Making Frame Selection Relevant
By Tim Slapnicher, ABOC
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Expiration Date: December 31, 2017
Upon completion of this program, the participant should be able to:
- Understand when a frame inventory needs changing.
- Learn how to organize and position the various frame styles and brands to meet consumer wants.
- Know methods of changing out existing frame lines, as well as what current brands will work.
Tim Slapnicher, ABOC, graduated from Saint Cloud State University with a B.A. in Child and Family Studies. After five years of teaching early elementary education, Tim joined his brother and father, both optometrists at Rivertown Eye Care, their family-owned optometric practice. Tim uses his experience of teaching early elementary to bring a fresh perspective to management in the optical industry. Tim is a contributor for 20/20 Magazine and opticianshandbook.com and is the executive director of dailyoptician.com.
This course is approved for one (1) hour of General Knowledge CE credit by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Course SWJH403
I remember my feelings the first time we brought in a high-end frame line to our optical. I loved them. They were so cool; cooler than anything we had before. Did I think we'd sell any of them? To be honest, I didn't think we'd sell many at all. They were more of a novelty. But, they were super cool. We gained some optical street cred for sure. Check us out; we are so hip.
We made a big shift in our optical gallery inventory over the past two years. We are now an optical boutique filled with unique and compelling pieces of art for our fashion-seeking patients. We are an optical destination. We were sick of our frames being sold down the street and online. We discovered exciting ways to differentiate and renew our optical passions. We made our frame selection relevant again.
Here's the conclusion our optical shop came to: Change and differentiate. Same-ol', same-ol' ain't gonna cut it. The industry is changing. The Inter-nets are here to stay... that's a great thing, but we need to embrace it, not fight it. And yes, our frame lines are found everywhere. Good news—there are a ton of options. Reach out of your optical comfort zones. Knock their socks off with rockin' frames. Consider this new goal: What will your optical look like one year from now?
PATH TO CHANGE
We started off by being optical Inter-net creepers. We stalked a ton of optical websites. We had a specific formula: Google an urban city and add the words “optical boutique”—Chicago, Philadelphia, NYC, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Seattle, etc. Urban cities by far had the coolest websites and a ton of frame lines that we had never heard of.
This was an inspiring exercise to say the least. We were falling in love with our industry all over again. Hey! Check out this cool optical in Chicago! Have you heard of any of these lines they carry in Philly? Wow, we kind of stink, huh?!
This was so good for the optical soul. We were inspired to give our patients beautiful and unique frames. There's so much out there but we get used to what we're used to. We buy from the reps that stop in. We buy from the faces we've bought from over the years that are now great friends. There are a lot of great people in our industry. We also have to make sure we make healthy business decisions. Change or fizzle out.
After seeing lots of websites and falling in love with these new frame lines, we started to research these lines by checking out their websites. This felt foreign. They were new and cool, and suddenly we felt super unhip. They'll never let us sell their stuff.
PUMP THE BRAKES
We couldn't just contact these frame companies and say that we wanted to be cooler. Let us sell your frames now. No. They have their brand, too. They don't want to be everywhere. They don't want to be in your shop just so you can feel cooler. They'd prob ably lose their optical street cred for sure.
We had to know who we were and what we would stand for. We wanted to be the best. We wanted to be the place. We wanted to dominate the industry. Why do it halfway? This is our career. This is what we're doing in life. Carpe Diem. Let's do this. We are not going to be like every other place. We are going to create the same feeling we got from visiting hip websites. This is us now: We. Are. Optical.
We met frequently as a team. We brainstormed over and over again. What is our inventory going to look like? What do we want to be known as? What music will we listen to? What will we wear? What will our displays look like? How many brand names will we carry? How “high-end” will we be? How will we land these exclusive frame lines? Who are we?
My advice if you're switching up your direction: Ask why. Why do you want to change? Why do you want new lines? Why is it a good idea?
