Retail Strategies: Retail Design


Treat Me Right

Building strong relationships is the key to 20/20 Optical’s success

By Kristen Spina

Dave Gaustad, owner of 20/20 Optical, with his staff, which he says “are great friends and a great asset to the business”

Dave Gaustad wants to make one thing clear. Retailing prescription eyewear is all about building relationships—with the staff, with referring MDs and ODs, with patients, with the community, with labs, with vendors and with the eyewear itself. “We strive to build solid relationships, right down the line.”

As owner of 20/20 Optical, a 1,200-square-foot dispensary in the lobby of the Fergus Falls Medical Group, Gaustad knows the secret to success lies in finding the right mix of service and selection. And more to the point, Gaustad is quick to give credit to his staff of five employees, each of whom has taken over very specific responsibilities in the management of the store. “I am so lucky to have these people,” he says. “They are great representatives of 20/20 Optical in the community. They are great friends and a great asset to the business.”

The business, which opened its doors in October 1996, generates approximately $720,000 in sales. An inventory of 900 frames includes styles for men, women and children. Amy Donoho, who developed a strategy that involves showcasing a limited number of vendors with a wide range of recognizable brand names, manages the store’s inventory. “With Rem, for example, we have five or six lines to choose from, including Esquire, Converse and Barbie,” explains Gaustad. “Taking this approach enables us to keep a watch on each vendor and ensure that the product mix is on target and the appropriate price points are covered.” In addition, 20/20 Optical features a small number of exclusive lines—currently, Vera Wang, Nine West, Revolution and Mintella (a small collection from Germany).
A patriotic theme highlights eyewear in one of the dispensary’s display cases
“Since Amy has taken over product selection, our mix is much better than it was three years ago,” says Gaustad. “Inventory is the biggest expense we have here. If we are top heavy with a price range or a brand, we have no flexibility to bring in something else that is unique. Vera Wang is a perfect example of that. Amy’s been able to find the right balance—one that meets the needs of our changing customer base.”

With two referring ophthalmologists and one referring optometrist in the Fergus Falls Medical Group, 20/20 Optical works with patients of all ages, incomes and professions. The multi-specialty medical clinic is the area’s main facility for outpatient care and there is a great deal of communication and referrals between the various specialties.
The store’s strategy involves showcasing a limited number of vendors with a wide range of brand names.
Advertising and marketing also play a key role in generating business for 20/20 Optical. Lorri Holt directs a $3,500 a month advertising budget into billboard, TV and radio promotions. In addition, the store hosts an annual trunk show to coincide with its anniversary in October. With just two or three frame reps behind the counter, the event typically generates 50 to 60 frame sales during a five-hour window. With each frame purchase, customers get a variety of lens options—such as AR coatings—added on at no additional charge. “Saturdays are not a big day for us,” says Gaustad. “We open from nine to 12 as a courtesy to our customers, but the medical clinic is closed so we don’t get a lot of traffic. The trunk show generates business we wouldn’t otherwise have.

Other promotions run throughout the calendar year, including a Frame of the Month promotion every March that offers 30 percent off a particular style number. “We don’t really suffer the ups and downs of the seasons as much as other shops in the area might simply because we have the connection to the clinic,” he adds. “It really generates a steady flow of business for us.”

The commitment to building relationships with vendors and patients alike gives 20/20 Optical an edge in an otherwise competitive arena. “We can market and advertise all we want, but it won’t work unless we treat people right.”

An inventory of 900 frames includes styles for men,
women and children.

The Fergus Falls, Minn.-based store host trunk shows where with
each frame purchase, customers get a variety of lens options added on
at no additional charge.