Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM), the company that brought us the once formidable Blackberry, is in a serious quandary.

Its operating system is old and flawed and actually failed for a short time in the U.S. last October. The products that will feature a new operating system won’t be out until the end of this year. RIM’s U.S. market share has plunged from 49% in 2009 to just 10% last year.

But here’s a more obvious problem: There are currently so many Blackberry models on the market right now (last count is 37) that consumers are confused, and even one of their CEOs (yes, they have two) could not elaborate on the distinctive features of one model over the next.
In contrast, since its introduction a few years back, there have been only four incarnations of the iPhone. So which brand of smartphone do people prefer these days?
Too many choices. Sounds like the dilemma many eyewear customers have when they confront the average frame board. Why is this one so much more expensive than that one when they both look the same? What’s better, metal or plastic? Was this really designed by (fill in the blank)?
Smart optical retailers do two things very, very well. First, they select several frame styles for the consumer to try, thus avoiding frame board panic; second, they buy scrupulously because they understand their market, have an inventory strategy, and know how to create a sales story for every frame they display.
The really smart ones go a step further—they track product sales to monitor buying trends and continuously adjust their inventories accordingly. It’s amazing how many optical people think they’re selling style XYZ like crazy, when it’s actually style ABC that’s dominant.
Take a lesson from Blackberry’s parents. There are more than 50,000 frame styles introduced each year. Believe it or not, one does not need to carry them all.
A Farewell to Jody Stone
Back in the 1980s, Jody Stone transformed the optical industry by taking a very simple tabloid magazine called 20/20 and turning it into a true reflection of a rapidly changing field. He helped to start the industry’s first newspaper, Vision Monday, and brought optical manufacturers and retailers together in its pages. Jody was also the first to create a statistical profile of optical and truly bring it to a higher level of market intelligence.
Jody Stone passed away suddenly late last October at the age of 65. He had been a tough and challenging competitor, but after his departure from day-to-day optical publishing, he became more a friend and a true colleague. He made a big difference in our game; he will be missed.

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