Given the multitude of anti-reflective lenses available today, it’s no wonder there are so many varied approaches to dispensing those products. With dozens of AR brands being offered by lens manufacturers, custom coating labs, wholesalers and retailers, the options for consumers appear almost limitless.
Recent advances in lens coating technology such as the introduction of high-quality, multilayer AR products featuring hyet Armorlite’s Kodak CleAR as well as a host of private-label brands marketed by laboratories and retailers are gaining consumer recognition, making it easier for dispensers to start a dialogue with patients about AR.
“We are behind the Teflon Clearcoat AR coating, primarily,” says Benson. “Although some customers ask for it by name, less than 20 percent are already knowledegable about it.”
Benson notes that the “non-stick” feature of Teflon Clearcoat lenses is a big selling point with most customers. “They really relate it to cleanability of the lenses. You can just wipe it clean, just like the Teflon used in pots and pans.”
Co/op Optical promotes Teflon Clearcoat lenses with an assortment of point-of-purchase materials, including posters and brochures. In addition, employees wear a button on their lab jacket that reads “Ask me about Teflon.”
“Even the doctors wear the button,” says Benson. “It’s a total team approach.”
Co/op’s efforts are paying off. About 15 percent of the company’s total lens sales are AR lenses, a two percent increase from a year ago, says Benson. The availability of so many AR brands, each with its own of features and benefits, has enabled eyecare practitioners and retailers to establish different price tiers according to the brand’s quality and its perceived value. Most offer at least two price points, and many offer three options.
“We have three price points for AR lenses: good, better and best,” says Richard Stewart, vice president, manufacturing, for Nationwide Vision, a 51-store chain based in Chandler, Ariz. “The higher the price, the more durable the lens.”
Bundling AR with other high-performance options such as high-index, polycarbonate or Trivex lenses and premium progressive lenses is also an effective strategy for many retailers.
“AR is typically offered as a package deal including a scratch warranty, frame warranty, tint and edge polish. We discourage the add-on approach,” says Stewart.
Yet some retailers said selling AR as an add-on is effective. “In our high-end stores, AR is sold only as an add-on,” notes Isak Sivi, who owns and operates 22 optical retail locations in Iowa. “We get over $100 for AR in those stores above the price of the lens itself. The clientele who comes there is not really shopping for price.”
Co/op Optical also offers AR as an add-on at two different price points. Teflon Clearcoat sells for $110 Realeyes, a basic AR produced by Zeiss’ Great Lakes Coating Lab, sells for $50.
At Horizon Eye Care, a five-store chain in the Charlotte, N.C. area, AR lenses account for about half of all lens sales, according to Janie Blackstock, Horizon’s director of optical operations. “We normally promote one AR product, normally Crizal Alizé,” says Blackstock. “It’s offered as an add-on for $99. Sometimes we also a stock Pentax lens, which is very good.”
Most of the stock AR lenses prescribed are by Horizon’s two pediatric ophthalmologists. “We insist on it for children,” says Blackstock. “They’re on computers more than we are and the AR helps with fatigue. Also, children are photographed more than adults are, so you don’t have that ghostly image with AR lenses.”
Blackstock remembers an incident a few years ago that convinced her of the value of dispensing AR lenses to children. While driving at night she looked in the rear view mirror and noticed that her daughter, who was sitting in the back seat, was struggling to see through her uncoated lenses.
“I looked back and saw all the reflections from the headlights and felt so bad for her,” she recalls. “I went out the next day and switched her lenses to AR. She was much happier.”