Bringing Plano Sun into the Sale

By Michelle Fleischer and Mark Mattison-Shupnick, ABOM

Release Date: October 31, 2018

Expiration Date: March 30, 2020

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this program, the participant should be able to:

  1. Understand the harmful effects of UV rays on our eyes and vision.
  2. Recognize the sales opportunity when educating customers on how high quality, premium sunglasses are the only choice for consumers to best protect their sight.
  3. Teach how to better educate customers on premium sunwear.

Faculty/Editorial Board:

authorMichelle Fleischer, manages the Learning & Education program for Luxottica wholesale North America, responsible for designing and delivering impactful vision care, brand and product knowledge content for employees and customers. authorMark Mattison-Shupnick, ABOM, is currently director of education for Jobson Medical Information LLC, has more than 40 years of experience as an optician, was senior staff member of SOLA International and is a frequent lecturer and trainer.

Credit Statement:

This course is approved for one (1) hour of CE credit by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Course SWJH558

Plano sunwear is a practice opportunity that makes for good business. Yet, most offices aren’t committed to being their patient’s sunglass source, don’t have enough sunwear inventory and/or don’t see themselves as a place that the consumer can drop in to shop for nonprescription sunglasses. Plano sunglasses are a 99 million-pair opportunity (VisionWatch 2013) in which optical could/ should have a larger share. Why sell plano sunglasses, and why is the ECP the logical source for more premium products?


Quality sunwear provides better protection for the eye and its surrounding structures. Therefore, consider discussing the reasons for eye protection. Did you know that worldwide, 3.2 million people go blind due to prolonged UV exposure every year? In fact, the sun is the number one environmental factor that contributes to cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in countries where cataract surgery is not available. Ninety percent of skin cancers occur on the head and neck area. This kind of UV damage over a period of time cannot be repaired without cataract, cryo-, Mohs or other types of surgery depending on age, depth or significance of the damage.

These concerns do not solely exist on a sunny day either. Overcast skies still allow 31 percent of the solar radiation to reach the earth, so eyes need protection on cloudy days as well. Moreover, kids receive three times the annual sun exposure of adults. As a result, we need to teach children early (and mom) the importance of wearing sunglasses—just as we teach them to brush their teeth and wear a seatbelt. This will ensure that they develop good habits that last for life.


ladyUV radiation cannot be seen or felt. While most people recognize the connection between sun exposure and skin cancer, less than 1 in 3 Americans realize the hazards of UV exposure to the eyes. Additionally, only 24 percent know that UV exposure can cause cataracts. Do these numbers seem too low? Unfortunately, they are correct, so commit to educating all customers about sunwear. As opticians, we tend to think about the prescription wearer only. That represents about 60 percent of Americans. However, because UV and HEV radiation affect everyone, the entire U.S. population should wear quality sunwear. From VisionWatch, it is estimated that as many as 85 percent of the U.S. have sunglasses but at an average sell price of just $34. That means that there are more $5 and $10 pairs versus the $150 pairs, so the public’s eyes could be at risk.

Premature aging is another result of too much UV since UVA are the aging rays. It is estimated that 90 percent of the premature aging around the eyes is caused by UV damage. Add it up, PREMIUM sunglasses every year can be a lot less expensive than Botox.


The best prevention against UV rays is not just sunglasses in general; it is high quality, PREMIUM UV blocking sunwear. Who says so? The most respected optical organizations across America (Fig. 1). It is all over the media as well—even Dr. Oz has promoted sunwear that absorbs UVA and UVB. For example, see


External factors like wind or airborne dirt are also a problem. When cycling, skiing or just enjoying the view outdoors, sunglasses are an effective wind barrier. They reduce the rate of evaporation of tears and help keep the eyes moist and comfortable. If you wear contact lenses, sunglasses will help with moisture and prevent windblown particles from getting in your eyes and causing corneal abrasion. Consider close-fitting, “wrap” style frames as a particularly effective barrier.


Direct glare from a principal source like the sun, projectors or a photoflash can be debilitating because of its intensity. Reflected glare bouncing off shiny surfaces like sand, water and snow is blinding. Regardless of the source, glare reduces visibility and causes discomfort and even pain to the eyes.

Lens treatments that reduce glare include tints, mirrored surfaces, anti-reflective treatments, polarizing films and photo-polar combinations. Fig. 2 describes the benefits of each treatment.


