Optical shops: the new boutiques

December 15, 2006

Fine leather cases and jewelry can drive accessories toward double-digit growth and higher price points.

Your optical dispensary can share in the profits generated by this popular retail trend. Think optical shop as fashion experience.

Optical dispensaries as a destination for shopping or gifting is an opportunity that is practically untapped. Eye-care professionals are geared for yearly checkups and maintaining healthy eyesight (and, hopefully, the sale of new eyewear), and additional visits to an optical dispensary are quite rare.

Opportunities are abundant to finesse the accessories trend. The packaging of eyeglasses in a case is one example. That simple case can be more than just a protective shell. An eyewear case should reflect the elegance of the item inside. Just as wallets and handbags have become a very visible and celebrated aspect of one's cache, so should the eyewear case one takes out of that purse when switching in and out of sunglasses or when removing or putting on reading glasses.

The suggestion of glamour, luxury, and creativity begins on the outside and is supported by the products within.

Although this has not been the case with eyewear in recent years, vintage stores reveal a rich and glamorous past for eyewear cases, including supple leather for men and hand-beaded pouches for women.

Clearly it was the intention of well-appointed men and women as recently as the 1960s to have their eyewear accessories match the sophistication of their attire.

Though handbags often were expensive, women typically purchased them twice per year for fall and for spring. Today they are a symbol of one's style and so beautifully designed and merchandised that impulse buying combined with gifting has made them an item purchased three to four times more often than in the past, without compromising the quality or level of pricing.

When seen in the context of the apparel accessories business, the opportunities are astounding.

"Consumers continue to trade up in the category," said Lew Frankfort, chairman and chief executive officer of Coach Inc. "Shoppers have a strong interest in accessories for gift and self-purchase."