By Brian P. Dunleavy

With all the advances in lens materials and treatments in recent years, one would think the surface of the lens is the final frontier for adding value to a spectacle product.

Not so, say some, shall we say, “cutting edge” dispensers. Overall eyewear quality—and profits—can be improved thanks to a relatively inexpensive treatment product that is applied to the edge of the lens on rimless and three-piece mounted eyewear. So say dispensers working with these relatively new products.

Currently, there are several, for lack of a better term, lens edge-tinting kits on the market. Like edge polish, these tinting systems are chemical treatments applied to the edge of the lens. They are designed to improve the cosmetics of rimless and three-piece mounted eyewear by reducing the annoying reflected light off the exposed edge (sometime referred to as the “eye ring”) and, in some cases, match the lens edge to the color of the frame.

Unlike edge polish, however, these tint products are inexpensive to purchase—ranging in price from $60 to $350, depending on the manufacturer/distributor and the type of kit—and easy to apply in-office, though many labs sell and apply them as well.

“It just made sense for us,” Peter Robinson, optician and buying manager for Concord Family Vision Center in Concord, N.H., says of his dispensary’s decision to purchase a lens-edge tinting kit. “It’s inexpensive, easy to use and patients love it. We’ve only had our kit for three or four months and it’s already paid for itself.”

Among the edge-tinting kits currently available are Camouflage from Optisource, Edgit from OMS, Hint of Tint from Stormin’ Norman and Lenz-Penz from Hilco. Three of the four aforementioned systems feature specially designed colored pens, which dispensers can use to apply the edge-tint directly to the edge of the lens. These kits also include an “eraser” pen dispensers can use to correct mistakes in the application process. With the Edgit system, tints are applied using a specially designed applicator brush; the system also includes a “correction” solution.

Colors differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, but most are designed to match popular frame colors and/or lens tints. Availability varies. Some manufacturers offer as few as six color options while others offer as many as 15 or more. Most of these products work effectively with all lens designs and/or materials, although Edgit’s tints are formulated specifically for softer substrates (i.e., polycarbonate and Trivex lenses).

“We see the edge tint as a beautiful cosmetic enhancement,” notes Kathy Gloger, owner of Eyewear at the Hamptons, an upscale eyewear boutique in Beachwood, Ohio. “We’ve got our patients seeing it that way too. We offer it to all of our patients purchasing rimless frames and it really adds a lot to their overall look. We end up applying the product on roughly 80 percent of the rimless frames we sell. It makes their eyewear unique.”

Each of the edge-tinting systems comes with different bells and whistles. Hilco’s Lenz-Penz, for instance, is offered with a tabletop display dispensers can use to explain the features and benefits of an edge-tint to their patients. Stormin’ Norman’s Hint of Tint, meanwhile, now includes an edge-tint product for polarized lenses that eliminates the white ring that appears on the edge of a polarized lens after it is cut in the finishing lab. The polarized edge tint is currently available in gray and brown.

Dispensers using the edge-tint products say the tints are durable; they retain their color for the life of a typical prescription and don’t chip or peel as a result of normal wear and tear. Even if patients damage the tint, it’s easy and inexpensive to reapply it.

“We haven’t had a patient come back in with a problem yet,” says Carrie Steely, optician and manager of the optical shop at the Wal-Mart at Western Hills in Cincinnati. Her dispensary has been using an edge-tinting system for nearly a year.

Dispensers say there is no “typical” edge-tint wearer. Adult patients are usually associated with rimless frames, but Gloger has had success selling rimless frames—and therefore edge-tints—to children; she says younger patients find the treatment “fun” and “it’s something they can show off to their friends.” She adds, “I think it’s a little add-on that helps them enjoy their glasses and most kids don’t enjoy wearing glasses.”

Robinson has created what he calls a “wow” factor for edge-tints in his dispensary through a display he created himself. He processed a number of sample rimless spectacles, applying edge-tints of varying colors on the lenses. He displays the model eyewear prominently in his shop.

“Now I have patients actually request an edge tint,” he says. As a result, he adds he sells an average of 10 to 12 edge-tinted spectacle pairs per week.
“Nine out of 10 times, a patient will go with the edge-tint once they see how it looks,” agrees Steely, who also uses sample edge-tinted lenses in her dispensary to demonstrate the product.

In addition to being able to offer patients what they see as an attractive lens treatment option, dispensers credit the edge-tinting kits with giving them an opportunity to increase profit margins on the eyeglasses they sell. Dispensers say they charge between $15 and $30 for the edge-tints. When you factor in the relatively low cost of the kits, even after including replacement supplies, the profit potential is significant.

“It’s a great concept,” says Gloger. “It’s a valuable add-on for the patient that we can supply at low-cost to ourselves.”

At Concord Family Vision Center, the low overhead costs associated with the edge-tinting kits have allowed Robinson to charge for the product selectively. “For patients buying a cheaper lens, I’ll charge them $30 extra; for patients buying more expensive lenses—the AR coated high-index lenses—I’ll throw it in for free,” he explains. “The price is no object. I can increase my profits on lower-end product and offer my higher-paying customers an extra service without breaking the bank.”

Steely sees no reason why edge-tints shouldn’t be part of every dispensary’s high-end eyewear package, especially given the cost. “It makes no sense to give patients great lenses with UV protection, scratch-resistant coating and AR coating and an ugly, frosted lens edge,” she notes. “These tints really complete the eyewear.”