Patients have diverse tastes and needs, so it makes sense to stock your frame board with recognizable styles from established brands, as well as fashion-forward styles with independent names. With a wide selection, you are more likely to satisfy patients and make a sale.
We have a one-OD, one-location practice in New Jersey with 1,230 frames in the optical. About half are from large manufacturers and the other half from independent companies.
From a financial and marketing standpoint, independents and well-known brands each have their strengths. We sometimes get a 15 percent volume-based discount on the frames we buy from larger companies, but the smaller companies we work with will sometimes give us discounts based on our long-term relationships with them. A strength of working with smaller companies is you sometimes get to know the people who work there, even the owners themselves, so special deals for loyal customers can sometimes be arranged.
A weakness of larger brands is the same frames are found at many other retail locations. Also, popular branded frames are subject to counterfeiting, and consumers can end up with inferior products. Leading frames don’t serve to differentiate your optical if they are available widely.
Our frames range from specials, or overstocks, with a wholesale cost under $15, that we retail for $160, to premium products which may wholesale at $160 and retail for around $450. The frames priced at $160 retail represent our lowest advertised price. We do special pricing as part of a patient loyalty incentive or package specials. We also have a deal of the day to compete with low-priced online retailers.
I like to feel we can provide a quality product at a reasonable cost. Sometimes we will run specials where frame is highly discounted when purchased with premium lens package.
Offer Brand Recognition
From Prada to Chanel and Coach, frame manufacturers like Luxottica, Safilo and Marchon offer brands that many recognize, and are excited to purchase. Patients who may not be able to afford a $3,000 purse from a designer may be able to swing a $400 frame from the same brand. These are frames that a patient may see on another person on the street, but that may not bother them, and may even be the point–to have a frame that’s popular.
A marketing advantage of famous brands is there are probably many photos of celebrities wearing similar styles from the same brand, which you can link to on Facebook posts, or even have an optician create a “look book” on Instagram with rotating photos of famous people wearing nearly the same glasses you sell in your optical.
Tell a Compelling Story
Millennials often like to know where the products they buy come from, and a frame that comes from an independent manufacturer with a unique story can be appealing. For instance, people often ask where a frame was made. Their interest is peaked when I tell them the frames was made in Europe or elsewhere. I can point to our Lafont frames as being made in France, and our Etnia Barcelona line as an example of a Spanish design.
I can point to Maui Jim, and tell the patient about how the brand got started, which is the story of an independent American entrepreneur who built one of the best known brands in sunwear.
Provide a Product Many Others Don’t
Smaller brands are less likely to be found in a wide range of opticals, so you can use that to your advantage when marketing. We send our patients e-newsletters in which we announce new arrivals of product, and let patients know of lines we are thinking about adding to gauge interest level. If you’ve researched what is available at the opticals of your nearest competitors, and know that one or two lines you carry are not sold in those other offices, you can leverage that in your advertising. You can note that you are the only optical in your area where those particular frames are available. Some small, independent brands may even be able to make a commitment to you to have your optical be the only one within a specified area that will have particular products to sell.
Offer Merchandise for Under-Served Markets
Sometimes a smaller brand is able to fill an under-served need. For instance, for years we noticed a need for frames for larger men’s faces. In response, we added a line from an independent manufacturer designed especially for larger faces, and men who needed larger frames knew that we were the place to come for glasses, and they also told their friends about us.
At the other end of the spectrum, independent brands often offer frames for petite faces. Fulfilling niche needs can set you apart from competitors.
Show Patients a Mix from Large and Small Companies
Just as we offer a 50/50 mix of frames from large and small companies, we like to present patients with frames from both types of companies when helping them browse. Even if a patient mentions only recognizable brands in what they are looking for, I will include a couple frames from independent companies in the selection tray I present them. The reverse also is true–in addition to the independents, I’m careful to also include a couple with brand names the patient will instantly recognize. I do this because often the patient–like any shopper–doesn’t know what they’re looking for until they see it. You walk in thinking you want one thing, and walk out with another.
An optical stocked with both the brand names patients grew up with, and a refreshing selection of lesser-known names, increases your chances of capturing a sale, and more importantly, making sure a patient leaves happy.