Photos by Actions Sports Photography

By Patrisha Zabrycki

Sport eyewear protects the eyes, improves performance and reflects the personal style of any athlete, sport enthusiast or outdoor lover. 20/20 is committed to delivering the message of sport eyewear power. Eyecare professionals should be the equipment managers well versed in every aspect of sport technology. Over the years 20/20 has witnessed the sport eyewear market rev up on the vendor side. Optical retailers need to be the leaders in delivering the goods and the good news in this niche to consumers. Tune up your sport game with this Sport Eyewear MarketPulse.

A significant 71 percent of respondents said they do not purchase sport eyewear at optical trade shows. Trade shows are a prime time to talk tech with sport eyewear representatives and to get all the intricate information on eyewear framed for specific sports. Consumers look to optical professionals as the authority on frame and lens advancements. Dispensaries are essentially the most powerful and enduring “mom and pop” stores on Main Street, giving customers that all-important, one-on-one attention. You are the expert sport specialty store and need to stock up on products as well as knowledge. Make a point to seek out marketing, merchandising and detailed product information from sport specialty vendors—trade shows are a key time to make these connections. Being well-informed about sport products helps edge out those big box stores intent on pushing products rather than pairing eyewear with the right eyes.


A healthy dose of respondents (62 percent) said they suggest sport eyewear to their patients. Pump up this effort by asking all patients about their weekend activities, lifestyle and sporting hobbies. While fitting patients for eyeglasses or contact lenses bring up the added benefits of having specific eyewear to suit their lifestyle and activity needs. Explain the importance of polycarbonate lenses, titanium, memory metals and other high-tech frame materials and components. Sport eyewear is not only for athletes. Instill the virtues of proprietary lens characteristics as a key component for specific activities especially where glare and visual stress from the sun can hinder vision.

Focus your eye on the course. 40 percent of respondents said they do not value endorsements from athletes for sport eyewear. Consumers identify with athletes, so let sports stars help you dispense sport eyewear. Display images and posters of famous athletes wearing the sport glasses you stock. Connect with sales reps at shows and via dispensary visits to gain access to all valued and available marketing and merchandising materials. Don’t be part of the 34 percent of respondents who abstain from using marketing materials from sport eyewear manufacturers. Be sure to package the power of sport. Incorporate all the accoutrements of athletic eyewear into your sales pitch: floatable cases, cords, retainers and anti-fog sprays.

Surprisingly only 50 percent of respondents said they participate in a manufacturer’s Rx program. This number is drastically low especially as throngs of uber-active baby boomers reach eyewear maturity and the inescapable reality of presbyopia. Those boomers need to be suited up with high-tech and high-quality prescription sport eyewear. All too often stories recur from consumers turned away from optical retailers because the store does not dispense sport-specific Rx lenses for sport wrap frames with challenging base curves. Do not lose out on this all-important business. Join forces with manufacturers to get in on the Rx sport game. Vendor-centric Rx programs are the ultimate “team” aspect of sport eyewear for the savvy optical pro.


20/20 Magazine’s Sport Eyewear MarketPulse was conducted by Jobson Optical Research’s in-house research staff in January 2011. The sample was derived from the proprietary Jobson Optical Research database and consists of 196 independent optical retailers. All participants were recruited via e-mail and offered an incentive of a chance to win a $200 American Express gift card. For more information about how to run your own survey please contact Jobson Research at (212) 274-7164.

—Jennifer Zupnick
Senior Research Analyst
Jobson Optical Research

The sport optical arena abounds with opportunity as well as responsibility. Sport eyewear is technically and functionally on a stratospheric level of scientific accomplishment that leaves fashion eyewear on the feather and tulle-dusted runways when it comes to amping up performance. Everything from the lenses to the frames and cases make marketing and prescribing sport eyewear a perfect matchup for top eyecare professionals. So… start your engines and DRIVE to your optimum sporting business. ■