By Chad Fleming, OD, FAAO
May 6, 2020
We are all looking for ways to distinguish our optical while increasing frame-inventory profitability. I found an optical partner that is helping me accomplish both of those goals.
I have found both my patients’ experience in the optical, and my profitability, enhanced since introducing Twelve84 to my practice.
More Than Glasses, A New Approach to Optical Inventory Management
Twelve84 is more than glasses; it’s a way for private practices to have their own in-house brand. Just as companies like Cabelas, Best Buy and Amazon have proprietary brands, we as private practices can have our own competitive in-house brand.
Working with Twelve84 is simple. Once you agree to carry Twelve84 products, you are set up with an assortment of frames. The marketing and pricing of the eyewear supplied to your practice is already in place with nothing further for you or your staff to do. The frames are provided on a consignment basis, meaning you don’t pay for them until they are sold.
Twelve84 has simple merchandise and pricing options for patients that also make it simple for my staff. Patients do not use managed-care vision plans to purchase Twelve84 products, but many can get Twelve84 eyewear for the same amount they would pay for other brands using their vision insurance. Our employees are trained to present two options to those patients who have managed vision care plans. One option is to use their vision benefit and pick any other frame available in our optical or they can choose the Twelve84 in-house option.
The benefit of this business model is that you don’t have thousands of dollars tied up in frame inventory. From a business perspective this is huge for many reasons. Inventory costs you money. If you have $50,000 of frame inventory, and then have to buy a $50,000 piece of equipment, you most likely borrow money at a percentage to pay for that piece of equipment. When money is not tied up in inventory it can be used for other things. All businesses have to wisely manage inventory to sustain good profits.
Patient Satisfaction With Higher Practice Profitability
The value in Twelve84 is easy. First, all Twelve84 purchases are cash purchases. So, the profits are much higher for us when someone purchases a product that we do not have to file insurance for and process through our accounting department. It is immediate money in the bank.
We have grown approximately 25-30 percent in our optical for the past three years due to keeping more patients in the optical who are non-managed vision care patients. We did not realize the number of people we were losing due to not having a value-based proposition for their eyecare. We had package pricing at $99 for a pair of SV, AR, mid-index, but we did not have the branding piece that Twelve84 has (see photo to the right).
Twelve84 makes eyewear easy to present for opticians and easy to understand for patients. Within the first year with Twelve84 in our practice, which was three years ago, we sold $50,000+ of products. We are generating over $100,000 annually in Twelve84 product sales, and that is all from cash-paying patients. This has been a great growth area for us, as we now have a value proposition that competes with Costco, Sam’s Club and Warby Parker.
Free Your Staff’s Time & Increase Cost Efficiency
Our inventory management has moved away from our office personnel and has become the responsibility of frame companies. We have 95 percent of our four locations on consignment. We participate in what we call the “Partners in Profit” frame-board management system, which originated from the approach that Twelve84 brought to us. Partners in Profit is a consignment-based program featuring multiple vendors who supply frames. Twelve84 was the first company that I worked with to put frames on our board without the heavy investment of inventory that comes with it.
I then used that approach with other vendors and now have major companies putting frames on our boards in a consignment fashion. The discounts for frames has also increased because of this model resulting in approximately 10 percent more profitability per frame purchase.
This consignment model is the future for private practice, helping to ensure our profitability. Once all frames are in the consignment setup, we can delegate inventory management to the frame companies, which put their best stuff on the board for us to sell. Our staff then keeps all inventory on the board and drop-ships orders to the lab, meaning the frame ships directly from the manufacturer to the lab. That means no more packaging up of frames and sending them in. This gets rid of a lot of useless shipping costs also.
Create a Friction-Free, 21st Century Optical Experience
Twelve84 makes the experience for patients fast and efficient. The Twelve84 selection of frames gives us something that competes with Warby Parker and other fresh, trendy options that our patients want. In fact, many of my family members wear Twelve84 glasses.
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Patients do not want to be in the office longer than 45 minutes. We have Google Reviews of our practice praising us for giving them an exam and glasses in 30 minutes (these patients were most likely not dilated and we utilized the Optos to view the retina. Or the patient decided not to be dilated understanding the risks). We are able to do that thanks to the great products and efficiency provided by Twelve84. It is this high level of products and service and will keep prescriptions from leaving a practice. Twelve84 has been a key to boosting both our patient satisfaction and eyewear capture rate. It has been a positive addition to our optical for both our patients and us.
Chad Fleming, OD, FAAO, is a partner with Wichita Optometry, P. A. in Wichita, Kan. To contact: email@example.com