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Article Date: 3/1/2014

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OPTICAL: brands
OPTICAL

  brands

No Passion for Fashion?

Take advantage of an opportunity to rake in the big bucks..

MILENA CAVICCHIOLI, MASON, OHIO

Most private-practice opticals aren’t achieving their financial potential because the owner doesn’t realize that fashion — especially popular brand-name product — plays a huge role in consumer-purchasing habits. This lack of awareness is driven by a disinterest in the optical and, in particular, frame purchasing, which is viewed by most optometrists as a “challenge” or “hassle.”

As a result, delegating the optical to staff is commonplace for most optometrists. To think most practices hand-off the task of buying eyewear to their staff without considering the impact that choice can have not just on the practice’s bottom line, but also on the impression the practice makes with patients who are also consumers, is troubling.

Here, we explain why fashion plays a major role in buying decisions in the optical and how you and your staff can become fashion forward.

Brand-conscious patients

Although most O.D.s view ophthalmic lenses and frames as vision-correction devices, patients see them as fashion accessories that enhance their vision. After all, as is the case with clothing, they “wear” them. Therefore, consumers want frames and ophthalmic lenses that align with their personal style, which also reflects their personality and how they want others to see them.

Specific brands are an enormous part of exemplifying that persona. This is because every brand has a defined personality. Whether the brand represents a cool lifestyle (like Ray-Ban), heritage and craftsmanship (think Persol), classic elegance (like Chanel) or designer trends (Dolce & Gabbana, Prada), the consumer identifies with what that brand stands for and, as a result, places a lot of value on it. (Think Nike, Apple and Starbucks.) While a patient may come back to your practice because of an issue with their vision, it’s the consumer who keeps coming back because they know you’ll have their brand in the latest design to complete their look.

Time and again, well-es-tablished brands have been known to increase consumer traffic, drive sales faster and turn at a rate of two times or more vs. lesser-known brands. So brands aren’t just important for making an impression on your customers, they are critical to your bottom line. Practices have the opportunity to expand their customer base and capture incremental business by offering a complete range of sun lens options, such as diverse materials, polarized benefits and, of course, sunglasses that can be made with prescription lenses.

Media mod squad

Patients tend to get their ideas for the type of eyewear they want through the media — the mainstream news, where Google Glass was reported, celebrity magazines and TV programs, Hollywood award and fashion shows. The individuals featured in these media outlets wear high-end branded-eyewear. Eyewear trends at fashion shows, for example, are now on par with other designer accessories, such as handbags and shoes. As a result, the days of Dorothy Parker’s “men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses” are gone. Now, several women buy frames like they’re shoes: multiple pairs, building a wardrobe of quality, designer frames that match their apparel choices. Look at J.Crew’s Chairman and CEO Jenna Lyons. She rocks a frame regardless of whether she’s in the office or on the red carpet.

No doubt, many of you are thinking “patients” refers to females, as women, on a whole, tend to place a great deal of importance on fashion. But, the brand desire is very much true of males as well. In fact, men have become increasingly brand savvy in recent years, looking for brands that offer style, technology and innovative materials. For them, the brand proposition is perhaps more technical (e.g. polarized lens materials for enhanced visual acuity, nylon plastic to improve performance, etc.) but no less important than the female consumer seeking a signature logo.

Becoming fashion conscious

Now that you know why fashion is so important to your optical, here are two ways you can become fashion forward:

1. Get involved. You’re an eyecare practitioner and a retailer. Just as you stay up to date on the latest medical eye care through CE and the various journals to provide the best care, pay attention to the aforementioned media outlets, make notes of items you think patients will buy, and ask for input from your opticians and frame reps.

The choices you make in your optical say something about you as a practitioner and the type of customer you want to attract. That includes everything from the brands you select, the assortment you offer, the way you merchandise to create excitement and interest, the way you train your staff and, most importantly, the way you assess the productivity of the inventory you’re carrying to make sure it continues to remain fresh, relevant and paying the bills.

Close to 40% of gross receipts result from frames and lens sales in private and corporate O.D. practices. Your optical is too important to your overall practice to completely delegate to staff.

2. Ask your frame reps for help. Once you’ve decided on frame lines, lean on your manufacturer partners, their sales force and training tools to get comfortable “talking the talk.” For example, ask them for stories about each frame. Compelling stories are powerful selling tools. Dolce & Gabbana’s Lace collection, for example, is comprised of custom acetate created from real Dolce & Gabbana lace from the runway styles. To a Dolce & Gabbana brand fan, owning this frame becomes a must.

Correct your “myopia”

Ophthalmic lenses and frames do not begin and end with the prescription. Patients don’t see glasses this way, and they’re the ones you need to make purchases from your optical.

Present eyewear as a fashion accessory, and bestow the ophthalmic lenses as the vision-correcting part. In addition, become involved with your optical. You want to embrace fashion in a way that will make your patients feel like you are the go-to source for frames that are stylish and that will make them look great and feel confident. Remember: Fashion is also your business. OM

Ms. Cavicchioli is vice president of Marketing at Luxottica USA. Send comments to optometric management@gmail.com.



Optometric Management, Volume: 49 , Issue: March 2014, page(s): 22, 23

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