By Colleen Hannegan, ABOC, CPO
July 11, 2018
With summer in full swing, children are home from school. In between summer camp and other fun, parents often find time to squeeze in a trip to the eye doctor. With young people streaming into your office in the next few months, you have an opportunity to provide care–and to sell more of the products they need.
I’ve worked with numerous parents and children in my three decades of work as an optician, but I recently found someone who has even more experience–and expertise–than me in this area: children’s eyecare specialist Danielle Crull, the owner of the independent optical shop A Child’s Eyes, with locations in Mechanicsburg and York, Pa. The shop, which only sells eyewear for children and teens, has a large referral base from local ODs and pediatricians. Crull recently shared her insights with me.
Children Have a Personal Style to Complement
“For grade-schoolers it’s all about the merchandising!” says Crull. “They want glasses that express their particular style and interests. It doesn’t necessarily have to say Disney or Iron Man, but it can represent their personal preferences in color, or by design.
Girls are really into light blue because of ‘Frozen,’ and boys are loving reds, and bright, fluorescent green. I always take a look at what the child is wearing. You can find out a lot about their interest. They may have a Batman shirt, or My Little Pony sneakers. Even just a green shirt might tell you their favorite color. These things give you a place to begin. ‘Do you like Batman? Look at these cool black and yellow frames!’ Of course, If you have Batman glasses, that’s even better!”
Speak Directly to the Child
Crull notes the importance of interacting with the child, regardless of how old they are, or how able to communicate.“When it comes to interaction, I always speak directly to the child. Even if they are two or three, or even six months. If I’m going to put something on their face, I better at least say ‘Hi’ first. Speak directly to your little kiddos in strollers or wheelchairs, even if they are non-verbal. Just smile, touch their arm and say, ‘You are going to love your glasses!’” she advises.
Just as you would educate an adult patient, take time to educate children in your optical. “I often explain things to the child while the parent is listening. Things about how the glasses should feel, how they should expect to see out of them, and what my job is. I always want the children to know upfront that first, the glasses they try on now will not help them see better, yet!
Secondly, I want them to know that it’s my job to make them feel good. So if they love a frame, and something is bothering them, they can tell me, and I can tell them if I can fix it for them. Most children have no idea about what an optician does, and often the parents don’t either. So, I have this conversation with the child, but the parent is also informed by listening in.”
Talk Lifestyle with Parents & Kids
It also helps to remember that, along with personal style, kids have interests and activities you can discuss with them. “Ask questions, find out about their likes. We do this with adults, why not with kiddos?” says Crull. “You want to know if your adult patient golfs, or works on computers, so why wouldn’t you want to know if your kiddo likes to play football, Minecraft, or does gymnastics? This information helps the glasses become real. ‘These glasses are going to help you build awesome things in Minecraft!'”
She says in the process of interacting to remember that children have shorter attention spans than adults. “You want to narrow things down quickly. Do they want metal or plastic frames? What colors do they like? Any special fitting requirements? Once you have these questions answered you can significantly narrow things down to a few frames, and make the decision much faster for both parent and child.”
Don’t Be the Parent’s Banker
It’s best to present the frames first, and educate on the lens options, and then broach the subject of cost, only if the parent asks about it. “In terms of cost, I don’t discuss it unless the parent gives me a heads-up,” says Crull. “Once most parents understand the benefits of the eyewear you have found for their child, the cost will be acceptable. You can’t put a price on the frame a child will love. I help the parent understand that when a child loves their glasses, they will wear them well, they will take care of them and overall they will have better and more consistent vision!”
Get Help From Your Vendors
Your vendors are more than your salespeople; they can be valuable consultants, including in how best to sell children’s eyewear. “Vendors are happy to provide you with promotional material. When you buy a frame, the vendor wants you to promote and display it. Ask them to send you some POP! Guess, Skechers, Converse, Dilli Dalli, they all have great signage for you to use,” says Crull. “Look at what they offer, and get what fits your dispensary. Sometimes I just love a little plaque that I can display one awesome frame on. You can make a nice, eye-catching display with one or two frames and a counter card. But if you have a lot of room, get a banner or a floor display!”
Style and looks are important for children’s eyewear, but durability also is essential. “Most companies make children’s eyewear with children in mind!” says Crull. “That’s good because they are generally more lenient on warranties. You need to have some flexible frames. I love Soft Touch from Dilli Dalli and the Turbo flex hinges from Aspex! Polycarbonate, or Trivex, lenses are the materials of choice for kiddos due to their extreme impact resistance.”
Offer a Strong Warranty Policy
All patients appreciate generous warranty policies, such as those allowing a new pair of glasses to be made at no additional charge for the first 6-12 months following purchase, but this is even more important in sales of children’s eyewear. “Warranty is a must for children. You need to have a warranty that works well with your practice. You need one that you are comfortable explaining to the parents as fair to everyone involved. Kids will break even the seemingly unbreakable. It’s best to discuss this upfront,” says Crull. “Whatever warranty you offer, it’s best to deal with companies that will back you up on the other end. If there’s a company that is very strict about their product warranty, then simply don’t carry it, or only sell it to those kiddos that you feel will treat it well.”
Encourage Second-Pair Sales
Children often can benefit from multiple pairs of eyewear, too. If nothing else, every child needs sunwear, and many others could also benefit from computer eyewear that protects their eyes from harmful blue light. “Absolutely offer a discount on a second pair, or on sunglasses, or sport protective eyewear,” says Crull. “I approach it with the fact that your child needs to see all the time, and these glasses are great for most of the time, but swimming is a problem, sports require special protective eyewear. This is where all that talking in the beginning really pays off! If little Chloe is going to be at the pool all summer long, then we will need sunglasses, and probably swim goggles as well!”
Get Creative in Marketing & Promotions
Crull recently created a cleaning-cloth contest with designs created by her pint-sized customers. Four winners were chosen, and their designs were made into cleaning cloths that were then featured in her shop, and on her practice’s Facebook page.
Take a closer look at your children’s dispensing area with a child-like view, she advises. If you were 5-years-old, and pint size, would walking into your children’s corner of the office to try on your first pair of glasses be colorful, fun and made just with you in mind? Would it make you feel like someone really understood what you wanted?
You need to appeal to parents, but you equally need to appeal to the people the eyewear is for–the children themselves. Do that, and the children you serve will be asking their parents if they can return to your office for their next pair of glasses.
Colleen Hannegan, ABOC, CPO, a licensed optician, owns Spirited Business Advisor. This consultancy works with small businesses, including independent eyecare practices, on how best to serve customers and generate profitability. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org