Mary Ann Hargrove, Owner, Empire Optical, Tulsa, OK
Tom Hicks, Owner, Oxford Opticians, Oxford, OH
Tammy Lorenzo, Owner, Lorenzo Family Optical, Kane, PA
Who is your target patient population for photochromics?
Mary Ann Hargrove: We’re careful with our recommendations for photochromics. There’s a growing population, from young adult to very mature adult, who have come to rely on the convenience of the standard photochromic lenses. There’s also a group who has come to know that they are so photophobic that the Transitions® XTRActive™ lens is their choice (usually due to surgery, medicine side effects, and just inherent light sensitivity). Generally, I’m personally concerned about putting the developing eyes of children in lenses that do what their pupillary muscles are supposed to do. I still find this area a little more controversial, even though the UV filter is unquestionably valuable in this young population, whether photochromic or clear.
We try to be very realistic with our patients who are relying on Transitions lenses as a driving sunglass. We relate the “UV filtering windshield” problem and suggest that a custom polarized clip-on or even a polarized fit-over sunglass of some sort will get them past this challenge.
Tom Hicks: My target patient for photochromic lenses is those aged 18 and older. Since my office is in a college town, I see a lot of patients in this age group. Many post-cataract patients like photochromic lenses because they cut the bright glare that scatters in their eyes due to the cataract, which helps them cope with the cataract until surgery. Because of the introduction of the Transitions XTRActive lenses, my target market has increased to include those who drive a lot. My highest photochromic sales tend to be in those aged 25 to 40 and 60 and up categories.
Tammy Lorenzo: I recommend photochromic lenses to 90% of the patients I see. I also wear photochromics myself, so I’m confident of what the lenses can do, which makes me comfortable to discuss and recommend them. I love them. I don’t really have an age group that I recommend them to, I simply recommend them to everyone because I feel that all age groups can benefit from them for various reasons. Our community is rural, with many opportunities for outdoor activities. This makes photochromic lenses a popular lens option around here.
Are you using the new Transitions® Vantage™ polarized photochromic yet?
MH: We haven’t had any experience with the Vantage lens yet. Our only polarized photochromic sun lens experience is with DriveWear® lenses (from Younger Optics). The contrast sensitivity enhancement makes those who get DriveWear lenses for their sunwear generally very pleased with their performance. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Vantage lens does, how it looks, and who will find themselves delighted with the characteristics they present.
TH: We don’t use the Vantage polarized photochromic lenses yet. I have seen the demonstration of it and it looks great, but I haven’t received any price information or product availability from my lab yet. I don’t want to sell a photochromic lens unless I’ve had a chance to try it first for myself. It’s the best way to understand what the lens can do and how it performs so I’ll wait until I’ve worn a pair before I’m comfortable recommending them.
TL: I haven’t started using the new Vantage product yet. Like other products I sell, I plan to try the product myself first and soon!
What is your main selling point for photochromics?
MH: Quite honestly, I think it’s convenience. Most people make some kind of statement about not being able to keep up with two pairs of glasses or finding their environment just too bright. There are some who just think that they add a “cool” factor.
TH: The main selling point is comfort. These lenses let the eyes relax without as much strain in sunlight. Transitions® VI is good for changing light conditions and overcast days while being clear indoors. With XTRActive, you now have lenses you can drive in if you forget your polarized lenses.
TL: My main selling point for photochromics is comfort and convenience, with the added benefit of UV protection. I explain that improvements have been made in the speed at which they change, and that I wouldn’t be without them.
Why do people not buy photochromic lenses when you recommend them?
MH: For some it might be the add-on cost to an already expensive product. For others it’s the realization that they’re counting on a sunglass for driving and will not be able to achieve what they had hoped. It might also be the cosmetic effect of a lens that doesn’t get quite as clear as they wanted. Interestingly enough, some folks just love sunglasses…the way they look, the cachet of the image. As for the cost factor, it’s not too hard to help someone understand that if they’re going through the trouble to invest in quality eyewear, they might as well get what they need—they’ll have lots of time to regret it if they don’t. It’s the rare person who doesn’t understand that concept.
TH: The biggest objection to photochromic lenses is the extra cost. For some, it’s a pricey option. Some people don’t see the need to spend the extra money if you have polarized sunglasses already.
TL: The largest obstacle has to be price. My area is still very economically depressed, and I have found an increase in patients who buy the least expensive eyeglasses they can. This isn’t the majority, however, and I am easily able to convey the value and benefits. Even so, we some have difficulty with the price.
What are your favorite photochromic lenses?
MH: We only use the Transitions series. We used to have a Roden-stock photochromic series available to us, and it had a wonderful gray green color, which was well received. We no longer have that one available.
TH: I don’t have a favorite. My photochromic of choice depends on the patient’s lifestyle. I only use Transitions because I trust they will act as I tell the patient they will act.
TL: My favorite photochromic lenses are Transitions VI Gray. I wear them and have found them to be the best all-around photochromic for the majority of patients.
Now that companies are introducing a portfolio of photochromic lenses, has that increased your photochromic business?
MH: Transitions has continued to deliver more technology. The variations of intensity and color, as well as faster changing times, a wider range of light-to-dark, and an increasing UV filtering capability have all been critically important in meeting the needs of those who seek our help and advice.
TH: My photochromic sales have increased a small percentage. I do switch some patients from Transitions VI to Transitions XTRActive, and I now put some new patients directly into XTRActive because they change behind the windshield.
TL: While there certainly is some advantage to more choices of photochromic lenses, I can’t personally say that it has increased my photochromic sales. I do very well with Transitions VI Gray lenses.
If you could have one wish that would improve photochromic lenses, what would it be?
With so many eyeglasses having an anti-reflective surface, photochromics are the only reliable way to provide tint under those lens treatments. That has been a really important addition to our ability to produce high-tech eyewear for our customers.
TH: I wish there was a better margin to make a profit on Transitions lenses, especially when dealing with vision care insurance programs. It seems like I am selling the lens but giving the add-on away. And if there is a doctor’s remake on a Transitions lens, it costs me more to make the lenses than the patient pays for them.
TL: I would like Transitions Gray lenses to change behind a windshield. I realize that this could compromise sunglass sales, or multiple pairs, but it would certainly benefit the majority of patients.