Article Date: 3/1/2013

Maximizing Optical Displays
optical secrets revealed

Maximizing Optical Displays

Four simple concepts can create visual appeal and keep your optical fresh, inviting and interesting.


We ask a lot from optical displays: They must entice customers and make it easy for them to find that special product. They must contribute to an enjoyable lens selection process and make the customer want to come back for more. That’s more than a little tricky — optical displays tend to run together as an endless grid so they end up looking more clinical than most apparel retailers would ever consider appropriate.

However, by following a few simple concepts, you can create visual appeal with walls and displays for eyewear that keeps your optical fresh, inviting and interesting. These concepts aren’t trends, but more so rules for organizing your frames. And you can occasionally break these rules, as long as the end result benefits your bottom line, encourages repeat business and promotes an increase in sales.

Yes, nearly all eyewear boutiques put the same brand frames together to utilize signage and graphics, and to tell a brand “story.” This is not a bad idea, as long as the brand means something to your clients and it is a name they trust and value. High-end luxury brand pieces should be kept together when appropriate for this reason, but it may not be necessary with lower-end product.

Great merchandisers organize product by these four categories — and in this order:

► End Use
► Fabrication
► Style
► Color


First and foremost is end use, which literally means, how is this product going to be used? Since all eyewear is intended to improve sight, let’s dig a little deeper and ask: Where will the client wear this frame? Is it work, home, weekend, evening, special occasions or even special purpose like sporting events?


Optical displays must make it easy for customers to find that special product.

Like an outfit, eyewear can be sold for a specific occasion, for example, a day at the beach or an evening wedding. You can often group eyewear to “tell” the end use story. For instance, if a frame looks professional, clean, and precise in design, then perhaps it’s great for work. Strong design, patterns and colors might best be used for weekends, nights out or travel. Sunglasses and sports frames lead to events and weekends, just as conservative pieces pair well with special events and dressing to impress.

Consider placing a frame on the boards in more than one location or on multiple fixtures in your boutique. This “double exposing” can lead to increased sales and, often, better customer service. Don’t do this with every frame, but those that deserve more attention, are newer or more expensive, or those that you feel should sell better. If you love a new frame and it fits more than one category, like work and weekend, then put it on both themed boards. Customers might not ask for weekend eyewear, but that “weekend” style might appeal to them, which means that whole board will as well. This saves time and allows the customer to focus on — and, better yet, not miss — any other pieces they might consider.

This concept can increase the sales of second or third pairs when your staff explains the value of having spectacles for fun, work and special occasions. Ask the customer if they wear the same jewelry every day, or if they wear the same watch or the same tie. If they say no, then why not have multiple pairs of eyewear that work back to their lifestyle and wardrobe?


Fabrication literally means what the merchandise is made of, for example, plastics/acrylics, metals or specialty materials. Some clients love plastic frames and others have no interest. Save them time and make their shopping experience more personal and convenient by sorting this way, especially when you see a trend for a particular material.

Metal frames tend to look more subdued and professional, great for work attire, just as simple black frames and rimless do. Here, you can break the rule of grouping by fabrication and still sort with a bigger focus on end use. You be the judge. Try different concepts, watch sales and ask questions to determine what your customers respond to best.


Style in this case doesn’t necessary mean fashion, but more so the look or feel of a design. Is it professional, whimsical, colorful or pattern heavy, modern, retro/vintage inspired, new age, clean, feminine or masculine? When style “tells” the story, you play up trends, such as bright colors or retro styles, by grouping them together. Add a window display, vitrine, shadow box or even graphics to exaggerate the concept. Play a movie that represents the lifestyle or time period inspiring this style, or use respectable fun props that not only present the eyewear, but also draw interest to the story.


Use color patterns and textures to create a unique experience in your optical.

Keep in mind how pop culture influences fashion. When Leonardo DiCaprio starred in the movie “Aviator,” sales of aviator glasses came back strongly, just as they did when “Top Gun” was the rage. Both times, leather bomber jackets were huge sellers. Check out what movies are coming in the next year and think ahead as to what you can do. Share your ideas with the people responsible for buying new frames so your retail space can support a possible trend. Display images, vinyl text, graphics, props, or even a video monitor that shows images and/or clips that promotes the trend.

So far, the last few years have been all about “throwbacks.” Many 1980’s cartoons have been made into blockbuster movies, and companies, such as Pepsi and Frito-Lay, have brought back older packaging. Throwbacks play into the 80’s style sunglasses trends and retro larger frames inspired by vintage pieces your parents may have worn.

An upcoming blockbuster like “The Great Gatsby” can predict fashion trends. (Both the movie and novel are famous for a billboard with eyeglasses on it.) Prada made more than 40 fashion looks for the upcoming release. Tiffany & Co. made the majority of the jewelry for the film. Play off these trends the way fashion retailers do. You’ll keep the customer engaged.


Color is a simple concept that so many seem to ignore. Did you know the Pantone color of the year is “Emerald Green”? Conveniently, the new film that is a prequel to the iconic “Wizard of Oz” comes out this Spring, a fun tie-in to the “Emerald City.” This doesn’t always have to be so literal. You don’t have to buy a dozen extra frames in emerald green, but you can add focus to your current inventory and supplement more when appropriate.

Also, research what colors look great with the trend shades. Emerald green looks great with yellows, blues, chartreuse, shades of gray, black, and even sometimes can be a fun intentional contrast to red. So think more about what frames will look great on your customer’s newest wardrobe pieces and makeup colors, etc.

Try implementing the trend color into a carpet around the cashwrap, the wall behind the fixture, the base of your caselines/windows/vitrines, or even painting any picture frames in the space. A select fixture or wall can be painted cost effectively, or the back of a shadow box or bottom of a display can be covered in a trend color wallpaper or even shelf liner.

Have fun with color pattern and texture, it starts conversations that lead to additional sales. Just make sure to never compete with the actual merchandise. Props, paint, and color/texture should draw the eye to the products for sale, never distract from them.

Take these four cues when reworking a back wall or fixture and you’ll feel like the store is new all over again. Force yourself to empty a whole section or area and rework it just so each piece has to be thoughtfully placed. You’ll see the difference. When you move fixtures and displays, be sure to adjust the lighting and keep those lenses clean so customers can see themselves when they try them frames. Be proud of your environment and you’ll keep customers coming back for more and telling their friends about their unique experience! OM

images Mr. Reed, President and CEO of Creative Innovation Inc., is a visual merchandiser, store designer and marketing director. For more information, visit the website or e-mail Mr. Reed at

Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: March 2013, page(s): 44 - 49 80