To capture premium sunwear sales, feature a wide range of world-class brands and display them prominently. Let customers see: “This is the place to buy sunwear.”
Many Americans own a dozen pairs of shoes, yet nearly two-thirds of eyeglass wearers use just a single pair for all types of vision tasks and lighting conditions. In fact, multiple-pair eyewear sales can grow—and grow dramatically. The key is for independent ECPs to put in place an efficient, consistent process to demonstrate to patients the compelling lifestyle benefits of multiple pairs of eyewear, including sunwear, in particular.

Sunwear sales are growing. In 2016, sunwear sales at all retail outlets increased 3.2 percent, according to Vision Watch data. This exceeds the growth of both frames (+0.9 percent) and lenses (+1.8 percent). In dollar sales, plano sunwear totaled $4.2 billion in 2016, though only $389 million of those sales were captured by optical retailers. Some 104 million plano sunwear units were sold in 2016, up slightly from 2015.

Further data shows that the growth potential for sunwear is vast: Sunwear accounts for less than 5 percent of revenue in typical independent optometric practices. What’s more, just 19 percent of adults who wear prescription eyewear own prescription sunglasses, even as technology enables sunwear of all shapes and designs to be more easily Rx-able.

Savvy optical retailers are tapping into this potential by featuring premium brands that are highly valued by fashion-conscious consumers. In addition, they promote awareness of the eye health protection, enhanced visual performance, and individualized expression that premium sunwear provides. Consumers purchase when they believe that their lives are improved when their distinct outdoor vision needs are satisfied. To confirm that belief, employ the following office process throughout the patient/customer experience:

Stage a fun trunk show to offer your customers the latest sunwear styles—and place your optical in a distinctive, fashionforward context.
Raise awareness of sunwear. When confirming an eye exam, tell patients: “Be sure to bring in your plano and Rx sunwear.” This underscores the importance of sunwear, enables an evaluation of sunwear product needs and primes the patient for multiple sales.

Be the sunwear educator.
At the exam, use a lifestyle questionnaire to identify a patient’s daily vision environment and tasks. During pre-testing, techs should explain: “If you spend a lot of time outside, sunwear can reduce glare and block UV rays. The doctor will recommend what’s best for you.”

Prescribe sunwear & explain benefits. In the exam room, the doctor should prescribe a specific sunwear solution with a medical rationale, explaining the long-term eye health benefits of sun protection plus the enhanced visual experience of driving with polarized lenses. During the handoff to the optician, the Rx should be repeated in the patient’s presence to drive home the value of premium sunwear and lens options. For patients with managing vision plans, note that their optical benefit may reduce the cost of Rx sunwear.

Merchandise effectively. Stock and merchandise a broad range of branded sunwear with varied price points. Nearly every adult is a sunwear consumer, and many look to update their appearance. Encourage every new contact lens wearer to purchase plano sunwear from you—instead of letting them walk out the door only to purchase unknown, unbranded sunwear from a mass merchandiser.

When optical retailers convey this cohesive message of performance, protection and individual expression—and display a broad range of premium branded sunwear that delivers it—they are well positioned to capture the full growth potential of sunwear. ■


Marcolin is a leading fashion voice in the eyewear industry, with a deep portfolio of world-class sunwear and optical brands.

Marcolin brands include top sellers like Tom Ford in the luxury segment and Guess in the diffusion one, as well as Moncler, the new entry in the company brand portfolio. Many styles are Rx-friendly and are available in polarized lenses that enhance visual performance.

“Marcolin offers something for any eyewear connoisseur, from the ‘conservative classic’ to the ‘rocker chic’ customer,” says Nancy Edwards, owner of Personal Eyes in Las Vegas, Nevada. “Tom Ford is the staple in my office. The collection satisfies something for all ages and gender, in addition to being a huge fan favorite for my guys!”

Marcolin as a company is dedicated to customer service and support. Marcolin recently worked with Edwards to create a trunk show that featured Tom Ford sunwear. The brand’s broad appeal was key to the success of the event: “The collection offers a designer fashion forward appeal maintaining minimalism with innovative design, occasionally throwing in that unexpected piece to ‘wow’ you!” Edwards explains.

Edwards features other Marcolin lines and positions them for customers seeking distinction. ”Roberto Cavalli offers bold glamorous detailing to those clients who dare to express themselves,” she says.

Another opportunity for self-expression is provided by Ermenegildo Zegna, a distinctive brand whose eyewear collection celebrates the quest for excellence, the innovative spirit and the outstanding quality developed using sophisticated elements. ■