Part One of this article, published in last month’s L&T, explained how eyecare professionals and optical retailers  can transform the drudgery of “getting glasses” into the  excitement of “going shopping for eyewear” by presenting patients with frame and lens packages. In Part Two, we  discuss fashion-brand grouping and creating frame-lens  packages for children and presbyopes.

By Barry Santini

Gametime: The Sports Eyewear Package
When “John Q. Public” goes out for recreation, they almost always do it in a big way. The average expenditure estimates for a person entering a new sports or recreational hobby ranges from $500 to over $2,500. Why be left out of the receiving end of these available discretionary dollars? Sure, there are many places to purchase sports sunwear, including kiosks, department stores and the Internet. Optical stores can offer several advantages to these other outlets.

By selecting two or three sports sunwear brands and concentrating on them, you can become known as a “specialist” for these products in your area. You should consider making a significant investment in depth of inventory, manufacturer displays, signage and dedicated advertising. If your sports eyewear brands offer their “authentic” lenses in prescription, be sure to herald this special availability in your advertising. Over time, through your in-store displays, advertising and customer referrals, you’ll develop a regular traffic of clients who’ve heard or seen that you are a specialist for these brands.

And even before you’ve built a flow of potential clients, you should have packages of Rx lenses planned for these sports frames. Besides the manufacturer’s authentic lens options, you should have lens package pricing configured for single-vision, bifocal and progressive lenses with polarized, photochromic and AR lens options. Polycarbonate and other high-impact resistance photochromic lenses are an attractive option particularly for children’s sports eyewear. And special, ultra-hard, scratch-resistant and AR coatings are attractive for their extended warranty protection alone. Sports eyewear and sunwear buyers are especially interested in anything that will reduce future expense incurred from the obvious impact exposure.

Luxury Eyewear and Sunwear: The Ultimate Expression of Desire

Even at the price points of today’s high-end eyewear and sunwear brands, being able to structure packages can make all the difference between “deal or no deal.” There  re, for any given store location and demographic, certain “critical” price points that, when surpassed, can easily break a deal… and all for just a few dollars. The American consumer, even the “luxury” buyer, is sensitive to surpassing certain dollar amounts when shopping for their pleasure. It is important to be aware of where these thresholds lie and try to package prescription lenses so the total price doesn’t exceed the unspoken threshold.

A way to reduce your clientele’s sensitivity to the high price of luxury eyewear is to convey value. For example, rather than offer lens options à la carte, try grouping them together. Lightweight, aspheric, high-refractive index lenses with photochromic properties and state-of-the-art, ultra-slick, anti-static AR coatings should be offered as a deluxe package.

Photochromic lenses provide exceptional convenience for the wearer and if presented in a like manner, will not impede the desire for an optimal and fashionable pair of prescription sunwear. Today, there are even advanced photochromic options for polarized sunwear.
Luxury buyers prefer in-depth choices. As with sports sunwear, select a few high-end brands, group them, but display them in an uncluttered manner. Too many styles on display will only serve to confuse and hinder the purchase process. Try keeping alternate sizes and colors for the styles on display nearby, in nice cabinets and/or trays. You and your staff must train yourselves to remember what colors, sizes and styles are kept concealed. It may seem counter-intuitive to display less, but it is a proven fact that the more you display improperly, the less “special” and unique this luxury class of product will appear to the public. To see this approach in action with another fashion accessory, visit a high-end watch boutique. Just a few of a brand’s models are given “pride-of-place” on display. This more minimalist merchandising approach communicates the special and desirable nature of the product very effectively.

Everyman’s Got to See
As much as we would all like people to feel they “want” eyewear rather than “need” it, we’re currently in a transition period to this goal. Many people were brought up with an attitude of dislike for eyewear (and even sunwear). So even if they really needed prescription eyewear to see their best, they’ve resisted using or purchasing them. For this group, fulfillment of eyewear’s utility is all they’re really after. Here, package pricing especially becomes an efficient way to close an eyewear sale. These clients are often less or unconcerned with the “fashion” aspect of eyewear selection, desiring instead a contemporary style at an acceptable price point. Packaging a mid-index single-vision or multifocal lens permits most prospects to arrive at a quick and easy decision. Often their vision insurance will play an important role. Be careful not to pander to the price points dictated by their coverage. Instead, suggest that their insurance coverage can be used as a “down payment” toward a package “upgrade,” which may contain more deluxe lenses, flexible frames or photochromic features.

The Bottom Line is the Bottom Line

More than ever, the retail market for eyewear and sunwear is affected by a combination of the economy, marketing and a client’s vision insurance. But whether we’re experiencing good times or bad, the attraction of alternatives to the negatives of eyewear ownership cannot be ignored. Both contact lenses and especially refractive surgery position themselves as alternatives to the inconvenience and/or unpleasantness of eyewear. There are many product-based ideas that can help to increase the attractiveness of eyewear as a fashion accessory. But the most important challenge to eyecare professionals is how they can streamline and improve the attraction of shopping for eyewear and sunwear. Both grouping your eyewear according to its fashion brand and reducing the overwhelming choices through attractive lens and frame packages will go a long way to taking the drudgery out of “getting glasses.” We’ve had over 100 years of glasses being presented primarily upon need. It’s time for eyewear to finally achieve the status of a true fashion accessory “want.”

Barry Santini is a New York State licensed optician based in Seaford, N.Y.