What differentiates house brands and how to choose and promote them.

While you usually have to buy in bulk, you can get a stylish frame at a lower price point and pass that savings on to the customer. They can’t be shopped online. You can pick and choose your colors and styles.
— Todd Jones, co-owner, dispensing optician, Optical Reflections, Chapel Hill, NC. (90% house brands)

They are easier to work with, both the company and the product. I prefer house brands. I think small businesses do in general. Big brands are manufactured in a big mill and not specific to certain demographics.
— Michelle Altman, LDO, Altman Eye Gallery, Sunrise, FL. (70% house brands)

The thing that really differentiates those kinds of companies is the ability to give you personal attention. If something’s not moving, they’re happy to take them back and replace them with something matching the trends or your demographics. That keeps the product fresher and allows you to tailor what you are offering your patients on an ongoing basis. Working with these companies is much more pleasant than having a fight. A lot of the bigger companies and big brand reps have limited ability to give you personal attention, and they are governed by pretty strict policies regarding how much you can return and how much to place in your store. I like to keep the amount of reps we’re dealing with as low as possible, so if one rep can rep multiple lines then we’re seeing fewer reps for the same amount of lines that we’re selling.
— Adam McKenzie, ABOC, Optical Manager, Jarvis Vision Center, Murray, KY. (90% house brands)

Definitely high quality frames that are easily adjustable. They’re a little edgy without being over the top. They seem to have really captured the usage of color.
— Gina Redlich, optician, Advanced Eye Care and Vision Gallery, Hillsborough, NJ. (40% house brands)

House brands have better design and better quality. You don’t have to compete directly with the big box stores. They help us be a little more unique and a little more profitable. The companies are easy to work with.
— Wes Johnston, office manager/buyer, Mockingbird Optical Shop, San Antonio, TX. (75% house brands)

House brands are a great way to find value for our patients who may be budget conscious.
— Fernando DeSantis, The Vision Center, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, (40% house brands)

House brands are staples that every inventory portfolio needs to offer. They are the backbone that the remainder of your inventory builds off of.
­­— Mindy McCormick, ABOC, Retail Coordinator/Frame Buyer, EyeCare Specialties, P.C., Lincoln, NE. (20% house brands)

Price is a big factor. We do about 15,000 cataracts per year, and Medicare patients are entitled to a frame and lenses benefit one time after cataract surgery. House brands are always a good option for that because we can price them so the patient doesn’t incur any costs.
­­— Stephanie Stripe, COA, ABO, NCLE, Vision Galleria, Mynot, ND (40% house brands)

A lot of it is really design and materials, mostly design. I pick frames that require the least amount of adjustments. We like to see patients, but we don’t like to see them that often. We want them to say, “Hi, the product is working out,” but not for tweaking or adjustment. That tells me the product is well made, and when it is well made they spread the word. That’s how I get referrals.
­­— Meg Young, owner/optician, Optical Shop of Nyack, Nyack, NY. (80% house brands)

We analyze them based on several factors. One is diversity within the group. We practice in a smaller, rural town, so we look for brands with a good mixture of traditional styles and different colors and temple designs to attract different patients. That’s one of the things we like about WestGroupe, the diversity of styles that attract different patients at different price points.
­­— Reed Jarvis, OD, Jarvis Vision Center, Murray, KY. (90% house brands)

I’ve done this a long time, so it’s through experience that I determine which house brands to carry. I’ve been burnt and know which ones are better, knowing that they invoice correctly and knowing that their warranties are very good for a year or so without any problems. I don’t throw a lot back, but I like to know that I can. I also choose what’s best for my patients.
­­— Michelle Altman, LDO

The house brands we use are Marcolin and Europa. We use them because the product quality does not differ between lines. The differences I see are more by style and the demographic they are trying to reach with their lines. Generally, the house brand will somewhat mimic some of the brand name lines in terms of style and quality but be less expensive. Service from the company comes into play here as well. Calling the inside reps at those two companies is not something I dread, like I do with some.
­­­— Fernando DeSantis

Style is number one. Aspex has a wide variety of styles that I can find something for almost all of my patients. Paradox has edgier looks, while Takumi is a little more mainstream. People love the magnetic polarized clips that they practically sell themselves. We do look for something unique, frames that you don’t see on every person walking down the street. With frames that aren’t strongly branded you’re looking at the frame itself, you’re looking for a frame that stands out. Of course, pricing is important too.
­­— Melanie Hill, ABO, Woldorff Family Optometry, Durham, NC. (40% house brands)

I’m not a salesperson like some opticians. I’m an optician. I go with size and features and price. If a big name brand fits them better, that’s what I put them in. I just have a majority of house brands, so it’s easier to find a good fit among house brands.
­­— Michelle Altman, LDO

We promote the look of the frame on somebody’s face. If a person says, “I need to be thrifty,” I can still promote a package program to the patient for their convenience. There are eight other places in town, so we have a lot of competition.
­­— Stephanie Stripe, COA, ABO, NCLE

I don’t figure in the price point. I let them decide the price point. I’ll show them a variety of frames from low end to high end, then while we’re picking frames, I’ll make suggestions. Then I’ll bring up the price and let them make the decision whether they can afford it.
­— Todd Jones

We’re in a transition mode at our practice trying to bring in exclusively house brands because it’s becoming more complicated to compete with online brands that you can buy everywhere. We emphasize the story behind the house brands. They all have their own internal messaging, and we have placards that create a connection with the patients. ­­
— Reed Jarvis, OD

We showcase them in our displays and make them front and center on our boards. Once a year we do a holiday open house, have a trunk show with those brands and invite patients to come in and shop with incentives and discounts.
­­— Adam McKenzie, ABOC

We promote them mainly by showing them, assuring the quality of the frame and using them the most. They are our best sellers, so they have become our go-to frames. We don’t get any commission, so that allows us to be honest with the patient and do what’s best for them. But we try to figure out a budget the patient has and the style they are looking for. This leads us to the final product, but if a patient likes two similar frames and there is a difference of say $80, they will most likely choose the lesser price but not sacrifice any quality.
­­— Fernando DeSantis


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