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When is the last time you reviewed your pricing strategy and price points for ophthalmic
frames? If you're like most eye care professionals (ECPs), frame pricing is not reviewed
as frequently as other products or as professional fees because frame prices are usually
based on a mark-up formula. Mark-up formulas work well because the price you set is
based on the current cost and if the cost goes up, your price goes up proportionately.
Your pricing stays current. Other products and services that have a flat fee may be
reviewed more often, but we still need to review and modify the frame pricing strategy
The mark-up formula
The exact formula that works best varies with each practice and is influenced by the
practice philosophy and the local market economy. Most pricing formulas in the United
States have a mark-up of 2X to 4X the wholesale frame book cost, with figures often
taken to tenths after the decimal point. Generally, any discount granted by the supplier
is not considered in the formula, so the profit margin is actually better than it appears.
Occasionally, some pricing systems use a mark-up factor plus a dollar amount, like 2.5X
I like a sliding scale mark-up that uses a greater multiplier for less expensive frames
and a lower multiplier for high priced frames. It helps even out the profit margin;
giving you enough profit to make it worthwhile to carry cheaper frames while keeping
high-end frames more affordable to the patient. Consider that a 2.5 mark-up across
the board will yield a $45 profit on a frame that costs $30 and a $150 profit on a frame
with a $100 cost. Since it takes the same amount of space and overhead in either case
(a frame is a frame) and even the dispensing work is similar, it's hard to justify why one
should earn much more than profit than the other.
Don't forget to review your mark-up formula and consider raising the multiplier once in
awhile. Some practices have not increased the formula for 20 or 30 years. While the
mark-up factor keeps up with price increases on the frames, it does not keep up with
other costs of doing business.
Your mix of price points
I think it's smart to offer a wide range of frame prices to appeal to a variety of budgets.
There are times when a patient wants an economical frame, which may be in the $75
price range in many practices today, and there is definitely a market for very expensive
frames that offer unique design, fashion or quality. I think some ECPs may do well to
reevaluate the number of frames on display at each major price point and consider
increasing the quantity in the higher prices and decreasing the quantity in the lower
As an exercise, write down the number of frames you currently have in stock in each of
the following price categories. Convert the whole numbers into percentages of the total
inventory number. The price mix may surprise you, but at the very least it will be
educational. Decide if the mix of price points mirrors your desired pricing philosophy.
What defines the term "high end" when it comes to frame lines? It will certainly vary
with practices and communities, but be aware that it's constantly changing. What used
to be high end last year may be average this year. What's the new high end? I don't
think you can know the answer unless you test your market. You find it by trial and
error. There are some absolutely beautiful luxury frame lines available. They generally
have brand names that you have never heard of, and the companies like it that way,
because they want to remain exclusive and selective. Many of the mainstream frame
manufacturers are offering high end lines as well. Don't be confined by conventional
thinking. Push your traditional price ceilings and see if there is better acceptance than
you may have thought. There is always a market for the best.
My practice is fairly traditional and we thought we carried some nice high end lines in
our optical, but to test the market I recently gave our optical manager approval to bring
in a frame that would sell for over $1,000. When the frame arrived, it somehow priced
out at $1,770. It sold in less than thirty days. We have more of that type now.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.