Fashion, function and fun. Ultimately a device designed to protect our eyes (and surrounding skin) from the damaging effects of ultraviolet light (and now blue light as well), sunglasses have evolved into so much more (see “Sunny Exposition” p30). Then why do the channels managed by eyecare professionals have such a paltry market share, especially for plano sunglasses?

Optical chains represent 1.3% of unit sales of plano sunglasses compared to 24.3% from mass merchants and 12.7% from sunglass specialty stores, according to the latest statistics available from The Vision Council’s VisionWatch report. Other unit sales of plano sunglasses come from drug stores (9.0%) and department and specialty stores (4.4%).

For the independent optical retail market, the numbers for plano sunglasses are even lower, representing only 0.8% of the independent optical retail market, according to the same VisionWatch report.

Clearly there is room for improvement among both the chains and the independents when it comes to selling sunwear. But how? The answer has been discussed for years at industry events such as this month’s Vision Expo East and throughout optical media outlets such as VCPN. It’s not difficult, and in fact, this issue is full of sunwear sales tips.

The continuing education course on “Sun, Sport + Safety Eyewear” provides multiple steps for fitting more patients with sunwear and achieving that coveted second pair or multiple pair sale. (Plus you can go online to get instant CE credit.)

These tried-and-true techniques include suggesting that patients bring not only their clear glasses to their next appointment when making the reminder call but also to bring their sunglasses, neutralizing them as well as their clear glasses during the pre-exam, asking if they wear sunglasses during their outdoor activities and inquiring about any family history of macular degeneration or other eye-related health problems.

Everyone is aware of the need to protect their skin from potential damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This opens the door for eyecare professionals to also explain the UV protection that sunglasses provide. Now, with the media abuzz with information about the dangers of blue light, ECPs have the additional opportunity to discuss how sunglasses can provide protection from the sun’s high energy visible light as well. Simply be sure to discuss with every patient why sunwear is important during as many touch points as possible.

Drive the point home by writing a prescription specifically for sunglasses based on all of these discussions with the patient, and then offer a discount on a second pair of sunglasses when an ophthalmic pair is purchased. This will go a long way to steer the patient toward making the final decision to buy a protective pair of sunwear.

For those patients who have concluded that sunwear is the right choice, what color tints to choose then becomes a highly personal preference and one related to which types of outdoor activities they enjoy. Presenting the patient with a selection of tint samples will help them decide, and if you do your own tinting in-house (see “Not Your Traditional Lens Tinting”), you can keep the huge margins yourself.

Follow these steps, and many others suggested at industry presentations and on websites such as, and you’ll be selling more sunwear, and more importantly, protecting more patients from the potential harm and eye-related health problems that can result from overexposure to the sun.

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