Features: Successful Retail Strategies

Oct
2003

Rick's Place

Optical Designs’ owner Rick Hogan has 25 years of experience and a keen interest in the optical field; using a minimal amount of props such as these mannequin heads, the dispensary keeps the focus on frames.

Customers step out of the zone at Optical Designs 
By Kristen Spina
Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and a backdrop of rugged mountain wilderness, Santa Monica is a city of contrasts. From the suburban chic of Montana Avenue to the nostalgic cool of the Santa Monica Pier, this city offers something for everyone.

Taking its cue from the surrounding neighborhood—eight-and-a-half square miles of highly walkable residential, commercial and beachfront streets—Optical Designs offers a little bit of this and a little bit of that with an inventory of eyewear that includes a well-thought-out mix of boutique designers and niche collections. Using track lighting and a minimal amount of props—a few female forms, a handful of mannequin heads—Optical Designs keeps the focus on the frames. Approximately 1,200 frames aredisplayed in just 600 square feet of  merchandising space, yet the shop maintains a clean, sophisticated and completely uncluttered look.

“When we first laid out the store, we decided on a ‘hands off’ approach to displays so that customers would be forced to interact with us,” says owner Rick Hogan. “We wanted to be able to initiate conversation.” Optical Designs features a number of waist-high cases and wall display boxes, each neatly packed with frames from companies including Booth & Bruce, Lafont, Beausoleil, Sama, Oliver Peoples and Oakley. A children’s corner, complete with kid-sized furniture, includes styles from Tommy Hilfiger, Rem, Converse, Polo and Mickey & Co.

In recent years, Hogan has opted to work more closely with small boutique companies. “We find that they appreciate the business we do with them,” he says.
In fact, Hogan counts on his vendors to provide top-of-the-line customer service. “Rem, for example, has great customer service. They’ve just hired [former Kata] designer Blake Kuwahara, and we think that will be a big plus for them on the design side.”

WHO
Optical Designs

ESTABLISHED
August 2, 1986

LOCATION
1235 Montana Avenue
Santa Monica, Calif.

NUMBER OF STORES
one

AVERAGE
SALE OF
COMPLETE EYEWEAR PACKAGE
$350

NUMBER OF FRAMES DISPLAYED
1,200

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES
four

20/20 TAKE
A classic mix with a distinctive twist
.

With 25 years of experience and a keen interest in the optical field, Hogan relies on his—and his staff’s—expertise to keep things running smoothly. “In the beginning I spent a fair amount of money on advertising, but I think it was a waste. The best advertising there is is word of mouth. And if I do my job well, we’ll have all the advertising we need.”

Optical Designs features a well-thought-out mix of boutique designers and niche collections.

Without a doctor on staff, Hogan refers many of his customers to ODs and MDs in the neighborhood and the goodwill is often reciprocated on the other end. With six optical shops within walking distance of his front door, Hogan understands the importance of cultivating and maintaining a loyal customer base. “This is a little bit of an optical row here on this street,” he says. “But it’s been reassuring to find that while there is some overlap between all the stores, each has carved out a unique personality. In the beginning I was a bit more worried about the competition, but now I realize that if I do a good job, I don’t have to worry.”

Though Hogan’s clientele includes people from the entertainment industry and young, affluent families, he says many of his customers still take a conservative approach to their eyewear despite the fact they are often involved in creative pursuits. “I bring in a lot of basic, classic designs but look for styles that have a distinctive twist. I love getting people to step a little bit out of their safe zone.”

That coupled with Hogan’s passion for the business, keeps Optical Designs on track. “I really love this business,” he says. “I love finding the perfect frame for someone. Eyewear is a great accessory—it can change your appearance, your personality. It’s like a beautiful mask.”

Approximately 1,200 frames are displayed in the 600-square-foot dispensary including a kids’ corner.

 

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