Sunwear: The one item every patient needs

October 15, 2010

Sunwear protects eye health, enhances vision in bright sunlight, and contributes to the bottom line.

Young or old, all patients need sun protection for their eyes, even if they have had refractive surgery, wear contact lenses, or require no correction at all. And, unlike standard spectacle lenses, most people enjoy shopping for and wearing sunglasses.

If sunwear is not offered to every patient and is not a key revenue generator for the dispensary, the practice is missing a significant opportunity to serve its patients and boost its profit potential.

Sunwear should, at a minimum, deliver full protection from damaging ultraviolet (UV) light and minimize the ill effects of various light conditions. Sunwear products include photochromic, polarized, over-prescription shields and wraps, and conventional sun lenses, as well as lens-frame units that are designed to meet the demands of a particular sport or activity.

For merchandising and display purposes, it is useful to divide sunwear products into two categories: fashion and function. Although not mutually exclusive, these categories facilitate consumer decision making by helping patients focus on a particular end use when evaluating options.

This simple division of product helps prevent purchasing paralysis by giving patients a relevant and focused point-of-entry to the dispensary's sunwear offering. Organization by function increases the consumer-friendliness of the dispensary space.

This presentation strategy also reminds visitors to the dispensary that eyewear, like footwear, has many purposes. It encourages shoppers of spectacle lenses to break out of the archaic, but persistent "one-pair-does-it-all" mentality.

The functional section might include: sport-specific eyewear shown with a selection of performance-enhancing tints; wraparound-frame styles that shield the eye from wind and debris; and classic styles that can be fit with a polarized prescription lens for daytime driving.

The fashion section should include brand-name designer looks, products, and frame materials that reflect current trends and high-tech stylings.

Invest in proportion to goals

Evaluate the performance of past sunwear sales in order to set goals. You'll want to know how many pairs of sunglasses were sold in the year prior, as well as the gross revenue and net profit.

If sunwear sales accounted for 5% of all eyewear sales without any active promotion, you should be able to increase to 20%-provided you make a firm commitment to present sunwear to every patient (including patients with emmetropia, wearers of contact lenses, and patients who have undergone refractive surgery). To reach a sales target of 20%, your sunwear product offerings should make up roughly 20% of your total inventory.

Wide-open opportunity

Who should be a sunglass wearer? Patients whose eyes are at risk for UV light damage include seniors who have slower recovery time after glare exposure; children and others who spend a great deal of time outdoors; individuals with light-colored irises; people living at higher altitudes; patients taking medicines that increase UV light sensitivity; and the list goes on.

Since all eyes can be damaged by UV light, just about every patient that the practice encounters should be a sunglass wearer. Most will purchase sunwear somewhere, so why shouldn't they be given the opportunity to do so from the eye-care provider they trust most-you!

Rene D. Soltis, FNAO, is senior director of meetings and education for The Vision Council, Alexandria, VA. With more than 34 years of experience as a dispensing optician, Soltis also serves as a liaison to the conference advisory board of International Vision Expo.