|Sunglass cases, such as these from Ron’s Optical-can be displayed near sunwear to present patients with stylish ideas.|
|Suns readers, like these from Corinne McCormack, can help build revenue and help patients keep up with fashion trends.|
|ACCESSORIES DON’T NECESSARILY EQUAL CLUTTER When asked for their biggest pet peeve when it comes to selling accessories, many ECPs immediately respond with, “Clutter!” However, employing a few clutter-free strategies can solve that problem pretty quickly. Start simple: hang a beautiful chain on a pair of eyewear. Take a scarf, pin an eye hook onto it, place a frame in the hook and put it in your display case. You now have some color, a place to put four to six frames, and you are showcasing an accessory that you know your clients can’t find at the drugstore. VoilÃ¡!|
|Chains that can serve as both a necklace and eyewear holder are considered by many to be an accessories ‘must’ (Cinzia’s Viridian shown here).|
|Cleaners-especially the customized variety-like OptiSource’s Custom Clean, can prove to have an impressive return on investment.|
Deciding whether or not to carry accessories in your dispensary may include several considerations.
To sell accessories, or not to sell accessories? That is a question every ECP practice has to consider. No matter how new or old your office is, you’ll inevitably face this issue from time to time. Some ECPs see accessory sales as a worthy portion of their business while others feel it would have little value. Nearly all retailers, like department stores, drug stores, hardware stores, gas stations, and convenience stores sell accessories with thoughtfully arranged displays.
To help better understand the pros and cons of this eyewear category, I spoke with Donna Van Green, The Vision Council’s Eyewear and Accessories Division liaison (as well as a CE Speaker) and Debbie Bauer-Robertson, ABOC, NCLC, dispensing optician at Jeanne Ruff, OD’s, practice in Williamsburg, VA. Van Green took the “pro” view on selling accessories, while Bauer-Robertson took the “con” view. These two experts approach accessories from different vantage points and each poses compelling arguments for her side of the issue.
When I asked Van Green for her take on the five most important accessories every ECP practice should carry, she didn’t hesitate. Her list includes the following items: non-prescription sunglasses and clips-ons, cases, lens-cleaning solutions, frame holders (like chains and brooches), and repair kits. Her advice to ECPs includes the following: “Selling accessories will add to revenue dollars.” She elaborates on this tip, and notes, “Train dispensers to automatically show and sell accessories. Display and showcase eyewear with complementary accessories, presenting the entire package to the patient.”
Van Green advises that with intelligent marketing, unusual product, and unique presentation, a practice can increase revenue 15% to 20%, depending on its size. This is higher than most optical offices might expect, although it does represent a concentrated effort on offering accessories.
What are a few underrated optical accessories? Surprisingly, some of these are also on the “must have” list. “Cleaning solutions, cleaning cloths, cases, frame holders, and repair kits are not appreciated as much as they could be in our industry,” Van Green says. “After-sale dollars are important to every practice. They do not diminish your professionalism nor do they take anything away from your time. What they will do is add dollars to your bottom line, put color into your displays, and allow for questions from your clients, like, ‘Does this anti-fog work?'” Van Green reveals that often the manufacturers which ECPs already work with have accessories divisions. You can purchase items that work specifically with your frames, get point-of-purchase materials, and-poof-you have an instant display for your office!
Van Green recommends that ECPs integrate accessories into their displays. For example, you can hang chains on some frames or put a pair of funky plano sunglasses in a chic case along with some no-fog spray. With the low markup on such items, you have to be careful and make educated accessories choices for your practice. Van Green recommends that ECPs take note of what other merchants are carrying. “Does your local sporting goods store have a huge rack of straps, cords, and floater straps?” she asks. “Does the local drug store sell more ‘fit-overs’ than an AARP convention? If so, you should offer patients something comparable, too.”
Bauer-Robertson reflects that eyewear itself is the ultimate accessory for eyewear buyers and the only way to improve upon that is to offer more eyewear. While she does carry a few custom and handmade chains that are exclusive to her practice, those are the only accessories she offers. Laughingly, she notes that accessories that don’t sell collect dust. She makes her point by asking,”I don’t like cleaning at home, so why would I want to have something else to dust at work, like accessories?”
One of the biggest problems that Bauer-Robertson sees in the accessory area is how well the cost of an accessory does-or does not-measure up to quality. With all the poor-quality accessory eyewear products available in drug stores, gas stations, and online, she finds it challenging to justify many higher-end optical accessories’ prices. “It is really disappointing when you see accessories on the Internet selling for less than we can purchase them for,” she explains.
Shelf space is often difficult for ECPs to give up to accessories. Three or four clutch-style purse cases can take up the same amount of space that could house seven frames. “I am not sure about your practice, but for mine, that’s a lot of frame room lost,” Bauer-Robertson says. “With the profit margin much higher on frames than accessories, the space is best used for frames. “No extra space for accessories means some frame product must go. Just shuffling your displays around to make room for an accessory defeats the purpose of your displays,” she points out.
“As long as there are retailers selling over-the-counter readers, sunglasses, and now optical supplies via the Internet, it is up to the opticians to find their place in the optical world,” says Bauer-Robertson. “I have found that selling quality, high-end eyewear, along with high-end lenses that are not found at every location, is our niche. Everything I sell is either exclusive to us or has a 50-plus mile radius from us and is not available online or at a local retailer. Bauer-Robertson suggests that her strategy makes sense to small practices which need to avoid clutter.
Accessories are a part of nearly every retail business. Most optical offices carry cases, but many all but give them away. Some offices carry one or two accessories for sale like lens cleaner or a cleaning cloth but not much more. Selling accessories is a personal business decision. Some claim that you can increase your optical sales by double digits with the right marketing and merchandising strategies, while others suggest the space these products take to display isn’t worth the profit they might garner. Where are you when it comes to accessories?
Kat Leek-Tedeschi is the owner of Kat’s Eyes Optical in Duluth, MN.