Yes, that is the question i ask and i challenge my clients to understand that today’s optical industry is competing against ALL retailers - not only optical. YOU are now competing for ALL expendable dollars... shoes, clothing, makeup, internet, cars, entertainment - and the daily coffee and donut. Money is money. Most people do not plan or allocate their optical dollars that they are going to spend.

Eyewear does not become a necessity most of the time until an RX changes or the frame is broken or lost. Therefore, eyewear is almost an afterthought, or an every two year 'obligation'.

In this article i explore the opportunities both seized and lost, as well as solutions to creating growth engines. We all know what we have 'in hand', but do we know and recognize what we leave on the table when it comes to sales? And do we have the business and management skills and desire, to correct the voids?

Today's consumer purchase 'experience' is as much, if not more, about the experience, than the actual products. Yes, you still have to have great products, but the experience that the customer leaves with - can make or break you... regardless of product.

My theory is that :

"The consumer is more loyal to where they will NOT spend their money - than loyal to where they will spend their money'.

The consumer knows emphatically what store they will never shop again, or what restaurant they will never eat in again, etc.

Today's consumer has access to almost ALL and ANY products that they want to purchase - whether brick and mortar, or online. So what are the determining factors that makes them want to buy with and from you? Or, what are the determining factors that they DON'T want to by from you?

Do the old Ben Franklin 'yes and no' sheet.

Do i have the right products?
Yes No

Is my staff knowledgable, friendly and accommodating?
Yes No

Is my shop / office bright, clean, beautiful and cheerful?
Yes No

Is my shop / office merchandised well?
Yes No

Am i marketing effectively?
Yes No

Are we communicating with our customer effectively and with a consistent message?
Yes No

Are we dressed properly and professionally?
Yes No

Is my internet website presence effective? Yes No

Are multiple sales common or rare?
Yes No

Do i / we have established goals or just playing it 'off the cuff'?
Yes No

Is my staff sales driven or is my staff sales preventative?
Yes No

Do i / we have a plan?
Yes No

Is the radio on or do i have programmed music that controls the atmosphere?
Yes No

These are some, but not all of the questions that can identify any issues that a retailer faces every day.

Making your customers your celebrities does not hurt either. I was told one time by an 'old school' sales manager - "Jamie, you had better be ‘more interested' (in the other person) - or you had better be 'more interesting' (than the other person).

Optical is a 'multi-picture' scenario. Not only do you have the technical aspects of lenses and RXs and measurements, but you also have the fashion aspect of eyewear and lenses to manage and the business aspect - that you have probably not been taught in optical or optometry school.

Now you find yourself competing for retail dollars with companies such as Lenscrafters, Apple, Starbucks, Home Depot, Abercrombie and Fitch. Powerful retailers, that have huge marketing budgets, just to name a few. What do you do to grow? Look around. Look at the
formula that these successful retailers are using. Go to SoHo. Look at all of the beautiful shops and shop windows. The displays. The lighting. Take from them what you wish and what you can afford. What are the better shops doing that you are not?

We have to realize first where the market is going. Retail is going in two directions - (1) better and (2) discount. The 'middle' is going away. All of the middle or moderate priced products have become volume discountable as well as online. Your suppliers have become your competitors (i.e. Luxottica, Marchon, even Essilor with Framesdirect.com).

Your choices are limited. You cannot do enough volume as an independent to go discount - so the ONLY alternative is to trade up... for those who have not yet done so. And with products that are not available online or in chain stores or discounters, is the only way that i see that you can compete. By the way - this happened in the ladies clothing business in the mid-to-late 1980s.

Thousands and thousands of moderately priced independent clothing stores went out of business, leaving better shops and discounters and later, online retailers to take their place. The middle moderate as we once knew it was gone.

The same thing is going to happen in optical (if not already). Having said all of this, you may ask "what are the solutions?". There is not once solution, but a host of many solutions.

Controlling your inventories and making certain that you always have your best products available is important and just one of the solutions. Having an inventory or frame replacement system is a solution. Making someone responsible for that is important and with daily consistency.

I have posted several articles for your pleasure. 'Controlling The Patient' is one of my favorites, as it sets the tone for that eye exam and what is expected of the patient. I also like 'Optical Goals'. Each has a different but similar message.

If you have further questions or would like me to consult with you, don't hesitate to get in contact.

All the best to you - it's a jungle out there... ready to be tamed!


Jamie Hansel

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