Lenses & Technology: L&T New Products


The More, The Merrier

The More the Merrier
Optical retailers take a positive stand
on innovative merchandising and displays
By Rachel Mansfield

Getting customers in the door is one thing… getting them to stay is another. From ditching those old frame boards to drafting point-of-purchase materials in-house, optical retailers in this stagnant economy are pushing the creative envelope on store design looking for new ways to turn shoppers’ heads.

This year’s theme, according to 20/20’s Retail Design Survey 2002: The more the better, both in inventories and frames on display. Responding locations carried more inventory than in past years. About a quarter (24.5 percent) carried more than 1,000 frame units in inventory, up from about a fifth (19.2 percent) last year. Less than a third now carry 100 to 500 frames (31.1 percent, down from 39.1 percent in 2000). On par with last year, almost all frames in stock are out for customers to peruse; only 7.1 percent of frames in inventory are not on display.

To complement their product selection, retailers are relying on innovative display tactics to differentiate themselves from the pack. As in years past, more and more dispensers are moving away from frame boards as their only type of frame display. While 73.3 percent (compared with last year’s 77.4 percent) of frames are still displayed on frame boards, more frames (3.1 percent, up from 0.3 percent) are landing in storefront windows, according to the MarketPulse. Retailers are also making use of spiral racks, shelves, tables, counter tops and more to provide their customers with a unique shopping experience.

Optical establishments are divvying up their retail spaces to appeal both to shoppers’ tastes and their wallets. Like last year, approximately 72 percent of respondents display their frames by gender/age categories. However, the survey found this space is divided up a bit differently, with less devoted to unisex styles (22.3 percent compared with 2000’s 27 percent) and more going to women’s frames (38.3 percent up from 31.7 percent last year).

At the same time, respondent locations were less likely to divide up their frames into other types of eyewear categories. While nearly half (49 percent) said they separated occupational or safety frames from other styles last year, only 27.2 percent did so in 2001. Retailers also moved away from displaying frames by design and from displaying sports styles apart from the rest. Customers are also less likely to find accessories displayed separately, with only 80.1 percent (down from 87.6 percent) putting their chains and readers in a devoted accessory spot.

Price, on the other hand, was a much more popular way to divide up store stock. While in past years one quarter of respondents used this type of display breakdown, fully 35.1 percent did so this year. Exclusive or premium designer priced frames (37.5 percent) and midrange price frames (38.7 percent) took up equal space but only 20.6 percent of frame retail space went to value-priced styles, according to survey results.

In 2000, having a separate area devoted to kids’ frames was the popular thing to do—more than 90 percent of those surveyed had such an area in their establishment—but this year those astronomical numbers have plummeted back down to earth, landing at 74.8 percent. Fewer retailers (32.7 percent as opposed to 41 percent last year) had a play area in their kids’ section, but those that did were more likely to incorporate television and video equipment into those areas than in previous years (12.4 percent, up from 2000’s 3.6 percent and 1999’s 3.8 percent).

Retailers were hard at work this year making learning about optical products a fun and painless process. Most informational point-of-sale/point-of-purchase materials were designed to teach customers about spectacle lenses (28.1 percent), frames (26 percent) and contact lenses (21.7 percent). This reflects substantial changes from last year, when spectacle lenses were the focus of fully 40.6 percent of all information POS/POP and contact lenses made up only 14.2 percent of the total. Also making a jump this year was the accessories category, which grew from a mere 1.2 percent in 2000 to 5.8 percent in 2001.

Respondents created at least some of their own POS/POP materials (44.7 percent), but these accounted for only 12.6 percent of all POS/POPs used this year. The other 85.3 percent (up from 78 percent last year) of POS/POP materials used by our respondent pool were sent out by eyewear product vendors. Of the vendor supplied POS/POP materials, most retailers used countercards (74 percent) or brochures (73.3 percent). Over half of all retailers in our sample also used demonstration kits supplied by eyewear product vendors. Our retailers considered both brochures and demonstration kits very important tools, while countercards were only somewhat important. Videos, premiums and spin racks were considered much less valuable. POS/POP materials were most often used for new product introductions (79.9 percent) or educational purposes (79.2 percent). Perhaps an effect of the slow economy, more POS/POPs offered gifts with purchase than last year (26.8 percent compared with 19 percent).

People dress for success and a dispensary should too. From bold displays to innovations in interactive product demonstrations, reaching out to customers’ minds, eyes and pocketbooks can transform an optical practice from boring to bustling.