Eyewear today is experiencing a whole new wave of opportunity for the eyecare professional. Even more so than colored contacts, eyewear frames are revolutionizing the industry. Every designer now wants his or her own frame line. It’s not just all about Ray-Bans anymore (although we thank you, Tom Cruise in Risky Business). This entire accent on fashion and style is a relatively new development, considering the history of eyewear. Many offices are unsure how to display and educate their clients on the most flattering and stylish frames.

This series will deal primarily with the display of products. But never ignore the education of your salespeople. They are your ambassadors of style and the conduit by which your foray into the fashion industry and can show great results.

It is tempting to dive right into displays and merchandising but the more I thought about it, displays and window dressing couldn’t really be addressed without thinking about the whole idea of fashion and it’s impact on the optical industry. It’s also difficult to separate out window displays while ignoring the time and money necessary to implement new ways to do business. Even if an optical office is eager to embrace the whole concept of attractive displays and fashion eyewear, most optical dispensaries have been locked out of the fashion show for so long that a whole new view is required to shift into a more fashionable (and profitable) gear!

While this series of three articles will concentrate on the creative aspects of visual merchandising, it would be amiss to ignore the importance of training your salespeople to support these new concepts and the importance of buying and selecting frames for your clientele.

And why do you want to learn about eyeglass fashion and display? Well, first of all, it’s a fact that the lines between style and function have been permanently blurred. It is true that eyeglasses came to existence as a necessity; however, today they must be beautiful and stylish also. Eyeglasses are now high fashion. Did you happen to see the Oscars this last year? Not just darling, little Lupita, (although I did love those violet frames!) but all kinds of celebrities were wearing glasses, and making them look good! Brad, and Meryl, they may actually need glasses - but what’s different is that a) glasses are proudly being worn, instead of contacts, and, b) they are stylish and part of their outfit.

All illustrations by the author Suzan Mattisson

It is a given that they must be functional, but today’s client also wants a style analysis and a great recommendation or two. There will always be patients who are not interested in fashion, they will get their prescription changed as needed, buy new frames when their old ones break and get what they get based on what they need only.

If you are reading this, you are more interested in what drives the fashionable client. This is mainly because that client tends to own multiple pairs of eyeglasses, which will increase your profit. How do we get her business? And how do we maximize our exposure to the fashion driven client?

Eyewear is a major purchase for many people. Add the insecurity of not having enough (or having too much) choice, and an inexperienced employee who can’t authentically connect with the client in a way that gets their trust, and it can be a stressful situation. What if I hate them when I get them? I’m stuck with them for a couple years, at least! This salesperson doesn’t get me; the frames are going to be all wrong! This is the internal dialogue of some customers, especially those who are fashion-savvy in the rest of their world, but clueless when it comes to frames.

A company like Warby Parker has become a game changer for the industry; they allow a client to try on multiple frames in their home, taking selfies for social media, etc. before they invest their money. While most businesses can’t duplicate that business model, we can and should maximize our sales by effectively buying and displaying frames, and educating our salespeople.

Creative window and in-store displays, effective buying based on clientele, educating salespeople, creating an image (and, yes, you want to do that to stand out), all of these need to be addressed to be part of the new wave of fashion in frames. Excited yet? Let’s get rolling with the first order of business: display techniques for your existing and future stock.

Look for Part Two of this series soon.

Suzan Mattisson 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.