It comprises a substantial percentage of business for many U.S. dispensaries, and the current crop of affordable frames are pleasingly on trend.
Independent eyecare professionals (ECPs) who dispense glasses are constantly faced with what to carry on their frame boards.
Savvy buyers will have a solid handle on the demographics of their practice, and most optical offices work with the “average” patient from varying income levels, age categories and lifestyle needs. Meeting those needs as well as providing frames that qualify for myriad insurance plans can be a delicate balancing act.
In the eyecare world, there are increasing pressures that have been exacerbated by the uncertain future of insurance availability. Online retailers have also taken some nibbles from the average ECP’s sales. Additionally, some areas of the country have not fully recovered from the 2008 depression.
As a result, value eyewear has become even more critical in the frame-buying landscape, and there are a number of manufacturers including Modern Optical International, Eight to Eighty Eyewear, i-dealoptics and The Britalia Group, for whom this category is their sweet spot.
“I target this market because there is less demand for both the high end and the super cheap,” said William Kautsky, president of The Britalia Group. “My clients prefer quality at mid-price, whereas in the urban areas most practices focus on high-end brand names or extremely low end.”
Eight to Eighty Eyewear has a similar modus operadi, according to CEO Barry Slovinsky. The company’s motto, “We are the high end of the low end”, underscores it’s goal for producing styles that reflect current fashions and top-selling shapes and colors.
Manufacturer i-dealoptics has a like-minded approach to this aspect of the business.“We continually work with our manufacturing partners to produce the highest quality, fully featured and best-finished frames while at the most controlled price points possible,” said Matt Weingarden, VP of marketing. “We specialize in filling the needs of the eyewear market with innovation, quality and style.”
SAME FACTORY, LOWER PRICES
Virtually all frames in the value category are manufactured in China. Once considered providers of low-quality eyewear, the tide has turned quite a bit—which is music to vendors’ and ECPs’ ears. “Our frames come from the same Asian factories as most designer brands, and we use the same materials and manufacturing methods. Our workmanship is identical but without the designer cost,” Kautsky said.
Paula Weissman, VP of marketing at Modern Optical International, concurred and stressed that cost-conscious patients have increasingly turned to the internet for “transparency and value.” She expressed, “Consumers want the designer look without the designer prices. Eyewear is no exception. Getting something for less is simply the new consumer way of shopping.”
FABULOUS FOR FALL
When it comes to new product development, all of these companies follow fashion trends and adapt their product lines accordingly. Kautsky frequently travels to the factories to make sure newer looks are translated into a product line that will ultimately please buyers and patients.
For fall, ECPs can look forward to new materials, such as the extremely lightweight and strong plastic known as Ultem from Eight to Eighty Eyewear, and expansions of the titanium models from The Britalia Group.
Modern Optical International will debut 73 releases, with a special emphasis on its extended-size women’s collection, GB+. Be sure to check out the eight new styles featuring chic designs in bold, rich tones. This new season introduces several rounded silhouettes in autumnal hues such as burgundy and color-infused tortoises. Mixed materials and smartly placed metal accents create a contemporary vibe. Temple details including texturized surfaces and embedded embellishments elevate the versatile collection.
Value frames offer the perfect opportunity for ECPs to compete with online sales, offer special promotions that encourage multiple purchases, and to stock their frame boards with options that are fully covered by insurance for the dollar-challenged consumer.
Sharon Leonard, LDO, ABOC AC, FCLSA, is a licensed optician and contact lens practitioner in the Syracuse, NY, area.
WHERE TO FIND IT: The Britalia Group 800.323.2409 • Britaliaoptical.com // Eight to Eighty Eyewear 516.705.8000 • Eighttoeightyeyewear.com // i-dealoptics 800.758.6249 • i-dealoptics.com // Modern Optical International 800.262.8761 • ModernOptical.com