BEAT THE COMPETITION BY OFFERING NICHE EYEWEAR

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Hilco’s Leader xRx swim goggle accepts virtually any prescription.
THE MORE THE MERRIER It can be a difficult task to describe something sight unseen, or from catalog or website. If you want to sell new goods, you have to stock them for patients to try on and sample. Another tip is to offer a sizable amount of inventory to showcase. Variety and options are the name of the game and having frames and other goods in multiple sizes, colors, and shapes on hand can only help your sales.
A key group to consider in the sports arena is anglers (Smith’s Dockside shown here).
When you establish your store as a kids’ supercenter, you start the patient/provider relationship early (i-dealoptics’ Uptown from the Peace collection shown here).
DOING THE RESEARCH Every business could benefit from a sound strategy to help guide a new plan into life. When deciding which niche market to pursue, begin by doing some homework and examine your general area for opportunities to pursue. Learn what sporting activities and clubs are important to people. Don’t hesitate to simply call, set up meetings with club leaders, and offer group training and information sessions on new optical product releases.
Stocking dive masks that are Rxable, like Ducal’s Style No. 913, is a good way to hit the segment of the market that requires corrective lenses.

Use the following suggestions to help you sell products that are outside your norm.

Implementing a clever optical sales niche can help bring in new business and develop a reputation for your practice that it specializes in unique eyewear products. Many offices shy away from this kind of business development because no one wants to make a mistake by investing in products that don’t move. That’s a legitimate concern, but remember, if you don’t take the risk to market new goods, you won’t reap the reward, and more importantly, you may be forgotten or left in the dust by your competition. Finding niche items is easy to do but it takes a little recon to learn what goods might sell in your area. Here are some suggestions that some of my colleagues and I use to help steer new patients to the office.

KIDS’ EYEWEAR
One of the best markets to pursue is kids. By creating a sizable offering of frames in your optical shop for them, you can easily set your location apart from the other ECPs who only offer a handful of children’s frames. When you establish your store as a kids’ supercenter, you start the patient/provider relationship early and give yourself the chance to earn repeat business. Many of the youngsters you’ll see in their early years will stick with you throughout their eyewear life. In addition, you also get the chance to wow the entire family and sell eyewear and other products to their siblings and parents. A great tip is to reach out to local pediatric ophthalmologists and children’s hospitals. Make sure they know your expertise and that you are a viable referral for kids’ eyecare products.

ANGLERS
Outdoor activities are the life passion for many of the patients you see. Learning about the hobby they love is a home-run piece of information to help cater your eyewear offerings. One key group to consider is anglers. They enjoy spending countless hours in the sun on the water waiting for that perfect catch, and can easily justify quality merchandise purchases that include polarization, mirror, and backside anti-reflection treatment. The bonus is that you can offer the same sun products to those who wear a prescription or to those who are only searching for a great pair of plano sun lenses.

What really makes this a category that will help drive new business to your practice is that many of the fishing frame producers list your store as an authorized retailer so when perspective patients are looking for a pair of frames for fishing, they will see your shop as a place to buy them.

SCUBA SPECS
Divers and avid snorkelers are excellent targets to pursue, and are often in high demand for quality non-prescription goggles to help enhance their favorite activity. A superior dive mask allows them to see every underwater detail that the sea has to offer. Choosing to stock a few masks that are Rxable is also a good way to ensure you can hit another segment of the market that requires corrective lenses. Set up an account with a dive mask company that produces topnotch work and can deliver quickly if needed. Masks like these can often be a last-minute order for a lavish trip. These tend to be pricey items, yet are easily justifiable and can often sell themselves just by displaying them. Don’t forget to check your area for local dive or snorkeling clubs, and make them aware of your products. Offering complimentary eye “tune-ups” to their members is a wonderful way to meet a new face and to get them to come into your shop.

SWIM GOGGLES
Another niche market that is easy to dive into is swim goggles. They are available in plano clear, tinted with custom filters, can be made with custom prescriptions, and in-stock prescription powers (often found in whole diopter increments like -1.00D, -2.00D, -3.00D, etc.). What really makes them unique and marketable is that they come in numerous designs, sizes, colors, and do not require a ton of space or a large investment to make your store a swim center specialist. Contact local schools that have swimming pools. Many of them have swim teams or clubs that use their facilities and would potentially benefit from knowing you now stock swim goggles.

SPECIALTY SPORTS
While this segment is wide open with what could be a limitless list of sports to include, focus on one or two that require specialty equipment like lacrosse or ice hockey. Sports like these mandate their players wear protective gear to shield their eyes from damage while they play. Carry sports frames that protect and are fashionable. One good idea is to offer a wide array of different colors in your stock. This gives your clients the chance to match their team colors with their new specs.

SCHOLARS
Local colleges or universities are perfect to market what I call “scholar progressive lenses” that can help with reading and studying. These lenses offer a very low add power to the reading section
of their frames, are undetected by their peers, and have minimal peripheral distortion. Think of them as training wheels for the progressives they will one day wear when presbyopia sets in. Many schools have areas where you can post flyers, and these locations on campus are ideal for placing your flyer that contains your contact information and product offerings. A really good idea is to add a QR code students can scan with their smartphone that takes them to your web page. With many thousands of young people in higher education, more students need help with reading and computers. Make sure they know you have the optical products to help them.

DIGITAL FILTER LENSES
With the increase of tablets, smartphones, and computers, the world has shifted to a gadget generation that spends an exorbitant amount of time interfacing with some type of digital device. The effect from all this eye exposure to watching bright, flat LED screens is increased eyestrain and fatigue. To help combat this, offer digital filtering lens options. Even those who don’t need an eyeglass prescription are marketable in this segment, and the trend will only continue to grow as more digital devices hit the streets.

There are many niche opportunities for bringing in new business and growing your sales in the short and long term. It’ll take some work to find out what they are but the rewards can be exciting.

Francis Gimbel, Jr. is a licensed optician and owner of Gimbel Eye Associates in Wayne, PA.

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