BUY IN AND BUY-IN
Buy In. As we bring in new frame lines that are exclusive to our area, we are excited to bring in a large number of frames from fewer vendors. Many optical shops make the mistake of bringing in eight to 14 pieces of one collection. Commit. Bring in a ton. Represent the line. When we place an opening order, we bring in a minimum of 30 pieces (usually ranges 30 to 50 pieces). This can feel crazy if you're not used to it, but we have the highest sell-through with our deepest collections. When you commit to a brand, you are making a statement for your patients. They are able to see many styles and often two to three colors in each. They fall in love with a bigger collection. This is a must. Dive in. Buy big and sell big. Ever have a trunk show—isn't this the same kind of deal?
Buy-In. Your entire team has to be on the same page. I admit I had many reservations and assumptions when we first brought in higher-end product. I had mental roadblocks for selling beautiful frames. I had to get out of my own way. Some of my initial toxic thoughts: No one would ever pay that price for those frames; they are way overpriced. Our town doesn't buy stuff like that.
I'm an optical manager that writes and speaks about selling frames. Ouch. Those were thoughts creeping into my head… what about team members that weren't working in the optical? They had to think we were crazy. I had to figure out a way to educate our team so we could all educate our optical.
The following document “The State of Optical” was given to each team member a day before our meeting in an effort to get everyone on the same page. The frame language is taken from each frame company's verbiage on their website.
|OUR PHILOSOPHY FOR OUR INVENTORY HAS EVOLVED OVER
THE PAST FEW YEARS, AS WE ARE FACED WITH NEW COMPETITION, AS
WELL AS THE PRESENCE OF EYEWEAR AVAILABLE ONLINE. WE HAVE
BEEN FOCUSED ON BRINGING UNIQUE AND COMPELLING COLLECTIONS
THAT CAN'T EASILY BE FOUND ONLINE OR DOWN THE STREET.
THE STATE OF THE OPTICAL
Things to know about our optical:
We currently have 750 frames in our optical boutique. These range in price ($99 to $1,148) and style (conservative, funky, hipster, colorful, etc.).
Our philosophy for our inventory has evolved over the past few years, as we are faced with new competition, as well as the presence of eyewear available online. We have been focused on bringing unique and compelling collections that can't easily be found online or down the street. Our goal is almost complete. As we look to bring in a few more frame lines and expand some of our strong collections, we have sold off most of our frame collections that are easily found online or in town.
When completed, about 75 percent of our inventory will be exciting and beautiful eyewear that is unique to our community. We will dedicate about 25 percent of our inventory to recognizable brand names and frame lines that have been solid sellers to keep healthy optical turns. None of our frame collections are here randomly. There is a specific reason and plan on why we carry what we do.
LOWER PRICE POINTS
We brought in an independent frame line (LEGRE) that caters to independent opticals. The collection is designed for customers with the utmost comfort, beauty and precision that is demanded by professional opticians and retails at $169.
We recently flipped product for a new private label frame line (SHO) that will also be at the $169 price point. We were very impressed with the quality of frames at this price point, as well as the fact that we can call them whatever we'd like. They are a wonderful, diverse option for patients.
We also sell frames (CASINO and REFLECTIONS) that meet the requirements for our value line and medical assistance patients. Although not as exclusive, these frames retail at $139 and have a great return and warranty policy. The styles are great, and these work for many of our patients on a budget.
FRAMES FOR SALE
To get rid of frames found easily online or down the street, we have been selling really great frames at a low cost: $99 for recognizable brand names; $199 for handmade luxury frames we are discontinuing.
Can't beat those prices anywhere. All of them are also warrantied for a year. Every one of our patients should know about our sale.
THE MID-RANGE FRAMES
These are great brand names (KATE SPADE, RAY-BAN and OAKLEY) for those that will spend a little more, but not necessarily break their bank. All of these consist of wearable and current/popular styles. These sell themselves based on patient history with them or because their buddy likes the brand. All of these brands are found online as well as other places in our community. These brand names also tend to drive clients here.
We also carry an innovative eyewear line devoted to bringing high-end fashion, a blend of style and bold color, yet very elegant, with affordable prices (MENIZZI). They also have great frames for kids.
We have one “feel-good, do-good” frame line (TOMS). These frames are mostly hip and chunky, and our patients relate to the concept of buy a pair, give sight.
