By Yoongie Min, OD
Ask all patients about their current sunwear, and take the initiative as doctor to prescribe sunwear in the exam room. Doing so will protect patients’ eyes from ultra-violet radiation and expand optical shop sales.
Selling additional sunwear is not only good for your practice’s bottom line. Much more importantly, it is essential to the eye health of patients. For that reason, my staff and I created protocols for inquiring about our patients’ current sunwear and then taking steps to put them in their first pair of quality sunwear, or provide them with needed protection. About seven to 10 percent of our current optical revenues stem from sunwear sales–an expanding percentage that we are expanding even further. Here is how we’re doing it.
Sunwear display in the window of Dr. Min’s practice, Northwest Vision Center in Columbus, Ohio.
Ask Patients About Sunwear
When patients make their appointment, we ask them to bring in all of their eyewear, including sunwear. That initial question plants the thought of sunwear in their heads. Once at the office, their interest can further be sparked while they wait for their appointment, as our reception area is adjacent to our optical shop, with some of the seating directly beneath the frame board’s sunwear displays. Our opticians might even go so far as to suggest that patients browse our optical shop while they wait for their appointment. That way they can come into the exam room primed to receive information about sunwear options. Rather than thinking of it as something they need, they will have seen the sunwear in a fashion context first in the optical shop.
Talk About Sunwear in the Exam Room
After I examine patients, I present an exam summary in which I discuss my key findings such as prescription changes and any areas of eye health concern. At that point, I open the subject of sunwear. If my staff has noted in their records that they already own sunwear, I will ask to look at the sunwear. If it is not quality sunwear, I discuss the dangers of wearing inadequate sun protection. If the pair of sunglasses is high-quality, I might mention further sunwear options such as prescription polarized sun protection or sports sun lenses. If the patient has no sunwear at all, I discuss the medical evidence supporting the need for sun protection.
For example, I point out the damage to the surface of the eye caused by the sun’s ultra-violet radiation, and I mention the role the sun plays in increasing the chances of getting cataracts and macular degeneration. In addition to eye health, I let hesitant patients know about Transitions adaptive lenses in which they get eyeglasses and sunwear all in one, and I also mention the added sensitivity of contact lens wearers’s eyes to the sun.
Paint a Picture for Patients–Literally
My words only go so far, so for the skeptical, I offer pictures of the surface of their eyes that show specifically where I am seeing sun damage. We use an anterior segment camera that can show conditions such as pinguecula and pterygium to patients. Many are surprised that they have any sun damage at all given that our practice is in Ohio–not exactly a tropical destination. I educate patients that you don’t need to live or travel to the tropics to experience continuous ultra-violet damage to the eyes. For instance, I might point out that the sun is equally damaging to the eyes on a bright winter day–or even an overcast day–and that the sun reflecting off of snow is one of the most intense ultra-violet experiences.
Sunwear displays are for more than just the window at Northwest Vision Center. This display is adjacent to the reception area so patients can browse while they wait for their appointment.
Present Transitions and Polarized Sunwear Demonstrations
Patients who want to see the difference sun protection can make can try on a demo pair of Transitions lenses or try on a pair of polarized sunwear. Often a patient is moved to invest in polarized sunwear after taking their current, non-polarized sunglasses and polarized demo sunwear outside and seeing the contrast.
Offer Discount on Second-Pairs Including Sunwear
VSP requires that we offer 30 percent off on second pairs, so we use that required discount to encourage patients to purchase a quality pair of sunglasses. We also offer this discount to private pay patients as it is an effective sales driver. Sometimes patients want to get sunwear or a new pair of sunglasses, and all they need is a little push–something a second-pair discount can provide.
Host Sunwear Trunk Shows
Once a year, we host a sunwear trunk show in which vendors display the latest fashions and we provide refreshments. The last sunwear trunk show we hosted brought in more than $5,000 in revenues and cost the practice no more than $200 in expenses. Besides attracting current patients who might be on the fence about buying sunwear, these trunk shows can be marketed on a practice’s Facebook page, web site or in the optical shop window to bring in new patients interested in browsing new styles.
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