PRODUCT ROUNDTABLE WITH OPTICAL PROFESSIONALS ON: RX SUNWEAR
IT’S OFTEN SURPRISING TO REALIZE HOW LOW AVERAGE RX SUNWEAR SALES ARE IN MOST OFFICES, ESPECIALLY GIVEN THE VAST AMOUNT OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE DANGERS OF UV LIGHT AND POTENTIAL OUTDOOR HAZARDS THAT ARE AVAILABLE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC. THE ECPS WHO KEEP THEIR PATIENTS INFORMED ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF RX SUNWEAR, LIKE THE ONES BELOW, OFTEN SEE DECIDEDLY MORE POSITIVE RESULTS WITH SUNWEAR SALES.
Chuck Krebs, Owner, Krebs Optical, Louisville, KY
Madeleine Krushburg, Owner, Optique of Denver, Denver, CO
Nallibe Mehfoud, Manager, Stony Point Optical, Miami, FL
What are the most common reasons your patients buy Rx sunwear?
Krebs: Our patients buy Rx sunwear from us because they perceive a huge prescription advantage in contrast to over-the-counter sunglasses. Many of them tell me they want to be able to see clearly and comfortably while driving and reading maps. We get a lot of customers who like to read by the pool or play golf with an Rx in their sunglasses.
Krushburg: Because I’m located in very sunny Colorado, people need sunglasses. They’re not just a fashion accessory here—the sun shines more than 300 days a year, so they’re seen as more of a necessity. While we recommend Rx sunwear to all our patients, we sell a lot of planos too. The sun is also stronger here than in most U.S. cities. Many tourists realize that they need sunglasses while visiting so I benefit from that and frequently get referrals from hotels in the neighborhood.
Mehfoud: Most patients come in uneducated about the true value and necessity of Rx sunwear. It takes about five minutes to explain the importance of polarization and sun protection and then they’re sold. The most common reason for patients to purchase Rx sunwear is protection. Once they view a demonstration of what polarization does, they can’t deny needing that protection. Presbyopic patients love sun readers. Maui Jim, Inc. makes a great quality polarized reader that actually hides the bifocal.
What’s your most successful strategy for selling Rx sunwear?
Krebs: Our most successful strategy for selling Rx sunwear is educating patients on the advantages Rx sunwear offers versus over-the-counter products in optic quality and vision enhancement, fashion, and social acceptance. We advertise when large events, such as the Kentucky Derby and Breeder’s Cup, are in town and we use those ads to market our exclusive lines.
Kruhsberg: There is a very friendly Sunglass Hut a few blocks away from my optical shop. I repair their sunglasses, replace screws, and adjust their frames for their customers when they ask me to. In exchange, they send many customers to me who are looking for sunglasses that they do not carry or cannot order. I get a lot of Rx sunwear customers this way. It’s great team work!
Mehfoud: Hands down the most successful strategy is asking all patients if they currently wear Rx sunglasses. I sometimes start that conversation by asking them when they order their clear eyewear if they are ready to look at frames for their sunglasses now. This question automatically leads into sunwear education and, most of the time, a sunwear purchase.
What’s the primary reason patients decline making an Rx sunwear purchase?
Krebs: The most common reason patients decline buying Rx sunglasses is the cost. After buying a first pair that can range into the high three figures, especially with progressive lenses in them, a second pair suggestion often gets resistance. The increase in the popularity and availability of good clip-ons is another reason. We try to overcome these objections by pointing out the advantages of Rx sunglasses over a clip-on as a second pair as well as the acuity available through dedicated sunwear. We also offer a second-pair discount for those who buy Rx sunwear.
Kruhsberg: Patients don’t want to squint, so there is always a reason to have a pair of sunglasses. Resistance is usually to price, especially for Rx sunwear because of the prescription lens prices.
To help overcome this, I carry big-name brands like Maui Jim, Oakley, Inc., and Kaenon Polarized, which appeal to most people. I have very large windows so I can demonstrate the difference in lens colors by having the customer look outside at trees and other colorful objects. I also have a “magical” lighted display by Maui Jim that shows the difference between a polarized lens and a non-polarized lens that’s very effective.
Mehfoud: The main reason patients decline the purchase of sunwear is cost. In my practice, I offer a payment plan or great
discount prices on frames. My patients are grateful for my willingness to accommodate them and they will make the purchase. Rarely, will I have a patient that doesn’t see the need for sun protection and they’re more challenging to convince.
What are your most popular sunwear brands?
Krebs: Our top-selling sunglass styles come from Safilo USA’s Kate Spade, CARRERA, and Jimmy Choo collections due to the quality of the product and designs. Maui Jim and CARRERA both offer men’s lines that are high quality and affordable that we do very well with. All are polarized and Rxable.
Kruhsberg: For my office, the most popular sunglass lines are definitely Maui Jim because of their lenses and Oakley because of their iconic name. The products from Kaenon have a fantastic lens as well.
Mehfoud: The sunwear I sell the most is Maui Jim. They basically sell themselves. Maui Jim has great educational and promotional information that helps me show patients how important polarization is and how vital it is to have Rx and non-Rx sunwear. The quality of their lenses and color choices always provide satisfying options for patients. I also sell ophthalmic frames for Rx sunwear like Gucci, Juicy Couture, and CARRERA, all made by Safilo. In addition, I carry Cole Haan and Ellen Tracy sunwear made by ClearVision Optical Co.
How do you position clip-ons in your business?
Krebs: Since we believe dedicated sunglasses are best, we offer that option first, then offer clip-on sunglasses to everyone as an alternative. We have huge sales in clip-ons because no one else in our community has the variety that we do. We also carry eyewear lines that feature them on their products, and that helps make the sell a lot easier.
Kruhsberg: Sunglass Hut sends many customers to me for clip-ons. They don’t carry any clip-ons and I have a large assortment on display. Tourists who have left their sunglasses at home sometimes don’t want to spend the money for a completely new pair of sunglasses but will settle for a $50 clip-on to get by until they get home.
Mehfoud: I sell clip-ons with various eyewear and they’re all polarized. Silhouette Optical Ltd. drill mounts have clips that I sell 30% of the time. Aspex Eyewear has clips for each of their frames. I will always attempt to sell a separate pair of Rx sunwear even if the complete pair of Rx eyeglasses comes with a clip. Hilco makes clip-ons that I will use as an option for elderly patients who have a very difficult time keeping up with Rx sunwear. Only a small percentage of my patients leave without some type of sunwear protection. If a complete pair of Rx sunwear is not purchased, than polarized clip-ons are recommended.
Do you have special internal or external marketing or advertising for your Rx sunwear?
Krebs: We use the materials that sunwear companies provide to us, like their pictures and point-of-sale displays. We hired a PR firm for several years, and they created a jingle and a logo for our advertising. It was not cost effective so now we use whatever national advertising is available along with our in-store marketing.
Kruhsberg: Maui Jim’s lighted display makes a fantastic selling tool. It really wows my customers. Another thing I do is blog about lenses and frames on our Web site. I have sunglass parties in the office where we show sunglass lines. I also use a sandwich board sign outside the store where I write about frames and lenses, sunglasses included. It helps create interest and it brings in buyers.
Mehfoud: I have a dedicated sunglass section in my office and carry a good quantity of sunglass styles. I also have a couple of commercially designed sunglass displays from manufacturers like Maui Jim. Two of my walls are glass, which provides ample window space for displays to highlight eyewear and sunwear pieces I’m promoting.