By Christine Yeh

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” We’re all familiar with this expression, which discourages evaluation based on outward appearance alone. But often appearance IS the first thing judged, especially when we walk into a retail store looking to purchase a product or service to satisfy a particular need. First impressions are very important, especially in optical retailing. If a practice takes pride in the quality patient care and excellent product mix and customer service it offers, this needs to be reflected in its presentation.

Consumers subconsciously begin forming opinions about their experience the minute they walk into a store. Undoubtedly the more inviting and customer-friendly a practice looks, the more likely customers will have a positive experience. What are optical retailers doing to successfully showcase their products and services? 20/20 examines the keys to retail design success with our exclusive Retail Design Survey.


Patients looking for new eyewear want to see what their options are, so displaying your products in an attractive fashion is of prime importance. Retailers continue to use frameboards as the main means of display, with 77 percent of frames on the board. Yet this number is down considerably from 2010, where 90 percent had been on frameboards. This drop could be an indication retailers are exploring innovative frame presentations compared to past traditions. The amount of frame units maintained by retailers remains relatively consistent—44 percent have 500 to 1,000 frames on hand, while 24 percent have more than 1,000 frames, according to the survey.

Display cases came in second with a distant 23 percent, while frames displayed in store-front windows came in at just 5 percent. Nine percent of frames were displayed in “other” items, including drawers, shelves, trays and free-standing displays.

Fashion/name brands and gender continue to be the most preferred categories to display eyewear, both topping out at 71 percent. The sunwear category follows close at 69 percent, while sport and color were cited at 39 percent and 9 percent, respectively. “Other” categories such as kids, safety, material, vendor and price, were cited by 6 percent.

To give prime positioning to sunwear products and contact lenses, many retailers devote areas of their practice specifically to these categories. A separate area devoted to sunwear and sun lens products was a part of 80 percent of practices surveyed, while 81 percent devoted an area specific to CL fittings.

Lenses complete the eyewear package, yet practices surveyed reported only 14 percent of display space dedicated to spectacle lenses, lens treatments or lens-related educational information. This is a slight increase from last year, and interestingly, the percentage of a practice’s space devoted to the finishing area increased by 13 percent to 17 percent this year (56 percent was dedicated to the dispensing area).


The younger set is just as valuable as adult customers. Retailers recognize the buying power of kids and the parents who buy for them, as 70 percent of those who sell eyewear to kids ages 2 to 14 have a specific area devoted to kids. Selling to kids requires retailers to stay attuned to what kids like so it’s essential to ensure this area is kid-friendly.

To cater to kids’ needs, those practices with a kids-dedicated area incorporated the following items: books (41 percent), toys (40 percent), a play area (29 percent), lchild-size furniture (24 percent) and videos (16 percent). “Other” items cited (24 percent) include crayons/coloring, chairs and displays.


Point-of-purchase (POP) items play a big role in dispensaries, generating interest and providing more information on featured products or services. Countercards are great for introducing a new brand or collection, and brochures and demo kits are valuable for explaining a new lens feature or technology. The majority of respondents surveyed perceive value in the use of POP items, with 54 percent finding them “somewhat useful” and 38 percent finding them “very useful.” Only 8 percent feel they are not useful.

Materials used by retailers that are vendor-supplied account for 73 percent of all POP materials used, while 21 percent are self-provided by the practice. While it’s a positive note that retailers can rely on manufacturers’ materials showcasing their products, many practices also create their own POP (46 percent) for a more personalized touch.

Brochures are the most popular POP materials used (78 percent), followed closely by countercards (74 percent). Demonstration kits are used by 53 percent and 43 percent use spin racks. Videos account for 15 percent, and premium items including jewelry, perfume and other accessories are used by 10 percent.

The waiting room is an ideal place to educate patients and promote products and services. Practices that have a waiting room account for 83 percent of those surveyed, and 55 percent of this group incorporates their waiting room in their dispensary area. Brochures and educational materials are the number one items displayed (86 percent) in waiting rooms. Photos of models in eyewear are displayed by 52 percent, followed by 37 percent displaying product. Optical industry publications—such as 20/20—are also displayed by 31 percent, and “other” items (cited by 12 percent) displayed include video, consumer magazines and other brochures.

Video displays in waiting rooms are growing steadily at 32 percent. In fact, when asked what type of display, promotional or educational materials practices currently don’t have but would like to have available, 17 percent of respondents stated video/DVD/TV. Whether they’re used to promote a product or service the practice offers or educate patients on the importance of UV protection, video is a great way to engage a captive audience.


The majority of retailers surveyed are web-savvy—73 percent have a website. Retailers understand this value as it offers a preview of the products and services their practices provide, and allows potential customers to read testimonials from other customers. Social media is also a growing vehicle. Practices that have Facebook pages increased to 36 percent, up 11 percent from 2010. Twitter has also gained a slight increase among retailers, with 8 percent tweeting from their practice this year. Facebook and Twitter provide quick and easy ways to let customers know about special promotions or offers and update them on news or happenings from the practice.

Websites and social media are great tools to enhance a practice’s profile, but nothing replaces face-to-face contact. A customer’s in-store experience can make or break perceptions of the practice, so it’s vital for retailers to strategically assess dispensary design to portray their practice in a positive light. ■


20/20's Retail Design Survey 2011 was conducted from May 20, 2011 to May 23, 2011 by Jobson Optical Research’s in-house research staff. The sample of 213 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.

To ensure consistency in results, all surveys were conducted during the same May/June time period. The 2008, 2009 and 2010 studies were conducted via the internet. A chance to win a $200 American Express gift certificate was offered each year. The analysis ­represents historical data and might reflect seasonal ­market fluctuations.

—Jennifer Zupnick
Senior Research Analyst
Jobson Optical Research