We may not consciously realize it, but when we enter any room we are gathering information based on what we see. From there, we form opinions both positive and negative that can affect our experience. That’s why it’s important to frequently access the appearance and flow of your dispensary. You can have the best service and the most amazing product, but if your practice looks lackluster, you’re doing you and your patients a disservice.

How you showcase your products and services is just as significant as the products and services themselves. The results of our 2009 Retail Design Survey concur. According to the survey, 56 percent of dispensers say display items were “somewhat useful” for their practice and 43 percent perceived their value as “very useful” (both figures are up slightly from last year’s numbers). With that in mind, we present the 2009 results of our retail design survey.

Looks Count
Point-of-purchase items are a critical part of dispensaries’ displays as they showcase brands and create interest in featured styles. The majority of practices, 85 percent, rely on vendor-supplied POP. That’s not to say that the practices don’t mix it up as 51 percent of retailers said they do create their own merchandising materials.

The most popular POP materials continue to be such items as countercards and brochures (both cited by 84 percent of respondents), followed by demonstration kits at 63 percent and spin racks at 47 percent. Premium items, including handbags, perfume, books, jewelry and other accessories, account for 17 percent of POP. DVDs and videos were cited by 14 percent of respondents.

Although lenses are a vital piece of the eyewear package, on average only 12 percent of display space is dedicated specifically to spectacle lenses, lens treatments or lens-related educational information, which is a bit less than last year. In addition, 70 percent of practice space is devoted to the dispensing area while 20 percent is dedicated to the finishing area on average.

However, sunglasses and contact lenses get prime positioning. A separate area devoted to sunwear and sun lens products, as well as a separate area for contact lens fitting, were both part of 82 percent of respondents practices. Of note, only 1 percent of dispensers did not sell sunwear or sun lenses, while 7 percent said they did not sell contact lenses.

Board Room
Frame boards continue to be the number-one way dispensers display their eyewear (an overwhelming 82 percent of frames) most likely because retailers tend to have a large amount of frame units—48 percent have 500 to 1,000 frames in their inventory while 30 percent have more than 1,000, according to the survey. Besides frame boards, display cases were a distant second at 20 percent of frames and store-front windows were an even more distant third at only 3 percent. “Other” items, including cabinets, drawers, etigeres, free-standing displays, countertop displays, carousels and shelves, account for 7 percent of product merchandising.

The top categories frames are displayed by were fashion/name brands (78 percent), sunwear (71 percent) and gender (69 percent). Rounding out the product groups are sport (42 percent) and color (5 percent). “Other” categories, such as children, price, material, brand and safety, were cited by 7 percent of dispensers.

The Waiting Game
The waiting room is a key ingredient in any practice. It’s a chance to make a good first impression, plus you have a captive audience, which is most likely why 62 percent of respondents that have a waiting area said it is incorporated into their dispensary area—so patients can do some pre-exam browsing. The waiting area is also a good place to promote products and services as many respondents do. Product brochures and education materials are the main items featured in the waiting area (92 percent), followed by posters and countercards (54 percent), actual product (44 percent), industry publications (39 percent) and videos of products and services (33 percent). 

Additionally, 10 percent responded “other” items such as iPort media, Eyemaginations 3D video system, consumer magazines, coupons and art work were included in their waiting rooms.

Kids Are Key
Your youngest customers are just as vital to your practice as your older ones. Retailers seem to know that as a wide majority—81 percent—have a separate section devoted to children (ages two to 14). Respondents recognize kids are important customers that require special attention therefore they provide a variety of items to make them feel comfortable. 

The kids’ section in the dispensaries surveyed included: toys (50 percent), books (47 percent), child-size furniture (34 percent), a play area (30 percent) and DVDs and videos (12 percent). Other items (cited by 26 percent of retailers) included TV, cartoon characters, photos, bright colors and dispensing tables.

The Price is Right
With the shaky economy, price points are a factor for both dispensers and their patients. When asked to describe the wholesale price point of the products they offer, the majority of retailers, 56 percent, fell into the “moderately expensive” category, $60 to $89. That was followed by “moderate,” priced $30 to $59, 19 percent. “Expensive” ($90 to $119) was the response of 12 percent of respondents followed by “very expensive” ($120 and up) at 11 percent, while only 2 percent responded their product fell into the “inexpensive” (under $30) range, according to the survey.

But no matter what your product mix is, it’s important to have a dispensary that reflects the professionalism and quality eyecare your practice provides. Looks may not be everything, but they certainly count for something when it comes to creating an edge in a difficult economic climate.

20/20’s Retail Design Survey 2009 was conducted from May 29, 2009 to June 15, 2009 by Jobson Optical Research’s in-house research staff. The sample of 162 independent optical retailers was derived from the proprietary Jobson Optical Research Database. Jobson considers independents any retailer with one, two or three locations. The study was conducted via the Internet and a chance to win a $200 American Express gift card was offered as an incentive. For more information call (212)274-7164 or email  jzupnick@jobson.com.
—Jennifer Zupnick
Senior Market Research Analyst Jobson Optical Research