Article Date: 1/1/2002

fix this practice
Adding a New Profit Center

Some tips on offering your patients plano sunglasses.
By Richard S. Kattouf, O.D.

Q  read a USA Today article featuring non-prescription sunwear. It appears to be a huge market. What's optometry's role in this service to its patients?

Dr. L. T. Whiddon

A: The plano sunglass industry took in $2.8 billion in 2000. Retail opticals, drug stores, department stores and kiosks make up the largest segments of sales. According to eyecare business journals, optometric practices are almost non-existent in this market.

Don't you find it odd that as vision care specialists we represent the smallest percentage of sales from this huge profit center? Let's address a few factors in regard to this matter.

Developing new profit centers

Managed care vision programs are eroding optometric profit margins. Optometric practices must develop new profit centers in every clinical and optical (retail) part of the operation.

What I see as a consultant is that most optometrists manage their opticals the same way opticals were managed 40 years ago. This approach ignores plano sunwear as a profit center.

Corporate optometry has recognized the potential service to its patients and profits to its companies. And it has done a wonderful job of internally and externally marketing plano sunwear.

Internally, companies offer attractive sunglass selections with large inventory. Externally, they use TV ads.

Changing some old thinking

I'd rather not offer budget eyewear in my optical, but the plano sunglass business is market driven, so I do it to remain competitive.

It's best to offer the consumer a line of plano sunwear starting somewhere around $59 complete (frame, plano lens, tint and ultraviolet inhibitor) and in further groupings of about $10 increments. Beyond this tier of budget frames, you can enter into the middle line up to the finer frames. Marketing research indicates that the majority of consumers will choose from within the range of $59 to $99.

A number of budget frame distributors exist, so don't buy close- outs. Although you can sell close- outs for less money, budget frames are ophthalmic and are guaranteed for 1 year whereas closeouts aren't guaranteed at all.

If you sell a closeout or discontinued frame to a patient and he breaks the temple, you won't be able to replace it and you'll have an unhappy patient because he'll have to purchase a new frame.

Power of the doctor

You're in more of a power position if you prescribe plano sunwear at chairside. If you don't prescribe at chairside (remember, you're the power person), then don't expect your staff to be successful in sales.

Explain to your patients the difference in quality between drug store sunglasses and ophthalmic sunglasses. Keep in mind the three groups of patients who require plano sunwear:

1. contact lens patients

2. children who require no prescription glasses or prescriptions for indoor wear only

3. adults who need a prescription for indoor activities only.

What are you waiting for?

Dr. J. M. Snyder increased his gross income by $70,000 in 1 year -- without seeing more patients. My consulting company taught him how to create the new plano sunwear product line and increase unit sales per patient.

New profit centers, or specialties, are the key to financial growth and stability. Get out of your old behavior patterns and open your practice to new and exciting avenues for higher profits and increased recognition.

DR. KATTOUF IS IN PRIVATE PRACTICE IN WARREN, OHIO, AND HE'S PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF TWO MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING COMPANIES. FOR INFORMATION, CALL (800) 745-EYES OR E-MAIL HIM AT ADVANCEDEYECARE@HOTMAIL.COM.  THE INFORMATION IN THIS COLUMN IS BASED ON ACTUAL CONSULTING CASE FILES.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: January 2002