L&T: Lens Choices

Apr
2002

The Sports Sell






Dispensers are  setting themselves apart  with eyewear for  athletes of all kinds

by BRIAN P. DUNLEAVY

Optician Timothy Donovan has been dispensing eyewear for more than 30 years. But he has been playing the sports eyewear game for only the past 10 years. You might say he’s practicing the “When in Rome…” philosophy of dispensing. After running an optical shop in Chicago for 20 years, Donovan relocated to winter sports Mecca Aspen, Colo., opening Optical Options of Aspen in the early 1990s. Because of his new, sporting patient base, sports eyewear quickly became an important part of Donovan’s business. He says sports-related sales—in both plano and Rx—makes up at least 30 percent of his overall business.

“We have snowboarders and skiers in here all the time—professionals, amateurs, celebrities out for a little fun on the mountain,” he explains. “In terms of what they purchase, there’s really no difference between them. The professional athlete wants peak performance. So does the ‘weekend warrior.’ In eyewear, that means excellent visual acuity and contrast. They all want the best.”

Donovan dispenses polycarbonate to sports patients almost exclusively, of course—because of the impact-resistance. He uses a variety of lens treatments, particularly polarized filters (because of their ability to filter out reflective glare) and specialty tints.

“Our store is located right at the foot of the mountain, so we’ll often take patients outside to see how lenses work in different light conditions,” notes Donovan. “They can look up at the ski run and see what light reflected off the snow looks like through different lenses. You encounter a lot of different conditions out on the slopes and different lenses work best in different conditions.”

Some of the most popular lens product combinations for sports uses at Optical Options include a polycarbonate lens with a salmon, orange or vermilion base tint and a slight flash mirror. The goal, according to Donovan, is to provide wearers with “best acuity” in full sun and low light. Donovan says the advent of polarized lenses in a variety of tints (including red, violet, orange and blue) has helped him fit even more of his sports patients in polarized lenses.
“I’m a big believer in polarized lenses,” he explains. “I think red polarized lenses are an excellent lens for skiers. The new lenses coming out have definitely helped my sports market.”

But what of the commonly held industry assertion that polarized don’t work well on the slopes because their glare-reducing capabilities limit skiers’ abilities to identify moguls and ice patches on the run? Donovan says he instructs skiers wearing polarized lenses that ice patches on the slopes may look gray to them.
“So far, the lenses have worked well for them,” he adds. “Glare can be a real problem in the snow.”

This kind of expertise is what sets dispensaries such as Donovan’s apart from sports apparel retailers who also, coincidentally, sell plano sports eyewear. It’s a competitive edge many eyecare professionals don’t take full advantage of. “On the plano side, they sell many of the products we do, but their people don’t know as much about the technology as we do,” notes Donovan. “It’s a lot of guesswork.”

But trial and error still plays an important role in sports eyewear dispensing, according to Donovan, even at high-end optical shops. If a dispensary plans to start a sports practice, he says, one of the first things they should do is learn the most popular recreational sports in their area (local chambers of commerce and tourism boards can be excellent sources for this information) and ensure they have a suitable variety of lens and lens treatment products available to address the visual issues associated with these sports.

“You’re really developing eyewear for a specific purpose,” he explains. “In that way, it helps to have a skier, fisherman, sailor or whatever on staff—someone who knows the conditions and can make it easier to design eyewear to meet them. Above all, ask questions. Take the time to talk to the patients about what they do and what they need and make sure you present them with all of the options.”

On the material front, for instance, there are now other alternatives for sports applications, beyond polycarbonate. PPG has developed Trivex, a new impact-resistant plastic lens material offering a high Abbe value and low specific gravity. Currently available from two lens manufacturers, Trivex’s availability is expanding into new product categories, with photochromic and polarized version reportedly on the way in the near future.

“The material offers shatter-resistance, compression-resistance and sheer force-resistance, plus it has a high Abbe,” notes John D. Bonsett-Veal, OD, a Madison, Wisc.-based independent practitioner who has dispensed the product since last year. “What better lens is there for sports applications?”
Dr. Bonsett-Veal’s sports patients fall into a very different category from Donovan’s. Instead of snow enthusiasts, he sees a lot of hunters and fisherman. Because they fall into the “weekend warrior” category, he says, they are not as likely to use specialty eyewear for these activities.

“I’m going to be offering Trivex as my sports lens of choice from now on,” he continues. “Face it, not all eyewear used for sports is sports or athletic eyewear. People wear their dress eyewear when they’re playing golf, even when they’re hunting or fishing, no matter what we as eyecare professionals tell them. To whatever extent we can use safe lenses like Trivex in everyday dress eyewear we’re protecting the public.”

the lens list

COSTA WAVE 580 RECEIVES PATENT APPROVAL Costa Del Mar has received patent approval for its Wave (Wavelength Absorption for Visual Enhancement) 580 technology. The new Wave 580 technology is incorporated into the company’s line of Wave 580 performance lenses. The lens improves vision through greater color discrimination and the reduction of obtrusive glare. Using a combination of polarization and proprietary technology, it allows the eye to take in more light and raises the red, blue and green areas of the light spectrum to extraordinary levels while eliminating the strong presence of yellow light, which creates glare.

ESSILOR EXPANDS NIKON PERFORMANCE PACKAGE Essilor’s Nikon Performance Package is now available in an extended range in single-vision “thin plastic,” from a +6.00D to –12.00D, out to a –3.00D cylinder.  The new range for the package-priced lens line is the result of the introduction of a new 1.67 ultra-high-index material.

VARILUX GOES THIN AND LITE Varilux Panamic progressive lenses have been released in Essilor’s Thin & Lite 1.67 high-index material. The lens, offered with Crizal A-R coating, is the first aspheric lens in the Varilux line.

ZEISS FOUNDATION RECEIVES VSP DESIGNATION According to Carl Zeiss Optical, the nation’s largest third-party managed vision care provider, Vision Service Plan (VSP), has classified Zeiss Foundation Super ET and Zeiss Foundation Gold ET coatings in their highest coating category. The coatings are available through Zeiss partner labs across the country.

 

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