First, tinted lenses have a variety of advantages, yet can also miss some important characteristics of high quality sunwear. For example, tinted plano lenses reduce glare, i.e., excess light, but their ability to absorb UV for example is a function of the base material itself and not the dye that created the tint. It’s possible that a grey 3 plastic lens is not 100 percent UV absorptive. Confirm that your supplier provides 100 percent UV absorbing plastic tinted lenses.

Grey lenses deliver true color and are advisable for extended periods of use in extreme conditions. Yellow lenses enhance brightness, absorb blue light and the “dazzle” is effective for some users (driving during the day for seniors, skiing in fog). However, yellow is not advisable when the light is intense or for use by those with less than optimal vision. Further, yellow lenses are not a good solution for night driving in very dark conditions, because they absorb too much of the available light.

protectionBrown lenses improve contrast and image resolution. Ideal in changing light conditions, brown tints also absorb harmful blue light. Amber lenses brighten cloudy, hazy or foggy skies and are excellent for contrast and help to minimize eyestrain. Lastly, they are good for hunters, pilots and snow skiers. Rose lenses enhance contrast and are perceived as relaxing and are best in green or blue environments (water, grass) and can reduce blue light. Last, green lenses provide better contrast and a more precise and relaxed vision. To find out the exact absorption characteristics, ask your supplier for transmission charts of the variety of lens colors in the materials in which they are supplied.

Polarized lenses provide comfort for patients’ eyes by eliminating blinding glare (intense flat surface reflections), enhancing contrast and clarity as well as being 100 percent UV protective. The result is reduced eye stress and strain.


A helpful chart (Fig. 3) for U.S. sellers might be the Solar Protection Index (SPI) used in Europe, where the SPI is part of the required markings for sunglasses sold. The Index categorizes the darkness of the lenses and recommends use based on environmental conditions. As you can see, the protection index has five categories in which light absorption increases as the category numbers increase. It starts at Category 0, when there is very little light absorption and is used for safety lenses and for cosmetic or fashion purposes. Category 1, which allows from 80 percent to 63 percent transmission, is for indoor and cloudy days. Category 2 reduces light transmission from 63 to 18 percent and is for standard illumination. When it gets very sunny, as is the case at seaside or the mountains, suggest Category 3, which lets only 18 to 8 percent of light through. Last is Category 4, which allows from 8 percent to 3 percent of light and is used when there is intense illumination (i.e., high altitude trekking). It must be noted that Category 4 is not suitable at all for driving.


Some manufacturers engrave the SPI and the kind of sun lens on the temples. In the example, the lenses are a medium strong color shade (2N) and tinted. N may also designate lenses that have been tinted as well as mirrored. The letter designations are “P,” Polarized; “N”, tinted/mirror and “F,” Photo-Polar.

Like the European standard, ANSI Z80.3 also includes traffic signal recognition as a requirement. This is especially important since most traffic lights and lighted warning signs are LEDs, which some sun lens colors can obscure.


Answering this question for you is the basis of being able to answer this question for customers. What is the difference between the two sunglasses below, priced about $220 and $10, respectively?

There are six factors that define the characteristics of premium versus generic sunwear. They are UV protection, visual clarity, lens quality, frame quality, warranty and branding.

UV Protection: Some sunglasses are marked “UV Absorbing,” “UV Protective” and “Blocks most UV light.” What does that mean? Sunglasses sold in the United States are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and are required to conform to safety standards. The recommended U.S. standard is ANSI Z80.3-2010, which includes three transmittance categories. According to the standard, the lens should have a UVB (280 to 315 nm) transmittance of no more than one percent and a UVA (315 to 380 nm) transmittance of no more than the visual light transmittance. Lenses, of course, must pass the drop-ball test. Teach patients that the best they can do is choose premium trusted brands that guarantee 100 percent UV protection.

Visual Clarity: Premium lenses have ophthalmic quality surfaces, i.e., optically correct with no distortion, ensuring clear vision. Low quality lenses may have local distortions or prisms that contribute to blur or discomfort. This can lead to headache, fatigue, even nausea. “Consistency is a concern with lower-priced glasses. You might find one pair that offers great clarity and another that’s the very same brand and model and highly distorted.” (Peter H. Kehoe, O.D., former president of the AOA).

Premium sun lenses ensure surface and centering accuracy. As you know, a small amount of Base In prism is required for plano wrap sunglasses (called decentered planos) to ensure comfortable binocularity. Point out to patients that the increased nasal versus temporal thickness means that the lenses are optically correct. Premium sun lenses with proper lens surfaces ensure that the potential damaging elements of sunlight and distortion are reduced or eliminated. The filter reduces or eliminates squinting from glare for greater visual comfort.

