I have written and lectured about the importance of carrying upscale frame lines and offering brand names that your patients want. Nationally known brand names are the best-selling frames in my practice and we also do well with high-end frame lines that are not as well known, but offer leading edge fashion. I think this is still a good strategy and these upscale lines provide the best profitability, but it is also important to have a great selection of lower priced frames.
You need a large range of frames prices to satisfy the diverse needs of patients. Most offices have a selection of budget frames, but in many cases, this group is designed to be undesirable in an effort to move people to buy more expensive products. I think it is smart to make your budget section larger and include styles that look current and cute. We want to prevent patients from going elsewhere to buy glasses, whether it be online or at big box optical stores. We want the entire patient experience to be great and we give them what they want! We expect patients to come back next year and to refer their friends and relatives to us.
Just what my insurance covers
Eye care professionals hate to hear those words, but be careful to not alienate patients by being too forceful or pushy in an effort to move them up to higher level products. Rule #1 in sales is to listen to the customer’s wants and needs! We care about the entire patient experience and we try to say yes as much as possible.
My opticians usually start the frame selection process by showing some of the newest and best frames on display, but if a patient says he wants to see frames covered by insurance, we say “sure!” We have a large selection of frames in very current shapes, sizes and colors with a retail price of less than $200. Some are less than $100. The majority of frames in this section are covered in full by vision plans, but there are a few styles that would have a slight overage and we find most patients do not mind paying $20 or $30 more if they really love a frame style.
In some cases, since the patient is feeling happy about all this, he or she wants to see frames with higher price points and find out what their cost would be. The important thing is that we make the patient happy.
Closeouts and value lines
I find I can still make a good profit if we buy smart on our lower priced frame lines. We look for closeouts as much as possible by telling our frame reps that we are interested in them. Closeouts typically offer excellent style and quality from major frame manufacturers, but the models are being phased out. When a rep brings you an opportunity to buy closeouts, you must be ready to act quickly and think differently than you do with your usual frame lines. Think no returns and maybe no replacement parts, because these frames are being discontinued. That is OK though; the low cost makes it worth it. You will buy these frames in bulk. Maybe 100 or more pieces at a time. You may not even get to see the frames in advance. You may buy five or more frames in the exact same size and color.
Educate your staff to understand the value in these closeouts and be aware that opticians may avoid showing them at first because they are afraid that can’t get replacement parts. You may raid the other frames on your board for parts as needed for repairs. You may have to let a patient select a new frame and make new lenses at no charge. This happens infrequently and does not bother me in the least.
We also do business with some frame vendors that specialize in low wholesale prices. They offer very low wholesale prices and go up to a moderate price point. As prices go up, the quality and styling improves, but we watch the price carefully and strike a balance.
Not the usual mark-up
We price our value line frames at various retail price points that are attractive to the consumer. We do not use our usual frame mark-up formula for the value lines because we buy them very cheaply, but we must remember that there are many optical services built into the retail prices. Eyeglasses are not like a sweater or other retail item where there is virtually no service at all. With eyewear, we need a trained professional to advise the patient on the products, measure and fit the frame, order the glasses and verify the accuracy of the Rx, dispense and adjust the fit, instruct the patient on use, repair and adjust the frame for life. We must have a strong mark-up on a low priced frame.
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.