to wardrobe a variety of looks to your patients. Instill that eyewear is special, distinct and very personal. Make sure it is displayed and sold as such.
4. Be a master at knowing all the specifics about each eyewear line you carry. Make sure your staff is equally as knowledgeable. Every brand has certain qualities that make them unique. Morel, for example, uses genuine horn, which although can be costly, looks distinctive and tasteful. Evatik uses a wood-like material that adds to its individuality. Build your knowledge of the fine points of each line so that you are the brand's best spokesperson.
5. Get to know your patients. When Mrs. Kirk walks through the door, remember that she is conservative and classy. Pull the appropriate frames for her. Adrienne Vittadini is a great choice; say: "It goes from the boardroom to the dining room quite well." Seraphin by Ogi recently introduced the Evo-Tec Collection, "...for the modern male. Constructed of exceptionally lightweight new material, they merge the richness and depth of a fine acetate, with the lightweight aspects of titanium." Make each price point reflect the actual benefits that each frame offers. If Mrs. Kirk can't afford one brand, she may be able to afford the other. Keep notes on file of Mrs. Kirk's specific taste, career and hobbies. When you greet her by name and automatically pull her favorite style when she walks through the door, she will feel special.
6. Not only can frames be luxurious, so can lenses. Digital free-form lenses for luxurious visual acuity, and don't forget to add the extras: photochromics, polarization, AR, tints, etc. to customize your customer's spectacles. You can tailor their eye-wear to their specific needs, and it doesn't have to cost your customers an arm and a leg. Never forget to highlight how you add a bit of luxury to their eyewear by creating bountiful lens packages to sell along with their frames.
7. Educate your customers on all aspects of what they are purchasing as well as the add-ons. Nothing makes them feel more important than when you educate them on what they are purchasing. It avoids "buyer's remorse." It gives them knowledge on the product they are purchasing and may even give them a little insight into the industry itself. You will give them confidence in themselves and even you as their optician. It shows honesty, character and integrity on your part.
8. After a sale be sure to follow up with superior customer service unmatched by anyone else in the optical industry. A little TLC goes a long way.
No longer a medical appliance, eyewear is a fashion statement or a kind of face jewelry, as some like to say. Depending on your patient's age, eyewear is replaced about every two years and purchased in multiples for every fancy and purpose. We're past the belt-tightening of previous years so have the right eyewear that pampers every customer. Luckily, frame and lens manufacturers are always ready to help make more benefits accessible to the consumer in every possible way.
Become more competitive by knowing what your customer's attitudes are on value, pricing, service and quality. It helps attract and maintain clientele. Don't forget that eyewear purchased online is growing, thanks to smart phones and social media. The average person spent approximately 15 hours a week online in 2012 viewing Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Foursquare and other social media sites. Since consumers spend more time and money online than ever before, personally sharing a bit of knowledge about your luxury eyewear will be much more rewarding to your patient than the impersonal sale online.
Conveying that Special Feeling of Luxury
Effectively communicate to your customers that they don't always need to pay more for luxury. Spotlight ways to help your customers indulge in luxurious eyewear without them suffering buyer's remorse the next day. Encourage them to pamper themselves at their next visit at your optical department.
As James Spina, 20/20 Editor-in-Chief says, "It's all about attitude... yours... your customers... and the eyewear at hand... or more importantly, in your store and on your customers' faces. You are playing with a valuable niche. Play nice."