Lens and Frame Quality: Perceptions of lens quality include “how dark” or are based on style and looks. Lens and frame quality is based on more than that. Lens durability for example, a part of its inherent value to the wearer, is augmented by a scratch resistant or mirrored front surface, an anti-reflective rear surface and the overall impact resistance of the complete lens. The performance of each of these characteristics is tested extensively by subjecting the lenses to boiling, artificial sweat, cycling heat and humidity, and outdoor weathering. Ask your supplier for a list of the tests that their sunwear are subjected to so you can teach customers why you and they can trust that brand.

The same trust developed for lenses needs to be created for frames. Frame quality requires that it passes endurance testing (temple or front bending, opening, closing) and tarnish or corrosion resistance (sweat, weather, temperature). Choice of materials that are hypoallergenic, durable, hold adjustment and maintain long-lasting color vibrancy is essential. If the frame is coated and/or painted, it will not peel or chip. Higher quality frames can be distinguished for their better quality hinges (won’t wear fast making the temple loose), hinge attachment and finish around the hinges as well as the reliability of spring hinges. All this results in a frame that fits better and provides longer lasting comfort.


Frame Markings can describe tests and standards to which a frame conforms. For example, the European Commission requires 10 safety tests be performed on frames sold in the European Union, most are also sold in the U.S. Frames that pass are stamped “C {space} E” meaning European Commission.

All of the major manufacturers manufacture frames or source parts from a variety of countries. By being knowledgeable on frame quality, as well as marking requirements, you can better counsel customers on quality as well as value.

Warranty and purchase satisfaction are always consumer expectations. When you purchase generic eyewear and it breaks, what can you do? Are there spare parts? Can you return it? Maybe; maybe not. By purchasing premium eyewear, customers are making an investment. With some manufacturers, this includes a two-year manufacturer limited warranty and certificate of authenticity. It also includes an information leaflet like the SPI index.

Brands: We have to remember that a large part of the consumer’s desire for premium sunwear comes from the brand name and the prestige that those brands possess. Have you ever purchased an item that cost more because of the brand? Brands have grown to guarantee quality, fit and identity. Choose the brands that appeal to a specific as well as a broad range of customer segments. For example, Ray-Ban is the best-known sunglass brand worldwide because of its brand reputation and inherent DNA.


Do you think your customers know all of the differences between generic and premium sunwear? What would be the sales opportunity if they did?

In 2013, the optical channel was only responsible for 2.5 percent of sunglass units (compare average sell prices also [ASP] $149 versus $15). Shouldn’t there be a difference between a $15 and $149 frame? Don’t you think that the customer expects there is but in the absence of your being able to describe it, in detail, they are left to think there is little difference? It’s that “60 Minutes” review all over again.

On the contrary, the Italian optical channel dominates the sunglass market. In the same time period, Italy sold 7 million sunglass units for $1.15 billion at an average sell price of $164. Optical was 65 percent of the plano sunglass market. “In Italy, consumers still tend to go to an optician to buy branded sunglasses,” according to a Strategy with Vision, Eyecare Consultants report. The opportunity is therefore to stand up for the quality that is uniquely different in the product that you sell—and shout it from the rooftops!


ladyIt is possible to change the consumer’s mindset so that the ECP is the go-to destination for the right pair of sunglasses. If locations like Sunglass Hut can do it—an ECP that would consider a sunwear store within their practice—you can also do it.

A plan is necessary to make this happen. It requires sufficient inventory of branded sunwear, knowledge of the brand and its attributes, as well as a commitment to discuss sunwear with every patient who comes into the office.

Sufficient inventory means some depth of frame colors in each of the styles and enough styles for the consumer to believe that you are in fact a good source of sunwear. For the brands carried, be able to talk about that brand using the words and descriptions that have attracted the consumer. Talk to the sales rep— get copies of descriptions of the DNA of the brand, its style and fashion targets for the season and use that language with customers. Eighty-five percent of patients want their ECP to inform them about all eyewear and lens options available, regardless of the price. (Luxottica Patient Research Study 2009)


Be equipped with all of the reasons why premium sun is the only choice for consumers. Describe the benefits of quality, UV and impact protection, better vision, visual comfort, high performance for sports or driving and the durability delivered by scratch and impact resistance. Premium frames provide a better fit, overall comfort, quality of workmanship and materials, durability, warranty, design and brand identity.