Reading glasses meet the next generation, and do it with style

According to the 2006 U.S. Census more than 112 million Americans are over the age of 45 and will most likely need reading glasses. This provides a unique business opportunity for dispensaries. As a generation who loves quality, style, and design, it makes sense that our new wave of shoppers will want the same attributes from their reading glasses. If we take the time to dress well, selecting just the right necktie, jewelry, or accessory, we are not going to want to pull out a bland pair of reading glasses in a meeting. Our love of brands and fashion will extend to our readers.

Key Points

I am nearsighted and have worn glasses since I was in my early teens. A few years ago, I became very curious about LASIK and made an appointment with a leading center to see if I would be a good candidate. After my exam, I met with the doctor, who told me that he would not only be able to fix my distance problem, he also could make an adjustment so that I wouldn't need reading glasses. Age 39 at the time, I told him that I didn't need reading glasses. His response: "Oh, but you will."

The doctor explained that after age 40, most of us gradually lose our ability to focus at near distance and will need some magnification to read between 12 to 18 inches away. Although that made sense on some level, a proactive move felt frightening. I decided to pass on the procedure, embrace my glasses, and face the possibility of what was to come.

It turns out that I will not be alone; according to the 2006 U.S. Census, more than 112 million Americans are over the age of 45. The next population wave to hit the "45+" group will add another 43 million people to the pool of those who will likely need reading glasses. In fact, by 2016, over 50% of the U.S. population-or approximately 150 million people-will be over age 45.

Style meets function

We should always encourage our customers to have a proper optical exam before suggesting a ready-made reader (i.e., mass produced reading glasses that do not require a prescription).

Most customers who need readers will purchase multiple pairs of ready-made glasses each year. Then, they will leave their readers around the house, at the office, in their handbags, or in the car. Just think-if those 112 million people bought only two pairs at $10 each, the potential annual volume would be extremely compelling. It's no surprise to see a number of exciting brands such as Nine West and Calvin Klein entering the category.

The need for readers is equal for men and women, but the psyche of our potential customers is very different. Most men will fill the need with quality readers that will help them see more clearly. Women will make fashionable purchases that enhance their outfits and personalities, using the need to buy readers as another opportunity to accessorize. Let's make the old unisex styles a thing of the past and offer customers options that are exciting.

As a generation who loves quality, style, and design, it makes sense that our new wave of shoppers will want the same attributes from their reading glasses. If we take the time to dress well, selecting just the right necktie, jewelry, or accessory, we are not going to want to pull out a bland pair of reading glasses in a meeting. Our love of brands and fashion will extend to our readers.

For women, readers are a great way to experiment and have fun with glasses. An increasing amount of frames on the market offer bold color, prints, patterns, and embellishments. Just as with shoes and handbags, let's give women another way to complete their outfits.

A frame dyed perfectly to match a new suit would be stunning, as would a fun pair in a motif for Christmas, Halloween, or Valentine's Day. Since the investment is relatively inexpensive, the risk is low for customers who want to try something different that they would never select in a higher-priced prescription. The possibilities for fun are endless.

For men, it's all about function. The Calvin Klein Collection debuted a foldable pocket reader that comes with a cool mini case. The lenses for both men and women have a dash of color to add to the style. Brands such as Perry Ellis, Giorgio Armani, and John Varvatos have some terrific designs.

Even luxury brands have started to enter the category with sophisticated frames, embellished with crystals and logos. Judith Leiber offers a reader for $185. It's a perfect accessory for a night on the town! Persol even has a great looking version for $395-the ultimate reader indulgence.