Retail Strategies: Retail Design



Clockwise from top left: B.U.M. EQUIPMENT Smart from Eyewear by ROI; NORMA KAMALI 7182 from Avalon Eyewear; ELIZABETH ARDEN PETITE 43 from Eyewear Designs; ETIENNE AIGNER 61 from Metzler International USA; TAKEO KIKUCHI 414 from Mitani USA

Photos by Nedjelko Matura

By Noel Hohnstine and James J. Spina

With a stamina unfettered by any variety of world conditions (ranging from historic to economic) the concept of brand names continues to energize retail exchanges in all consumer product (and service) markets.

Quite simply, branding sells.

It is the root-reason and justification of marketing as a profit-generating concept. Branding is built on precepts that habitually shape consumer-buying habits. Branding connotes quality. Brand names instill trust and loyalty. Manufacturers produce with an eye toward return on investment. But branding is a specialized step in that process—create a product but also build a name that secures the present and future presence of that product.

None of those basics change when it comes to understanding the concept of brands in the eyewear arena. Eyewear vendors create glasses in conjunction with fashion designer names. They promote the sale of sunglasses licensed via lifestyle brands. Sport brands enhance the optical retail picture. And although some optical retailers tend to miss this point, branding also encompasses the cultivation of “house” brands exclusive to eyewear manufacturers and vendors. The tradition of eyewear in its unique amalgam as a medical device with decidedly fashionable characteristics makes for a branding scenario that continues to both intrigue and command the attention of all consumers.

What follows is an exclusive 20/20 take on the state of optical retailers reacting to the continually red-hot buzz of branding. As our “It’s a Brand You World” fashion feature in this issue demonstrates—optical manufacturers and vendors have delivered branded eyewear as a top priority. The general retail environment dramatically echos that brand name domination. Here, optical grades branding.

Clockwise from top right: JALAPENOS Tango from A&A Optical
• Circle No. 259; NORMAN ROCKWELL 14 from Lawrence Eyewear Mystique • Circle No. 263; ESCADA 368 from Tura; KIPLING 261 from L’Amy Group; POLICE 2849 from Eastern States Eyewear; I • I FASHION 302 from Eyespace

“Most of our customers come in looking for a specific brand. We specialize in high-end frames such as Oliver Peoples and l.a. Eyeworks. Our customers tend to know exactly what they want. If we do not carry the brand or collection that a customer is looking for, offering an alternative brand will usually not work. When you are paying so much for the frames, you want what you want.” Shelly Jaffer, optician, Tampa, Fla.

Quality = Loyalty “I have been in the business 26 years and people are not as brand conscious as they were 15 or 20 years ago. We do not have a brand name patient base; about 20 percent of the inventory are brand name frames. Our patients do not request a brand because they saw it in a magazine; when they do ask for a particular brand it is usually because they had a frame from that brand before and never had any problems with it.  That is the main reason why people re-use a brand.” Janet Hass, optician, St. Louis, Mo.

Insure-less “Brand name frames are a large part of our inventory, about 75 percent. Consequently, we do very little managed care; it is more hassle than it is worth and it does not give the patient what he wants when it comes to brands. The majority of our patients come to us for specific brands, especially those brands that cannot be easily found elsewhere such as Cazal, Caviar or Neostyle. We also carry designer brands like Guess and Calvin Klein.” David Blissenbach, optician/owner, East St. Louis, Ill. 

Clockwise from top right: ELKO from l.a. Eyeworks; ANGLO AMERICAN 289 from Anglo American Optical; NICOLE MILLER Eyelet from Signature Eyewear ; WOOLRICH 7759 from New York Eye/A Hart Specialties Company ; BRENDEL 908121 from BBH Eyewear

Flood Watch
“As long as the brand is not outrageously priced, brand names are equally as sellable as other collections. People are not intimidated by a designer name as the market is inundated with brand and designer names right now. Actually, lots of people want a unique look that not every brand name can provide. When patients come in looking for a specific brand like Prada or Chanel it is because they have seen it in a fashion magazine.” Leslie Cushman, optician, Atlanta, Ga.

Name Game “Every insurance plan has a different allowance, but in general brand names do not fit into insurance plans, so some people will pay extra for a designer name and some will not. The same goes for patients who pay out of pocket, some are brand conscious and all they need is a name. The desire for a brand name is the same in ophthalmic and sunwear, one category is not more prone to brand names than the other.” Nadine Kerbrat, optician, South Plainfield, N.J.

Special Order “There is a big appeal in designer plano sunglasses because of the name. Plano sunglasses are not a better deal than any other accessories of the same brand but our clientele is brand conscious and does not mind spending the money for the name. When a patient comes in looking for a certain brand, I always provide all the information I can on the brand whether we carry it or not and if we do not we offer the choice of ordering it for the client.” Barbara Mayhall, optician, Dallas, Texas.

Informed Buyers “Brand name frames are currently more sellable for us. A lot of people do legwork before they come to us. They do research on the Internet first, they know that the manufacturer has a warranty and they are looking to get value for their dollars. To help promote the brands we carry we use the promotional displays the manufacturer supplies in the window and we sometimes will use a non-optical accessory of the same brand name. In the store we have display tables with the frames and print label materials.” Jeannie Moore, optician, Seattle, Wash.

Media Eyes “Most of the patients who come in looking for brand name frames are younger to middle age. I think they are influenced by magazine and television ads as to what brands to buy. There is also a loyalty to brands if a frame proved to be durable and of good quality, the patient will ask for that brand again. It is really dependent on whether the individual is brand conscious or not.” Nancy Cohen, optician, Owings Mills, Md.

Buy-Bye Branding “Our clients rarely come in asking for a specific brand; generally everyone wants what looks best on his or her face but they are willing to pay for the name and quality. For those patients who do come in looking for a specific brand, if we do not carry it, an equal alternative will usually work. Brands are becoming less important because people are looking more for savings than paying for brand names.” Viola Steier, office manager, Littleton, Colo.

From top: FIT 16005 from Charmant Group USA; GRANT 6310 from Grant U.S.A./Estroff Optical; 4TH DIMENSION 4303 from Prodesign; KAZUO KAWASKI 637 from Italee Optics; LINDA EVANS 269 from Sans Pareil; OP Slammer from ClearVision Optical

AD-ing Up Branding
“For the most part patients do not come in with one brand name in mind. We carry mostly brand name frames but the brands are not familiar to the public. Very few frame brands are advertised so what we carry is unfamiliar to the normal consumer. The public should have more advertising to make them aware of what brands are available. Brand names have become more important recently because the more exclusive collections carry the connotation that they are better.” Mary Lou Schaian-Foreman, owner/optician, Torrance, Calif.

A Brand(less) New Day “When it comes to brand name frames, the appeal is not as big as it used to be. We are training patients to look at quality and style over licensing. My customers are not married to names. The same trend is occurring in sunglasses. Customers come in looking for features such as polarized, polycarbonate or polarized polycarbonate more than they come in asking for a brand such as Maui Jim. We would all do ourselves a service by keeping patients, and ourselves, educated about features and innovation.” Mari Presdeo, optician, Baton Rouge, La.