Advice from two seasoned professionals: an award winning visual display artist and an optician with sales and marketing experience.

Display and window designs are called “silent sales people” in the retail world and they are used to communicate a message, form a visual image of a business, “invite” patients in and call attention to eyewear and other products. Looking outside our industry we know that well designed displays and windows propel sales. It is more than worth the time and investment to create optical displays that have an impact and draw patients into your dispensary.

Creating optical displays that spur sales requires creativity and savvy from your opticians--and support from practice owners. Following are specific ideas and ways you can provide the resources to make your optical more profitable. The comments and answers come from two very different perspectives – an award winning visual merchandiser (Susan Mattisson) and from an experienced optical professional (Mindi Lewis).

Space & Money

What are the top things you need from practice owners?

Lewis: Space for displays, many offices have very crowded dispensaries. Practice owners also need an understanding and willingness to promote and wear various fashion frames themselves and allow staff members a substantial discount (or provide) to wear fashionable frames. You need to view the dispensing area as a valuable profit center of the office, contributing close to 50 percent of the profits of the practice. The optical area deserves attention and investment.

Effective optical displays can be inexpensive or expensive. You need at least some props and displays to hold things up and some background materials or boards. Think in terms of $100-$500. But remember these items are reusable, they are in investment. A beautiful scarf or piece or artwork can be the central focus to work around.

Mattison: Consider hiring a person for the optical with a creative eye who would enjoy the challenge of coming up with displays with compensation for the work done. This can be as simple as an hourly rate plus a budget for props. The budget for the props will vary from season to season (holidays in general requiring more time and effort), but you will stabilize the cost somewhat when you start to accumulate seasonal props.

This was found on Pinterest and is an inexpensive and easy display with lots of
impact. Notice the varying heights and how the entire window is part of the display.
The “stands” are made of colored corrugated cardboard cut to different lengths.
It is simple and very effective. Try for colored corrugated cardboard.

Support from Frame and Lens Suppliers

What kind of support from frame and lens suppliers should practice owners ensure their opticians have in creating displays?

Lewis: Supplier reps can supply great looking posters and other point-of-sale materials. Some are also willing to go to their marketing people and get marketing materials for your practice customized. It can be a fun experiment to “give” a window display to one of your favorite reps to let them choose the frames and point-of-sale materials, and other decorations, for their brand. In my experience, optical managers often don’t take the time or don’t listen to what their reps have to offer.

Ability to Cycle Out as Needed

How often do opticians need to be allowed to cycle out displays?

Lewis: Every couple of months to keep the merchandise in sync with the season and the latest fashions.

Mattison: Can be as infrequent as seasonally for a more conservative, less fashion-conscious office. But should be more frequent, even monthly, in high traffic, fashion-conscious areas, such as in the shopping districts of major cities.

Everyone enjoys a play on words. This is colorful and clever.
Big craft stores carry many of these items or try specialty
websites such as: cupcake displays.

Products to Highlight

Which products are worthy of being highlighted in their own display case?

Lewis: Very high-end or expensive frames, specialty frames and sunglasses as well as lenses such as polarized and blue light protection lenses. Setting them aside sends the message that this merchandise is special, and is deserving of the higher price.

Mattison: Any frames that reflect your practice's identity and any frames similar to those recently seen on celebrities at big events. For example, if your practice identity is to have an avant-garde selection of frames, then you would highlight a few pairs that are especially fashion-forward. You also could pull frames from your board that are similar to those seen on a recent awards show red carpet, and highlight them in their own box, maybe with the sign "Celebrity Style" or "Red Carpet Glamour."

This shows good use of easily found objects, a tree branch painted
white along with a few silk flowers. It has a simple but dramatic
color story that is effective. Don’t be afraid of the negative space,
in this case it allows the focus to be on the display (which would be
frames or sunglasses rather than purses). A little white spray paint,
a little rope and you have an effective display.

Designated Space for Children's Frames

What can practice owners do to help market children's frames?

Lewis: I prefer to see children's frames in an area of their own, placed lower so they can be reached easily and set apart with color and signage. A children’s movie poster or a Disney character stand up board would be a great addition, but they need to be changed out frequently not left for months on end.

Mattison: Children's frames should be placed in specialized displays. You could have a sign near the display case advertising the durability of the frames, letting parents know these frames will be a long-lasting investment. You also could post a sign in that same area with your warranty policy, so parents know that if the frame does break, it can be economically replaced.

Use of Social Media & Creative Thinking for Inspiration

Where can practice owners and opticians find ideas for optical window displays?

Lewis: Years ago I worked as an Optician in Florida for an Independent Optical Shop with three locations and they had very elaborate displays, for holidays especially. People would remember and come by to see the newest displays. The owner of these stores went to a gift store event each year to get ideas and buy props. Having these displays communicated a lot about the fashion and upscale aesthetics of the store and their frames and eyewear.

One frame supplier I know of actually went onto Pinterest and found a Spring display window idea and came in one afternoon and created the entire window for us. It was simple and looked great with large pastel colored pompoms hanging in the windows. I also like the stores and website for inspiration and creative supplies. Their Spring catalog just came out with some cute DIY things that could easily be made and adapted for an optical display.

Mattison: Pinterest is great! So is walking around cities on vacation looking at what other optical retailers are doing. I’ve spent many afternoons strolling streets in Paris, looking at store windows. Could I duplicate the materials and specific design at home? No, but the ideas and feeling were doable, and a lot of what I saw ended up in my windows.

An Artist or Illustrator can make the silhouettes for you
and they can be reused The “frames” around the silhouettes
could be pre-cut colored mats or mat boards from a framer.
Use clear fishing line to support the frames and silhouettes from above.

Mindi Lewis, MA, ABOC, FNAO, is an industry professional with experience from exam room and dispensing table to marketing and national account management. She has an AS in Optometric Technology, a BS in Allied Health Education, and was an Optometric Technology Instructor at St. Petersburg College, Fla. She has worked for SOLA Optical, Carl Zeiss Vision and Essilor, and is currently a consultant and speaker, and Managing Editor for Jobson Medical Information's Optician’s Handbook.

Susan Mattison is a visual merchandiser, who works with eyecare offices, and other retailers, to present merchandise in a sales-spurring ways. Suzan is an award winning visual merchandiser with over 20 years of experience with companies as varied as the late-great I. Magnin in San Francisco, California and Mishi apparel in Petaluma, California. Currently a writer/artist, she also works in the beauty industry. Suzan enjoys looking through other women's closets (at their request!) and updating their style. When not helping women look their best, Suzan can be found on her farm outside Petaluma drawing portraits of dogs and shoes.