Premium frames give patients originality and high quality

September 15, 2009

Despite the economy, there still are many patients who will be interested in premium frame collections. With premium frames you can offer patients luxury, technology, and fashion.

Key Points

Despite the current economy, there still are many patients who will be interested in premium frame collections. According to Sheila Vance, designer of Sama Eyewear, her collection is designed with "luxury of a heart, technology for the brain, and fashion for its soul." That sums up what you can offer patients with premium frames-luxury, technology, and fashion.

Frame design and materials

Technological advances give rise to new materials and new methods to manufacture them. Each substance has certain advantages and disadvantages. It is imperative to know each material's unique attributes in order to present, recommend, and handle them properly for the individual needs of each patient. The following is an overview of what's out there in plastic, metal, and natural materials.

Cellulose acetate (more commonly referred to as zyl) is made of wood flakes, cottonseed fibers, stabilizers, and plasticizers. Zyl is the most common plastic frame material because it can assume a large array of colors, textures, and patterns. Temples and frame fronts can be cut from blocks of zyl extruded as a sheet of block acetate, or granular zyl can be liquefied and then injection-molded. What can take ordinary zyl and make it premium is when it is handmade, in fashion-forward designs (such as Italian zyl). Particularly popular right now are laminated zyl frames that have layered colors.

Metal

Metals still represent the majority of frames sold in the United States. These metals would be considered premium by patients with discerning eyes for well-known brand names and good design.

Titanium is extremely lightweight and will not rust, and because of its strength it can be made thin. Titanium is also hypo-allergenic, which is a special bonus for many people. Many of your patients are already wearing titanium, so be sure to point out your high-end collections made of titanium.

Beta titanium is predominantly titanium, with a very small amount of vanadium and aluminum added to create flexibility. This titanium blend allows for easy adjustment at key locations: bridges, temples, and endpieces. Discussing this flexibility along with the design image itself is an easy sell.

Gold, once the backbone of eyeglass frames, is durable, is corrosion-resistant, retains its luster, is relatively hypoallergenic, and is easily adjustable. The gold content of most gold frames is limited to plating over a base metal and is measured in micrometers. Gold content is indicated by a stamp mark on the product: GP or RGP (gold plate or rolled gold plate) denote plating while GF (gold-filled) indicates a layer of gold wrapped around a core of base metal. Show potential clientele gold frames, a collection (Neostyle Eyewear's Mozart collection) that offers an extensive array of 18-karat solid gold frames. This unique collection brings eyewear into the "jewelry for your eyes" category.

Nibrodal is a relatively new metal that has properties that make it act like a cross between stainless steel and titanium-it is corrosion-resistant and extremely durable and comfortable for the wearer.

Stainless steel is a light, durable, corrosion-resistant, hypoallergenic metal alloy of approximately 67% iron, 20% chrome, and a mixture of other metals; thin designs are available. Stainless steel is highly lustrous, and makes a good thin and sturdy eyeglass frame with strong corrosion resistance.

Nuvium is a super high-grade stainless steel that is comfortable and lightweight. It is great for minimal rimless frames. This material seems popular among designer brands your patients who like premium frames will crave (Emporio Armani, Max Mara, Christian Dior, Kate Spade).

Magnesium is a relatively new metal frame material, claiming to be six times lighter than titanium. Due to its softness, it is less likely than titanium to break. One company (Oakley) especially likes to use magnesium for its sunglass frames.

Genium is light and strong like titanium and possesses the thinness of stainless steel and the flexibility of beta titanium.

Natural frame materials

How about taking something very natural and developing it into luxury frames?

Wood Wood is one of the earth's most natural elements and creates intrigue when presented to the right patient. One collection uses selected exotic woods (Caviar collection, Ultra Palm). The woods are chosen for their texture and natural beauty. Use caution when working on these frames. To adjust, use pliers only on metal parts. If bracing is needed, very carefully use double-sided padded pliers.

Horn Buffalo horn comes from the horn of water buffalo from India. Similar to wood, buffalo horn acquires individual texture and is very hard. Because of the unique characteristics of each horn, no two pair of glasses are the same. The comfort of the product is the pleasing warmth that the material naturally radiates, and it works well for people with skin allergies.

Leather It is impossible to make a frame from leather, but you surely can get frames with leather adornment, especially on the temples. For your leather-loving patients, consider carrying a chrome hearts "Disfunctional" style (Optical Shop of Aspen International). Adding to the luxurious feel are motifs in 0.925 sterling silver, which are applied to the leather-wrapped temples by hand.

Displays

Props are an excellent choice when displaying premium frames. For men, use a high-end titanium golf driver to show a high-end titanium frame. For women, a high-end handbag displayed with the same high–end brand frame. Remember, many shoppers are drawn to brand names that they can identify with. Create a shopping experience for these patients. Consider a silver tray and tea service in this area of your dispensary. Discreetly make use of scents and perhaps light music in the background.

Other helpful hints

Remember, patients who desire premium frames are looking for the luxury, comfort, and originality that they expect from premium products. Make sure the staff is aware of the features and benefits of the frames you are selling. If you want to sell premium frames then your staff must wear premium frames. Having live models show the latest fashion works splendidly, and remember, it's not just in the office that they are wearing these premium frames. It's a perfect advertising opportunity outside the office as well.

Debra R. White, MSEd, ABOM, FCLSA, is an optical consultant, writer, and speaker with more than 16 years of experience as an opticianary college educator.

Kenneth Johnson, ABOM, NCLC, LDO, is the optical manager at Barri Eyecare Center, Groton, CT.