Features: Fashion Feature



Fashion Editor: GLORIA NICOLA

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Forget all those dated notions about Value Eyewear. Think quality product at competitive price points. Think stylish eyewear that can go head-to-head with optical’s key fashion brands. Value is one product category in which the bottom line has become top notch.

CASINO EYEWEAR Mandy by I-dealoptics
For the purposes of this feature, the term “value” is designated for frames priced under $25 (price to dispenser) and covered by the classification of “Inexpensive” in 20/20’s New Products section.

ALL AMERICAN Henry from A&A Optical

“The majority of business at America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses, the 107-unit chain with stores in 22 states throughout the country, is in packages. We don’t call it value or managed care or any names that have come to have a negative connotation. What we sell is basic eyeglasses and contact lenses. Our major package is two pairs of eyeglasses with single-vision lenses and an exam for $69.95. Our philosophy is good design without a brand name at a basic price. We have basic product available for every age and gender from kids to seniors.

“The essential element in value product is to have good quality and merchandise it well. Treat it with respect. That’s the key to changing consumer perception. Value used to mean oversize, ugly plastic frames for old people. That’s no longer the case. Value has evolved over the years. I now see 19- and 20-year-olds get excited over a small, trendy metal frame. That’s a huge change. Value is going to significantly impact the eyewear industry in the next five to 10 years by forcing the overall market to compete with lower prices.

“Although price is what brings our customers in the door, what keeps them coming back is quality and design. That’s the true test. We maintain very strict tabs on product quality. We have a central lab that checks all product for overall construction before we put in on the shelves. And we offer a full warranty against breakage, even if the customer is responsible for the breakage. What I have noticed over the past few years is eyewear keeps getting better and better in quality and design.”

Kelly Carter, vice president of marketing and merchandising,
America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, Philadelphia

LOLA from Limited Editions Eyewear

MERO C133 from Glance Eyewear

“1st Eye Care is an independently owned optometric practice, which has been run by Tim Kret, OD, for 30 years. He has recently been joined by Michael Bond, OD, and Lindsey Bond, OD. Our patient base scans all ages and crosses all economic groups. Our frame prices reflect this diversity, ranging from $35 to $1,800 and over for a customized frame with diamonds. We use the economy products for insurance plans and to supply frames to children under special programs. We have a $99 frame and lens package for insurance plans, but unless our patients specifically say they don’t want to spend more than the insurance allows, we show our best products first. In the past few years, though, insurance has become a major factor in our practice. I’ve been here 25 years.

Our patients used to come primarily because of the doctor and not question the price. Now they are much more price conscious and we need to address their needs. People in any income bracket are looking for quality and service and for eyewear that makes them feel good.

“In selecting value product, we look for dependable vendors that stand behind their products. We have to know we can get replacement parts when we need them.”

Deborah Black, optical manager,
1st Eye Care, Ft. Worth, Texas

PINNACLE EYEWEAR U7012 from Global Optique

“We are located in a small, rural, farming community in South Texas with many seasonal workers. Our patients want nice styles and durability, but at a good price. They are very affected by the economy. For example, last year we had severe rains, which wrecked havoc with the seasonal jobs.  And we have a lot of Medicaid patients and a lot of children—half of our customers are children. Approximately 60 percent of our sales are in the value end. We offer packages—$39.90 for a frame with single vision lenses; $59.90 with polycarbonate lenses; $89.90 for bifocals. Our non-package sales range from $149 for a frame with single vision lenses up to $500.

“When selecting value product, we look for good styles, good colors—we sell a lot of blue—and good quality. I don’t want something that will fall apart in two weeks.

I always look at the temples, the spring hinges, the overall feel of the frame to make certain it doesn’t feel flimsy. And we look for good warranties because we give our patient a one-year warranty.”

Sofie Cortez, office manager
for Larry Gates, OD, Pearsall, Texas

SMILEN 2087 from Smilen Eyewear

AMADEUS AZ21 from Optimate

“Metro Optics has two locations in the Bronx and an extremely diverse customer base. Some of our customers have low incomes; others have a great deal of disposable income. We are two out of only three optical stores in the Bronx with a Cartier dealership. We also have eight collections at the lower end and display at least 400 value products. For the lower end, we primarily deal with packages, ranging from $59 for a frame and single-vision lenses to $129 for a beta titanium frame and lenses.

“What customers look for depends on the economy. Last year, people were very concerned about keeping costs down. Now that the economy is improving, our customers are looking for more of an investment in their eyewear.

“When I deal with a value company, I purchase samples and then have employees from my wholesale business, Quick Care Frame Repair, which does frame repairs and customizing for other companies, check out the product before I make a commitment. We offer a one-year warranty in writing. If the frame breaks, the customer gets a new frame. If a customer comes back more than once in a year for repairs, I know we have a problem. I can love the shape and the colors, but if screw keeps coming out, I don’t want that frame. Bad quality not only ultimately looses customers for us, it also waste time for the staff. As a result, we work with manufacturers and vendors we can depend on. I also need to know the after-sales ability of the companies. Can they replace the frame? Will they provide replacement parts? This is essential to my business.”

John Bonizio, general manager,
Metro Optics Eyewear, Bronx, N.Y.

 JOAN COLLINS 9644 from New York Eye/A Hart Specialties Company

“In business since  1905, Jena Optical is a neighborhood optical shop with an optometrist on staff. We cater to a complete spectrum of customers from young to old, including many students. We do a lot of insurance business and work with unions. As a result, value product accounts for approximately 65 percent of our business. We also use value product in our special “buy one, get the second one half price” packages and other promotions. On average, a frame with single-vision lenses sells for $150 to $275.

“Although people definitely want to look good, everyone is concerned about price and, of course, durability. So we select our vendors carefully. We want stylish, up-to-date frames that are consistent in quality.”

Jonathan Schwartz, optician,
Jena Optical, New York

ATTITUDES 5 from Zimco Optics

VIVID 723 from Value Eyewear