PRODUCT ROUNDTABLE WITH OPTICAL PROFESSIONALS ON: Sports Performance Sunwear
White the general category of sunwear continues to be an area of interest for manufacturers and consumers alike, the real action occurs in the sports performance sunwear niche. These products attempt to meet the requirements of active people whose eyewear often needs to perform under extreme conditions and who expect the products to enhance their enjoyment and comfort. The opticians below have strong track records in successfully recommending and selling this eyewear category.
Barry Santini, Co-owner, Long Island Opticians, Seaford, NY
Thomis Buell, Owner, Tom’s Sportique Eyewear, Boulder, CO
Robert Martinez, Owner, Palo Alto Eyeworks, Palo Alto, CA
Photo courtesy of Adidas eyewear.
What are sports performance sunwear buyers looking for in their sunwear?
Barry Santini: Comfort and enhanced activity performance. They respond well when we explain how it will help them and why it’s superior to and different from a general use sunglass. Golfers are especially receptive, as most don’t know that specific golf sunwear exists or how it’s different. The concept of using different “equipment” resonates with them and their other golf-related purchases.
Thomis Buell: The different sports our buyers participate in have a variety of frame fit and design requirements. For example, road cyclists need eyewear that has good wind deflection but is designed not to trap heat that will cause fogging on those uphill climbs. Golfers need eyewear that is not going to interrupt their focus on the ball. This means a rimless design and a lens that features unique contrast characteristics.
Robert Martinez: Our buyers are looking for anything that will improve their enjoyment and performance of their outdoor activity. We have a couple of golfers who will buy any new product to improve their game. For example, one recently purchased prescription adidas golf eyewear with the new Advanced Edging System, so they look like non-prescription sports eyewear. These sunglasses also have the Light System Technology (LST) contrast tint so they can read greens better.
How do you sell sports performance sunwear to someone who just spent $800 on a general-purpose clear pair?
BS: We don’t. We’ll discuss it, and if they are not overly fatigued from the choices for their general purpose pair, we’ll pursue how sports performance sunwear can enhance their enjoyment and performance. If they’re fatigued, we’ll touch on the high points and agree to leave the rest to when they come back for delivery of their general-use eyewear.
TB: Often our strategy in selling sports performance sunwear to a patient who just bought a clear pair is educating them as well as getting them excited about what this type of eyewear can do for them. Excitement is the key factor; whether it’s about them wearing it for competing or for just having a fun time doing what they love. Even if they just ordered a pair of everyday fashion eyeglasses, building that excitement for living life outside is what’s important. People want to have fun.
Photo courtesy of Bolle.
RM: We use a lifestyle questionnaire. This opens the door to multiple pair sales. We educate the patient on all of their eyewear needs without the feeling that we’re trying to sell them the store. We find that patients are willing to try on a pair of sunglasses or sports performance eyewear before we even start with their general pair. This process also plants a seed for a future sale during the sale of their general-purpose eyeglasses. We also put the sunglasses in a velvet tray that we carry around as we select other frame styles, to keep them in plain view.
What are your most successful sports performance sunwear brands?
BS: We’re an established Oakley specialist and we carry over 200 models in stock and on display. This differentiates us from almost all other Oakley outlets except dedicated Oakley stores. We’re well versed in Oakley “speak.” Nike has about the most distinct lens dedicated for golf. This eliminates any confusion about which lens is best, as its golf lens is specifically optimized for golf and nothing else, unlike what some other companies provide. adidas is popular with golfers too, but especially cyclists and runners who treasure lightweight construction above everything else. adidas’ large variety of interchangeable lenses makes tailoring their sunwear to a buyer’s activity and environment very easy. REVO is currently positioned to excel in water environments, so the boaters here on the south shore of Long Island (New York) readily see its appeal.
TB: Rudy Project, adidas, Bollé, and Liberty Sport are some of the most successful performance sunwear brands we carry. All of these are available in an
Photo courtesy of New Vision.
array of models that work for non-Rx patients as well as ones who need an Rx. Rudy Project (a multi-athlete favorite) offers a variety of interchangeable lenses. Similarly, Bollé has interchangeable lenses in frames specifically designed for protecting against downward drafts (cyclists). Liberty Sport caters to those high-impact sports with its extremely durable frames and polycarbonate lenses. adidas uses a unique temple design where the wearer can cantilever the temple at the hinge to increase or decrease pantoscopic tilt to make for a tight fight at the top or the bottom of the glasses.
RM: adidas Eyewear is our most popular sports performance sunwear. Its products are very comfortable with adjustable nosepads and temples that feature a three-position ratchet adjustment for panto or retro. The lab can use the Advanced Edging System up to -4.00D so you can insert the lenses into an adapter. With the new wrap technology and using NXT® lens material, you can put over 50% of your patients in these great-looking sports performance sunglasses.
What’s your buying strategy for sports performance sunwear?
BS: There are two distinct ones: plano and Rx. We prefer lines that offer authentic Rx fulfillment because it conveys how the brand’s unique performance translates into prescription eyewear without compromise. It also provides an appealing price point that means most outlets will be selling at a similar price. We’re an upscale store, so we don’t try to have too many competing lines or price points. Instead of exchanging retired models, we offer them at 25% off, which means there’s always a sale on branded products.
TB: We buy based on performance. Lens technology is a strong factor in this decision. To make the best decision, we keep abreast of the different lens possibilities manufactures provide. We want to know what our performance sunwear products can do—what coatings, filters, and prescription parameters they have. Buying a brand just for its name is not the best strategy, although brands have appeal.
RM: We buy sports performance eyewear by style, durability, and functionality. Brand is not as important, but it does have marketing appeal. They also have to be Rxable, otherwise we will not carry them. We don’t carry brands the chains carry either. It also has to be easy for us to work with. We do all of our own edging so they must disassemble and assemble easily. We do in-house diving and snorkeling masks too. These masks need to be taken apart to mount the Rx lenses to the inside of the mask’s lens plate.
Photo courtesy of Revo.
If you could make an innovative improvement to sports performance sunwear, what would it be?
BS: The more individually targeted a model is, the better its sales appeal and the less it can be confused with an attempt to get one pair to do it all.
TB: Have wholesalers and lens manufacturers know from their own experiences what performs best in order to produce what’s best for patients.
RM: One suggestion would be lens color options for more styles, both in polarized and non-polarized lenses. Certain style frames only come with specific colors, which also coincide with frame styles and colors. There needs to be more choices per frame. Universal (global) fit sports performance eyewear would also be beneficial to that market. There are not enough choices for certain populations.