Our newest and uber-exclusive collection (MOSCOT) is renowned worldwide for iconic eyewear styles that are timeless with a refined downtown aesthetic. The frames look good on many patients, and we look for this line to really take off.
QUALITY FRAMES WITH QUALITY PRICES
These frames (SEIKO) are synonymous with quality and sensible style. They are our second best seller and are popular with both men and women (and opticians, as we rarely see them return with issues). They only sell to independent practices and are exclusive to us in town.
Another one (PRODESIGN) also fits this category. The design team creates frames with a twist of color or unexpected details, to enhance human facial features. Patients love these frames, as they are comfortable and just a little bit funky (not over-the-top crazy).
COOL, BEAUTIFUL AND HARD TO FIND
This (SALT.) should be in its own category. They are premium handcrafted eyewear for people who like simple things made well. They have impeccable quality, pure fit and minimalist styling.
Another colorful line (ETNIA BARCELONA) has taken us by surprise. Their designers take a futuristic approach to their styles and shapes. They are colorful and comfortable and appeal to both men and women.
We have a new colorful collection (BELLINGER) as well. They express joy and personality, life and passion, can be casually cool or bright and happy, or discreetly sensual.
MORE EXPENSIVE, BUT AMAZING
One (LINDBERG) lands here by itself. They are lightweight with a minimalistic design concept, and they are masters of innovative eyewear designs. Try one on. They rule.
This (GOLD & WOOD) fills the requirement for our ultra high-end product. They are designed in pursuit of comfort, luxury, elegance and purity. They are handcrafted from the most exquisite natural materials.
We have a very solid sunglass collection. We carry four of the top brands in sun-wear (OAKLEY, RAY-BAN, MAUI JIM and COSTA). They represent 20 percent of all our inventory. We also have good turn with our fashion sunwear. I feel our sunglass collection is as strong as any place. We just need patients to know the importance of protective sunwear and polarized lenses. This could be emphasized as much as the Rx.
These (EYEBOBS) are optical-quality awesome. You are not doomed to wander the racks of drugstore readers in search of the least ugly pair of readers.
This concludes everything one would need to know about our optical gallery inventory.
We reorder frames two times per week, ensuring a stable and consistent number of frames on hand, as well as the most current frames.
We have long been perceived as super expensive. As you can read, we are not out of reach for anyone. We are able to offer high-end/boutique quality eyewear, but meet the needs of our patient-base by offering exclusive/hard to find frame options in all price points. All of our frames are warrantied for one year against manufacturer defects. We are an optical destination.
USING YOUR WEBSITE TO REINFORCE YOUR BRAND
After lurking on many industry-related websites, I have some thoughts on how (not) to present your frame collections to your patient base. The ones that I love the most describe the brands they carry, not just list them. That gives the “why” you are choosing to carry them. Most clients don't know the differences in quality and brand names. They recognize brands, but don't always make the connection to eyewear. Explain a few bullet points on why you carry the lines and what makes them special. They're not there randomly, right?
Many websites use logo banners to list the frames. When you click the logo, it often goes to another website. Sometimes, it goes to the eyewear website. Oftentimes it goes to an online retailer! Or, several advertisements will pop up telling the client to buy cheaper glasses online. #backfire. Make sure you know where it's linking to.
Consider taking your own photos with your own optical displays featuring your frame lines. Under the photo, use a couple of bullet points highlighting why they're compelling frame lines. Create a feeling that they will miss out if they don't come to you.
A FEW MORE TIDBITS
You can't be everything to everyone. Do what you do well. High-end might not be your chosen path. Whatever you decide to do, do it with a purpose. We can't afford to do what we've always done in this changing industry. Go back to your “why” responses. Don't go through the motions. Kick butt with whatever direction you decide. Own it.
Does your optical look like every other one? Change it. Are you ahead of the game (you carry beautiful product and create an amazing experience)? Start planning for two years from now. Dominate.
Become a destination. Your displays, vibe and product should be an extension of your enthusiastic and passionate optical soul: You. Are. Optical.