By Linda Hardy, LDO, CPOT, COA
May 18, 2016
Analyze Your Patient Demographics
Understanding your patient base is a must. Does your office see an overload of children? Are your clients primarily geriatric patients? Do you live in an area that is trendy with college students, or young adults, looking for the most popular names and styles? This all goes into managing your practice’s frame inventory.
For example, a practice with an upper-income, younger, urban-based population would invest in a greater number of fashion-forward frames at a high price point than a practice with a rural patient base with a lower average income, and a more conservative style, would. If the vast majority of your patient base is not interested in fashion-forward frames, it doesn’t make sense to take up valuable board space marketing those kinds of frames. You could use that space to show a greater number of more conservative, value-driven styles that your patients would be more likely to buy.
I manage an optical shop in a suburb of Atlanta, but it is still a smaller Southern town. We have a lot of manufacturing companies that we work with so I like to make sure that we have several titanium, good quality frames that are fairly priced. Our best sells are with Bulova Twist Titanium frames. They are easy to adjust, rarely do we have breakages. The company always has great promotions on large orders, so it’s a win-win situation.
I have also learned throughout my years trying new frame lines that our patients do not care about labels. They could care less if it is a Gucci or an Anne Klein. Most of our patients want frames that their insurance can cover or at least cover the majority, and that they are good quality. I have brought in Burberry and other high-priced lines. Patients like to try them on, but once they hear the price difference they generally go to a similar design, but at a lesser cost. I offer the Silhouette lines, but most patients who purchase these lines come in prepared for the expense.
One of the frame boards in Hardy’s office. Hardy recommends tailoring your selection to meet your patients’ specific demographics and buying patterns.
Define Maximum Number of Frame Reps Needed
One of the reasons that dispensaries often end up with piles of under-stock frames is there are too many frame reps visiting the office. Each office, no matter the amount of frames needed, only needs seven frame representatives: five basic reps to cover the majority of the boards, one high-end line rep from a company that is well known, and one rep with lesser expensive lines for patients who need a budget-oriented pair of glasses.
The main reason that so few reps are needed is that most frame lines now are very similar. Years ago many frame lines had specific looks and styles. You could take a glance at a frame and know what company made it; Cazals, Silhouettes, Rodenstocks, Raybans, etc. Now I have frames from New York Eye and Altair that look like a Rayban Wayfarer, I have Cote D’Azur frames that look like Cazals, and now most every frame line has its own style of drill mount frames.
Define Ideal Number of Frame Lines
Once you have chosen the frame lines, you will need to make a count of how many of what line your office needs. And try to stick to it. You may find that you need to update the counts due to what sells. It is an ongoing, tedious job. Also, take advantage of any promotions your frame companies have. They can be very profitable. Many companies give extra discounts for a certain amount of frames purchased, and you can get free frames from other companies. The ways to save money and make extra profits are endless.
I have a total of seven lines that we carry. Five are basic lines that have some well known lines and other lines that are just practical. I have the Silhouette line, which is my higher priced line, I have the New York Eye line that is more of my budget line.
Offer Consignment Line
Consignment lines typically feature well-known designer frame lines. They send different styles over a pre-determined period of time. Every month a checklist of in-stock frames is completed and sent so that the sold frames can be replaced. The frames sold are then billed to you. You can always send back styles you don’t want, and since it is consignment, there is no investment in a product that is non-returnable.
Our office works with Altair. They have great frames, Anne Klein, Tommy Bahama, Bebe, and they also carry a great clip on line called Sunlite. For VSP patients, if they choose an Altair frame they get a higher allowance to use on these frames. They are easily returned, and the checklist is online so it makes for an easy count of frames.
Hardy says limiting selection, as her optical does in this frame display, allows opticians to help narrow the selection for patients to what will most likely appeal to them–and what they most likely will buy.
Beginning the Streamlining Process
Streamlining a dispensary can take a while. It took me almost two years to streamline the one I currently manage. We had several reps, at least 10, who were on a six- to eight-week rotation. Sometimes these reps were just coming in and doing a count, never taking back non-selling product, and just adding to the amount of under-stock.
Be sure to understand that if a frame is not on the board, it will not sell unless you are constantly bringing out frames to show patients, and this is not always possible, especially for a very busy dispensary. I had to choose the lines that I knew would sell and that we could get the best price point for.
You may need to take advantage of buy-back programs with frame companies you keep, to get rid of the lines you have scratched off the list. And I am not a fan of set rotations. I like to call a rep when I need them. I really appreciate when they call me and check to see if we need anything. I also like the ability to e-mail my rep orders. It makes it so easy to replace the frames you need without the visit.
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