Not many businesses try to sell the least expensive item they can to a potential buyer because that kind of sale usually results in less profit. Even so, there are times when value merchandise is an essential part of a business’ profit strategy. Take eyewear for example; there are a good number of optical shops that carry it and a large number of patients who want it. Since the great recession began in 2009, many eyecare professionals have substituted value lines for brands they used to carry as a way of providing cash-strapped patients with lower-priced alternatives. One even said that he’d never return to the way he used to buy, price, and sell. The three optical professionals below have discovered the profit and service potential that the value eyewear category provides their patients. Their insights may help as you consider this eyewear category for your office.
|Photo courtesy of Aristar, Charmant Group
|Photo courtesy of Focus, I-Deal Optics
|Photo courtesy of Destiny, Kenmark Group
Bonni Axelrod, Licensed Optician/Optical Manager, Pearle Vision Center, New Hyde Park, NY
Janet Simpkins, Licensed Optician, Shell Optical Company, Suffolk, VA
Tabitha Gilbert, Optician, McBride and Blackburn Opticians, Blacksburg, VA
How do you position value eyewear in your office?
Bonni Axelrod: The products in all our stores are merchandised so that the higher-end items are more visible when the patient enters the store. The value products are incorporated as part of our frame displays, but not in the higher traffic areas. The frame boards are merchandised accorded to retail price, with lower price being displayed further from the entrance. All frames, including the value eyewear, are available for all patients.
Janet Simpkins: We position value eyewear as quality alternatives to our more expensive brands. These eyewear brands are presented only when price is an issue. We also use this product for eyeglasses being purchased for patients by the Lions Club. We don’t accept managed care plans, so many of our patients gravitate toward our value brands—especially those who desire multiple pairs.
Tabitha Gilbert: We have a large selection of value eyewear in our office at all times, but we don’t keep it displayed with our regular inventory. We keep the value eyewear in under stock and pull it out as needed for select patients. Most of the other optical shops in our area choose not to do repairs and they refer the patients to us. The majority of our value eyewear sales go to repair patients. We also sell value eyewear to patients on social service reimbursement programs and to those looking for an affordable second pair.
|Photo courtesy of Lipstick, REM Eyewear
What percentage of your total inventory does value eyewear represent?
BA: Approximately 30% of our total inventory is value-based. This is an appropriate breakdown as a major portion of our practice is third-party insurance. Most of our third-party insurance allows frames that are covered at no charge to the patient which retail between $100 and $150. Being a value-based retail optical provider also means providing a substantial amount of quality frames with a lower price tag.
JS: Value product accounts for about 10% of our inventory. We don’t want to compete with local retail chains and merchants, or the other optometry offices in our area. Our niche is to be unique by offering higher-quality products while providing value eyewear when needed.
TG: We don’t consider value eyewear as a percentage in our inventory. We buy in bulk depending on the deals the frame companies are offering at the time. The inventory varies from time to time, but we usually have a couple hundred value frames. The average patient that comes to our office never sees the value eyewear we have available.
Do you price value eyewear differently than you price higher wholesale price eyewear?
BA: As a part of a corporation, our frames arrive to each store pre-priced from corporate headquarters. The profit earned on our value frames is always higher than luxury frames, as the cost of goods is much less.
JS: We use the same pricing structure for all frames with one exception; our value product is priced at one flat price based on frame material. There is one price for metal frames and another price for plastic frames, regardless of the wholesale cost. We can use this pricing strategy because we have found excellent value brands with a lower wholesale price.
TG: We do price value eyewear differently than premium eyewear. We have a set price that we charge patients for the value eyewear. It keeps inventory control and pricing easy. When buying the frames, we know how much we are willing to pay and we keep the cost at that or lower.
Since value eyewear sells for less than premium eyewear, do you have strategies to improve the profitability of each value eyewear sale?
BA: Most of our advertising is based on price. Complete package pricing with very specific frames and lens designs are incorporated in our advertisements. Profitability does not lie within the advertised promo, rather within the ability to upgrade from the advertised price. This requires our opticians to ask open-ended questions that begin with what, how, when, and where, to uncover the patients’ entire needs.
JS: We always try to provide the best, most recent, and technically driven lens products to everyone who walks in the door. We always offer digitally processed lenses with premium anti-reflective (AR) treatments. If price is an issue, then we offer other options like standard AR treatments and traditional lenses. If needed, we revert to selling lesser-priced product until a patient has reached a price that is comfortable for her or him. We always keep in mind that you can come down on price by using value products but can almost never go up.
TG: Since we don’t sell value eyewear to everyday patients, we consider every value sale extra profit. The majority of our value eyewear sales are to patients for repairs—they usually have never been to our office before and are there because an optician sent them to have their glasses fixed.
What value eyewear brands do you sell and why?
BA: Our value eyewear consists of Essentials, Thornton & Banks, and Rims.
JS: ClearVision Optical Co. has a really good selection of traditional styles for women and men, along with some fashionable ones, too. The company is good about warranties, and the sales rep is very helpful. Aristar by Charmant Group offers excellent quality for the price. We rarely have any problems with breakage or defects. They also have a great selection of more traditional frames, along with fashion frames for both women and men. Liptstick by REM Eyewear is a trendier brand in our value frames. They’re well-made and we have very few broken or defective frames to warranty. We can also offer these to our younger female patients.
TG: Three value eyewear brands we carry are Gallery and Comfort Flex by Kenmark Group, and Focus by i-dealoptics. We like ordering Gallery and Comfort Flex because the frames are available in good basic shapes and colors. We can order both adult and kids’ frames, too. Kenmark also offers a warranty on the frames. We like the Focus frames for many of the same reasons. i-dealoptics also runs some great promotions if you like to buy in bulk.