The sunwear in Marchon’s Coach collection (Style No. S1003 shown here) comes at a more attainable price point than the ophthalmic styles in the line.

The economy is soft but offering fashion brands can be a helpful approach to keeping your bottom line healthy.

With unemployment figures in the double digits, many companies downsizing or sending jobs out of the country, and the lost power of the U.S. dollar, the outlook for designer optical products should be doom and gloom. But offering your patients this product segment can be a welcomed strategy for retaining, and even improving, sales if managed properly.

While a 10% unemployment picture is not pretty, it means that we have about 6% more unemployment than we usually do in good times. Another way to look at it is that 90% of the usual 96% employed people are still working. It’s not like the Great Depression when 30% of the workforce was unemployed. Consumers are buying. The key is that many of their buying habits have shifted.

Consumer spending in the U.S. accounts for about 66% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to BusinessWeek magazine. This is why any retrenchment in consumer buying puts huge pressure on businesses. When luxury brand consumers pull back on their spending, they often look at alternatives, but these alternatives do not necessarily mean abandoning fashion designer brands.

Instead, they find other ways to get the look they want, and at a price they can afford. No, we’re not talking “discount” here, we’re talking retail strategy. They may not be willing to spend $2,000 on that Chanel handbag, but those Chanel sunglasses from Luxottica Group

Bridge lines like Prada’s Miu Miu make the designer name more affordable (Style No. SMU11L shown here).

that they saw last week are a much more affordable piece of the brand image at $270.

Let’s call this kind of behavior “brand refocusing.” The idea is that when dollars are tight, designer brand consumers tend to look for less expensive items to buy within the brand’s line of products. In this way, they get the same designer label and the same designer philosophy, but at a lower price point.

How do you make this thinking work for your optical office? There are two ways. First, remember that while many consumers are looking to continue buying items that have a designer “pedigree,” they just don’t want to spend as big a dollar amount. Fashion designer eyewear brands are just the ticket. Make sure you get the word out that you’re carrying these brands. Tell consumers through your advertising and marketing efforts that

Sunwear, such as Safilo’s Gucci Style No. 1622/S, can be the real door-opener to fashion designer eyewear.

you have fashion designer eyewear products they can own for a lot less than other items in the brand’s line.

The second strategy is to carry less expensive eyewear products within the designer eyewear brand’s line. Almost every haute couture design house has a prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear) line of clothing that is available in better clothing stores.

Bridge lines are targeted to entry-level brand consumers who may not have the resources to purchase the haute couture line, but they want the brand experience and the look. The same is true with eyewear. The designer’s name is the same, but it’s aimed at a different market. Bridge lines make the designer name much more attainable.

Look at Safilo USA’s Giorgio Armani, and then look at Armani Exchange and Emporio Armani. The overall image is the same, although the materials may be slightly different in the bridge lines. The target market for Armani Exchange is slightly younger and more adventuresome when it comes to color. Yet, the more mature Armani devotee would feel very comfortable with the look of Armani Exchange. Luxottica offers Prada, the eponymous eyewear collection, along with the bridge line Miu Miu.

Another good way to sell designer fashion brands is through sunwear. While the ophthalmic line is an entry point to fashion, sunwear can be the real door-opener. It’s

Even with a luxe name like Tom Ford from Marcolin, the designer eyewear market is still here (Style No. TF5116 shown here).

usually presented at a lower price point than the ophthalmic collections and sun-wear offers the brand’s entire life-style image. Take a look at the truly luxe collections from some of the leading eyewear manufacturers.

With a little over 10 years under his belt as an eyewear designer, John Varvatos is known for innovative men’s fashion, skin care, and accessories, with a rock ‘n’ roll sensibility. The current collection from Base Curve features the band ZZ Top, and a host of sunwear designs that combine retro looks with high-quality materials.

Marchon Eyewear’s Coach collection offers a luxury brand of ophthalmic eyewear, but the sunwear comes in at a more attainable price point, and highlights the famous Coach logo on the frames and accompanying cases. Almost all the sun styles are Rxable, and they are instant sellers.

Gucci from Safilo features a plethora of sunwear which means that the Gucci look is at a

EXPECTATIONS Brands also offer some expectations on the consumers’ end. It’s not only the styling and lifestyle imaging they anticipate, it’s also what the brand represents in terms of manufacturing quality, the grade of materials, and a solid consumer history. Some brands attract younger eyewear consumers with a more fashion-forward image. Others draw consumers who have a solid history with their clothing lines. Avalon Eyewear’s Norma Kamali line is a good example. The brand is known for its innovative design, and the eyewear is consistent with the clothing’s style and color palette. Both the apparel and eyewear are readily attainable for the average career woman.

lower price than the ophthalmics. Check out Style Nos. 3100/S and 1622/S. The bold styling and bold colors make these frames stand out!

To get the word out about your fashion designer eye- and sunwear brands, think about a trunk show where you invite patients and showcase brands. Your eyewear sales rep can help you develop and deliver this event.

Don’t forget Web advertising and in-office specials. In our office, we offer periodic promotions on certain designer brands, and P-O-P materials that showcase the lines we carry. Some eyecare professionals have lifestyle questionnaires to help dispensers select the frames that seal the deal. We also have a Brican flat-panel display in the waiting area that promotes frame lines, along with other ophthalmic information, in a video-loop format.

And whether it’s a celebrity brand, like Safilo’s J.Lo, or a luxe name like Tom Ford from Marcolin USA, the designer eyewear market is still here. You just have to know how to present and market them to consumers based on the way they are thinking about brands today.

Sharon Leonard is a licensed optician and contact lens practitioner in the Syracuse, NY area.

Avalon Eyewear
888-767-0383 •

Base Curve Eyewear
877-777-1677 •

Luxottica Group
800-422-2020 •

Marchon Eyewear
800-645-1300 •

Marcolin USA
800-537-9265 •

Safilo USA
800-631-1188 •


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