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In an effort to maximize sales and revenue in your optical in the coming year, let's do a comprehensive review of your frame inventory. The brands you carry, the size of the inventory and the price ranges offered are all key factors for optical success. The goal is to retain a high percentage of the prescriptions written in your office and to dispense multiple pairs to the same patient. Taken further, a great frame selection can become a competitive advantage for your practice and may serve to increase word of mouth referrals of new patients. Optical is far too important and generates for too much revenue to take a passive approach to the frame inventory.
My idea is for every practice to form an advisory panel which will meet from time to time to analyze the frame lines and ordering policies and to make recommendations to the frame buyer. Every practice is different, but see if you can adapt the idea to fit your needs.
I think the following individuals would make great members on your frame advisory committee. I would look for about four people to serve, but the size of the practice will influence this.
The optometrist / practice owner. Many ODs have delegated all aspects of optical and have little or no input anymore. I think that is a big mistake. The practice CEO should have an interest in the products the company sells and the optometrist has much to offer in the overall plan for the inventory – from styles to sizes to finances.
The frame buyer. Most practices have a designated person to buy frames and this person naturally must sit on the committee. If you have a few people who handle this duty, select one for the committee simply to keep the number of voices reasonable.
An optician or technician. The frame buyer is often an optician, but you may want to bring another one into the mix. We're looking for people who can tell us what frame styles we are missing and why patients decide to take their Rx out. The frame buyer can be slightly defensive about this and, even if that is not a factor, we want different points of view.
A person with a strong fashion sense. This could be any of the three people above, but find someone who likes fashion, knows clothing fashion trends and the ins and outs of designers and brand names. It could be a spouse, a patient or a friend.
Any other person who can give valuable input is welcome. Possibly a lab technician or the office manager.
Start by holding an initial meeting for about an hour and then hold additional meetings as needed, but at least quarterly. The goal of the meeting is to develop a plan for your frame inventory that will increase eyeglass sales and profits. That comes from having the right frame for more people and from generating excitement among staff and patients.
If you use an inventory management system, have a current report printed for the meeting. Have a list of all the frame companies your work with including sub listings showing the frame rep's name and the brands that person carries. Indicate the retail price range of each brand and the approximate number on display. Include plano sunglasses, budget lines, safety frames and any other lines that do not have a rep. Also have a count of any understock on hand and bring any other data and forms that are used in optical, including pricing formulas.
If you have any data from patient surveys that pertains to frame selection, have that available. If you don't have any idea about patient satisfaction with your frames, you should develop a program to record some data for that. You must know the customer's wants and needs for your products and it is best to not simply guess. Of course, the people on your frame advisory committee work with patients every day, so they know the wants and needs including what is selling well and what you are missing.
Be sure to assign someone the job of taking minutes of the meetings and file the notes for later review.
Ideas to consider
Here are a few topics to consider for your first meeting. This will lead to more brainstorming which should result in more innovations for your optical.
What patient categories are well represented and under-represented? Start by defining the style categories such as: elegant, conservative, funky, sporty, and business. Do you have an appropriate number in each category based on demand? What categories are you light in?
Are there unmet needs for special sizes? Do you have an insufficient selection for the big man or the petite lady? What would appeal to teenagers? Seniors? What would you show if you needed a small bridge or a very long temple?
You may have to work hard to seek out frames in some size or style categories because the industry is not serving that segment very well. For example, it is hard to find many styles with a deeper B measurement for full use of progressive lenses because current fashion favors the wider, shallower shapes. You may have to search catalogs and ask your reps, but when you find a few that meet this need, order heavier in those models.
What is your current offering for economy frames covered by insurance? Consider your strategy to encourage patients to upgrade to better styles while still offering enough choices for those who want to stay within their allowance.
What percentage of frames do you carry in various price levels? List your retail prices in $50 increments and calculate the percentage of frames that are in each one. Can you shift the percentages upward? What is the new high end for your market? Most offices underestimate the high end which limits sales potential. The best way to find out is to experiment with higher priced lines.
What are some new hot brands that you hear about but do not carry? Shop upscale optical boutiques, read the ads in the optical magazines, attend Vision Expo East and visit the frame fashion booths. Do you carry anything that is exclusive in your territory?
How do you currently know when to reorder hot sellers? How often do you need to meet with reps?
What can you do to improve your displays and merchandising? Be creative. Is there a better way to group frames other than men, women and children? Possibly group by designer, color, or by patient type (executive, sporty, fun, high fashion, conservative, etc.)
A great frame inventory is more than just having a large number on display; it's about having the right frame for each person.
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.