‘Spark joy’ in your ophthalmic practice with these frame board tips

April 15, 2019

Follow Marie Kondo’s lead and spring clean your practice to make way for fresh frames.

In your practice, it’s important to follow three rules when it comes to frame board management: Optimize inventory turnover, stick with ‘bestseller' classics, and be open to current frame trends.

Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Donna Suter, president of Suter Consulting Group. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM.

Have you found yourself looking at your wardrobe and asking what pieces bring you joy? A new friend once offered me advice on how to dress. “If you would dress as I see you, you would be beautiful.”

I thought that an odd statement and never pressed for details. How would I know what clothes others would like to see me buy? Wouldn’t dressing to please others be a little emotionally unhealthy?

Reflecting back, 12 years later, I realize this individual was offering the same nugget of wisdom that Marie Kondo now shares-an invitation to find what sparks joy in my closet.

Frame brands create optical joy

Do you see the application in your optical? Is it time to trim down the total number of frames in inventory to a more manageable number? Frame inventory is defined as the total number of eyeglass frames on display and in storage.

I recommend you decide on how many frames to keep on hand by looking at your historic turnover rate. Frame inventory turnover is defined as the number of pairs of compete spectacle Rxs (frames and lenses, excluding reuse of existing frames) dispensed in 12 months, divided by the total number of frames in inventory.

If you are just getting into the optical game, your turnover might be just once a year. If that’s you, really take a hard look at those frames. If the total number you own is over 500, consider cutting the number down to 500 until your turn rate improves.

If you are grossing $500,000 in optical sales, your annual turnover should be two to three times a year. I have clients who turn inventory six times in a year.  Four or five turns per year are optimal for most optical departments. Three turns per year is the minimum with which I suggest you will be happy.

Practice ratio lower than successful peers

One reason for poor performance may be that your frames aren’t sparking joy in consumers. Wanting your patients to see the beauty completely applies to successful frame board management. Marie Kondo-ing your frameboards to spark joy isn’t as odd as it sounds.

(NOTE: If you are the optician reading this blog, I did not just say it is OK to binge-watch her Netflix show when it’s slow in the optical. If you are the owner/manager, what I am asking you to do is to set an emotional climate that is supportive of change. Ground those positive emotions in reality. Your reality is the gap between where you are and where you want to be. That gap will not go away by itself.)

The challenge opticians face is that probably 20% of frame inventory sells very well. It’s the other 80% of that number that tend to cause heartburn.

Please, please don’t throw all your frames on the floor and wait for joy. Keep the basics and those required by the vision plan programs. Don’t replace or trade out inventory just because you are bored with what you have to carry.

There are two ways to evaluate frames. Selling a device needed to put spectacle lenses into and selling something that the patient feels excited about wearing.

‘Basics’ are frames which people come in and buy. “Bless their hearts” as we say here in the South. They haven’t heard of Marie or understand they should only wear what sparks joy. They just want what their plan provides or a repeat of what they have been wearing since they were 20.

Basics are also frames that are sure sellers. Some eyewear aficionados might refer to these frames as your bread and butter lines. These are styles that always sell. Styles like aviators or heavy geeky plastic frames. Bread and butter also refer to frames that fit a certain size face. Narrow-width women’s frames that fit a petite granny’s narrow face as well as frames that add structure to a full round face should always be on your frame board.

Allocate 20% to possibility thinking

Within your budget, purchase 20% of the number for possibility thinking. Frames you think would add beauty to your patients’ faces. Frames that are different and not what the patient can find on a virtual frame-buying site.

To make room on your boards, and to have enough money to invest in fresh merchandise, may mean “breaking up” with an existing vendor and forming a new liaison. Before doing this, ask your frame representatives if he or she sells a product line that you don’t carry. Telling them what you don’t want more of might lead to a productive conversation about viable options.

Evaluate your current frames to determine which vendors have the product you need to achieve your goals.  When deciding between two sources, pick the one that will help train your staff. One of your most valuable assets is your people. Invest in optical training. They must know how to talk about the frames that you want your customers to buy.

When you get your new frames home, follow sound merchandising guidelines. Group frames by material, followed by eye shape, then by designer and vendor. Eye level is buy level. (This is the universal granddaddy of retail display.) This truism applies to frames as well as high-end merchandise in Manhattan boutiques.

And just like a boutique, put two or three really interesting frames on each group of dispensing tables.

Customers thinking of changing

How good are you at putting yourself in the other person’s shoes? Selecting frames that look good on someone that doesn’t look like you or anyone in your office requires thinking outside of the box. Freshening the frameboard means buying frames that are so appealing to the consumer that he or she wants to max out their emergency credit card just so they can wear them.

Powerful and productive change is accomplished when you think outside the box. A great frame buyer knows how to objectively observe their own frame-buying habits and then evaluates their own performance.
Pick frames only based on styles that appeal to the consumer

Typically, a seasoned frame inventory manager buys frames that fall into categories. Categories might be gender, age and venue (men, women, children, unisex, Rx sun and sport) or retail price points. Examples of price point categories are budget, core, designer, and luxury.

As you evaluate your frames, ask and answer questions such as these:

  • Is this an updated professional look?

  • Is it new and now? Would it appeal to a fashion-forward individual?

  • Is it sturdy enough for people who think they are rough on frames?

  • Is it so trendy that a diva looking for a unique look would have to have it?

  • Is the brand name a draw for my specific demographic patient base?

Cultivating empathy for your target market’s buying patterns means higher profitability and lower material expenses in the optical department-frames that sell won’t be around to return or to mark down.

Once you decide on a certain brand of frames, commit. Purchase a good representation of your new exciting frames and give them prime board space.

Frame buying is a skill that can be learned. To be financially successful, you must know what an acceptable inventory expenditure is when compared to revenue as well as what frame styles are hot right now.

In order to get an idea of what styles your patients are buying, sell off the boards and only reorder best-selling frames. (It’s a good idea to keep best sellers as understock. Understock is defined as merchandise not displayed on the boards but kept onsite, often in a locked storage room.)

I can see your practice sparkling from here

A good brand does for your practice everything Marie says your favorite outfit does for your personal swagger. Successful brands evoke an emotion in your patients. Positive relational connections enhance brain function. What this means to you is patients will buy it.

It also means you have succeeded in delivering your message clearly. You have confirmed your credibility and the patient will become a loyal patient.

Your frames project your practice image and links your identity with the brands you choose to sell. Just like you choose your clothes with care, manage your frames and display cases in the same manner. They all impact the way patients perceive you and your professionalism.

Enjoy the journey. Like efforts to reshape a wardrobe, it might take a little longer than you would have thought; but eventually you will create a beautiful signature look.

Disclosures:

Donna A. Suter
E: suter4pr@gmail.com
Suter is president of Suter Consulting Groyp.

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