April 6, 2016
Independent opticals have stiff competition from sunglass specialty stores, among others, in sales of plano sunwear, findings from The Vision Council’s VisionWatch December 2015 Plano Sunglass Report suggest. Plano sunglass sales from the prior year at sunglass specialty stores grew by 5.5 percent, compared to 2.5 percent growth during that same time period at independent opticals. Sales of plano sunwear grew by 4.4 percent at sporting goods stores, 4.3 percent at flea market/street vendors, 4.2 percent at drug/grocery/mass/warehouse clubs, 3.8 percent at better department and specialty stores, and 3 percent at optical chains.
What is the potential for plano sunglass sales in the average practice? If 61 percent of patients need a prescription, then 39 percent of patients could benefit from plano sunglasses. If the average practice has about 30 percent of the patients wearing contact lenses, then that adds another 30 percent who would benefit from plano sunglasses: 39 percent + 30 percent = 69 percent. The market potential for sunglasses is huge.
The key question is how are we doing? Let’s do a little drill down on the findings from The Vision Council’s VisionWatch December 2015 Plano Sunglass Report to see if we can find that answer and, more importantly, a path forward.
First, let’s look at the dollars. From the Vision Council’s Retail Dollars by Channel chart below you can see that the optical independent beats flea market/street vendors. But it’s not much of a victory to be next to last. If the top tier for retail dollars is sunglass specialty, then the second tier would be drug/grocery/mass warehouse club and better department & specialty stores. That puts the optical independent in the distant third tier.
So, what do sunglass specialty locations have that drive them to collect so many retail dollars? The answer is excellent merchandising and a higher price point. Let’s start with excellent merchandising. A Google search of “specialty sunglass stores” returned Solstice as the number one answer. Here’s a picture of a Solstice location.
Sunglass Hut is another sunglass specialty store. Here’s a picture of a Sunglass Hut location.
We can learn merchandising lessons from these pictures. Does this look like the sunglass display in your optical? Do you show enough product so a patient walking into your optical believes they can find what they want? Does the patient see brand names that they recognize so that they believe the products you carry will meet their needs? Does your optical have clean lines and a modern appearance?
Price point is the other issue we need to explore. The Vision Council’s VisionWatch December 2015 Plano Sunglass Report tells us the average retail price for plano sunglasses in 2015 was $39.25. Keep that price in mind as you look at the next chart from the Plano Sunglass Report showing unit sales.
The drug/grocery/mass warehouse club is offering lower price points. That gives them the higher number of unit sales. Putting the two charts together, sunglass specialty takes in the most money while selling only about a third of the units sold by drug/grocery/mass warehouse club. The only way to have higher dollars with lower number of units is to have a higher price point. Anyone who has shopped sunglass specialty locations knows that to be true.
The strategy used by drug/grocery/mass warehouse club channel is a lower price point, which creates the highest number of units sold, and generates the second highest number of dollars collected.
The strategy used by the sunglass specialty channel is a higher price point that generates more dollars collected than the drug/grocery/mass warehouse club channel by more than two times with less than a third of the units sold.
What strategy is being used by the optical independent? The Units by Channel chart shows the optical independent comes in last place, and in Retail Dollars by Channel, we come in next to last place. Whatever strategies we are using do not seem to be working. Something has to change.
Based on what you learned from the analysis of The Vision Council’s VisionWatch December 2015 Plano Sunglass Report, here’s the plan.
1) Make sure you have maximized the visual merchandising in your optical. Learn from sunglass specialty locations how you can improve your optical. Have a staff member or two go out as secret shoppers with the task of bringing back three dynamic changes you can make in your own optical.
2) Re-examine your price point strategy. Learn from the sunglass specialty channel strategy.
Take this week to address to these two areas and radically change your plano sunglass sales. Start by making this the focus of your next office meeting.