Retail Strategies: Retail Design


Make Yourself at Home

Customers Cozy-up with Eyewear at Eyes on Broadway

Make Yourself at Home

Customers Cozy-up with Eyewear at Eyes on Broadway

by Michelle Paollilo

Nestled in the heart of the upscale “Five Towns” area of Long Island, N.Y., Eyes on Broadway welcomes its customers to a unique and friendly shopping environment. Offering the eyewear styles and services thought only to be found in “the city,” this store’s suburban customers flock regularly just to see what’s new.
“We’re a very eclectic, laid-back, no-barrier type place,” says Steven B. Agin, OD, owner of the Hewlett, N.Y.-based optical shop. “People feel like they are at home while they are being serviced for glasses and eyewear needs.”

Quite a home it is. Appealing to all the senses, the shop’s design caters to a restful—dare-we-say peaceful—atmosphere. Mahogany-stained maple custom-made displays and furniture create an antique feel to this “not-your-typical” optical shop. A cozy living room setting, complete with re-upholstered thrift store couches and chairs, coffee tables and an extra large candy bowl, commands centers stage in the middle of the Oregon slate floor. Bookshelves behind the reception area house knick-knacks common to most homes as well as fish in small bowls.  “The shop is completely Feng Shui in design, with the placement of the mirrors, fish bowls and chairs,” notes Dr. Agin.

While peaking in the cabinets of most homes is frowned upon, Eyes On Broadway encourages it. The shop is not located in a highly trafficked area, but Dr. Agin and staff, including his daughter, Beth, who is the shop’s operational manager, greet visitors into their “home” who are just stopping in to say “hi,” to steal some candy and browse.

In close proximity to Hewlett High School, Eyes On Broadway finds itself on the agenda for many of the neighborhood’s teenagers out on their lunch breaks. These purchase-empowered teens visit the shop after eating a slice at the pizzeria next door to look around and/or grab an after lunch snack from the candy bowl.

“The kids in this area are very independent and they have no problem telling their parents what they want,” explains Dr. Agin. “They come in to browse. When it comes time for them to purchase new eyewear, they tell their parents what they want and where they can find it. It’s important that they feel comfortable enough to come in just to say hi.”

These high schoolers are not alone. Whether it’s after grabbing a cup of coffee at the Starbucks next door or just browsing what’s new, many of the shops adult customers drop by throughout the day.

Regularly, you’ll see women browsing the displays and commenting on each other’s eyewear. As one is picking up her new pair of glasses, the other is just searching to see if there is anything new since her last visit. Beth Agin enters the conversation casually giving customers the individual attention that brings them back each week. “Here you go,” says Agin handing one woman a similar sunglass to those she was commenting on. “I gave her a different shape and color so the frames would flatter her face better.”

This personalized service is the key to customer satisfaction and retention in any retail store. In a short period of time—the store opened less than a year ago—the customers of this shop have grown to expect and sometimes demand such service. Numerous customers enter Eyes On Broadway with screws missing, broken frames or lenses—sometimes frantically—expecting immediate service. They get it.

“I’ve known her for years, she tends to get a little over-excited about things,” Dr. Agin comments on the customer who grabs the doctor by the arm in mid-sentence to help fix her recently purchased frame. “I do the best I can to help her. Her kids throw her bag around a lot breaking her sunglasses.”
The shop’s service and understanding are the talk of the town, but so is the bathroom. “One day while I was getting my nails done, a customer came up to me to tell me about a group of ladies at the beach club who were raving about our bathroom,” remembers Beth Agin. “Our bathroom was the talk of the beach.” The extra large bathroom’s d├ęcor elaborately matches the antique look of the shop—it even has a fish bowl. “The original plan did not call for such a large bathroom,” notes Agin. “There was a structural wall in the way and it would have cost too much to move it and make the smaller bathroom.”
Friendly faces, service and the comforts of home attract customers while the elegantly displayed and diverse product offering satisfies their eyes’ needs.
Collections such as Sama, JF Rey, Lafont and designer brands including Gucci, Calvin Klein and BCBG are displayed in groups of three on display shelves. Adding some flavor, Agin delicately places only “elegant” looking point-of-purchase items among the frames.

“I just kind of fly by the seat of my pants,” Agin explains. “I don’t really have a formula to go by, I just see what I think is good.”

But adding a piece of herself to the displays is only the beginning. Agin is responsible for purchasing all the frames for the store. “I try on every pair of frames before I buy them.” she says. “They may not look great on me, but I can tell whether or not they are going to be comfortable on a customer’s face.”
The tricky part is picking kids eyewear. Because the smaller frames don’t fit her face, Agin enlists the help of young customers to decide what frames to buy. “They help us by trying on the frames and we give them some extra candy or something to make them happy,” she says.

A full-service shop, customers are as happy with the frames and selection as they are with the doctor’s services. “I do have an optician on staff, but I do my own bench work,” notes Dr. Agin. “When someone comes in with a problem, I am the one who fixes whatever needs to be fixed.”

In the back of the shop, is a professional exam room with the latest equipment. “The entire place is linked up with a computer and has the best equipment,” says Dr. Agin, who uses the OfficeMate by Marchon software to run the practice. “The shop may have an old look, but it is filled with all the high technology of the new society.”

All the components—technology, product, service and comforts—make Eyes On Broadway the talk of the Five Towns. “Customers know they will get top quality service and product, including top-notch lenses and frames,” says Dr. Agin. “We’re upscale, but not snooty—upscale homey.”