By Dale Buettner, OD
Discussing sports participation with patients identifies special visual needs, and that leads to sales of exciting new products in sports eyewear.
INVEST IN SPORTS PRODUCT LINES. Eyewear from tech-forward brands can serve patients well.
INCREASE AWARENESS & OFFER EXAM ROOM EDUCATION. Explain that just as you need good footwear for your sport, you also need protective, vision-enhancing eyewear.
CREATE SPECIAL DISPLAYS THAT SHOW NEW, HIP STYLES. Show that you specialize in sports eyewear and that your office is the place to shop. Have enough inventory on display to show how fashionable today’s sports eyewear can be.
If you ask your patients about lifestyle needs, you likely will find that many are sports enthusiasts and amateur athletes. When I discuss patient eyewear needs in the exam room, I educate patients about how the right sports eyewear can protect their eyes and improve visual acuity, leading to better athletic performance.
INVEST IN SPORTS PRODUCT LINES
We offer a range of sports eyewear such as Liberty Sports’ polycarbonate prescription glasses that can even be worn in sports where a helmet is required like football. Instead of a temple, these glasses are held in place with a strap on each side. The strap allows the glasses to stay in place as the athlete moves, whereas a pair of glasses held in place with a conventional temple, would easily fall away.
Other sports eyewear we sell have frames that are made of a durable plastic that have rubber padding, so if the wearer gets hit, the plastic isn’t going to break and the padding is going to protect their skin. There also are pressure points to keep the glasses in place.
The average out-of-pocket cost to patients for sports glasses in our office is usually around $179, with patients able to use our second-pair discount of 30 percent off their second pair of glasses purchased during a visit.
Sports eyewear on display in Dr. Buettner’s optical dispensary.
OFFER EXAM ROOM EDUCATION
I begin the conversation about sports eyewear after addressing the need for the patient’s primary glasses: “Now that we’ve talked about your regular, everyday glasses, now let’s talk about your sports glasses. You mentioned that you play basketball during the summer almost every weekend and that you also are part of a local softball league. We have glasses available–at 30 percent off since this would be your second pair purchased during this office visit–that can protect your eyes while you do these sports, and even help you see better–helping you make more of those shots.”
Patients who have never worn glasses or contact lenses before are the hardest to educate on the importance of sports eyewear. If the pair of glasses you just prescribed are their first, they probably don’t easily understand the challenges that will arise wearing glasses in the gym or on the field: “These regular glasses are great for school when you’re sitting in class, but are a no-go for gym class and baseball. The material they are made of shatter easily and could cut your eye, and they won’t stay on your face too well when you’re running around.”
Since sports eyewear education often includes the need to educate parents about why that second pair is worth the spend, I use easy comparisons to make the point: “You’re going to get Billy the best football cleats or basketball sneakers, so you’re not going to skimp now on their eye protection, right?”
SHOW OFF NEW, HIP SPORTS EYEWEAR STYLES
Sports eyewear has come a long way in recent years. Whereas sports eyewear sometimes used to look like cumbersome goggles, today protective, vision-enhancing sports eyewear often just looks like a cool pair of sunglasses. For example, I point out to my patients who are motorcycle riders our Wiley X line of eyewear. Motorcycle riders in my practice’s state, Wisconsin, are not legally required to wear a helmet, so they need something to protect their eyes. The Wiley X line has a wraparound frame and lens with protection on the inside of the frame to keep the wind from blowing into the rider’s eyes. When the rider gets to their destination, they can then pop the wind protector out from the inside of the frame, and the eyewear looks like any other pair of trendy sunglasses. We sell such motorcycle glasses for $250-$300, the lenses’ frequent inclusion of AR with Transitions or polarized lenses making them more expensive than other sports glasses.
When successfully serving a population like motorcycle enthusiasts, you will find a great source of referrals. Enthusiasts tend to hang out together, and when they do, the name of the eye doctor who sold them those great riding sunglasses just may come up.
Interviewing the Patient
Dave Ziegler, OD, FAAO, of Ziegler-Leffingwell, in West Allis, Wis., explains that simply asking the patient a series of lifestyle questions enables a practice to greatly help to satisfy that patient’s varied eyewear needs. >>READ MORE>>
DON’T OVERLOOK SALE OF PLANO SPORTS EYEWEAR
Patients who don’t need corrective lenses are also often good candidates for sports eyewear. For instance, many could benefit from Nike’s plano Engineered line of lenses which use a series of colored tints to block out disruptive light. The golf lenses have a purplish tint enabling the player to see the ball against the green better, enhancing whites, so the golfer can spot the ball faster. It’s an interchangeable lens in which the wearer can pop out the lens and fit in another lens with polarization for boating or driving.
All patients involved in sports can also benefit from a clear sports wraparound shield we sell for under $30 that offers protection from eye pokes. This is a particularly good option for sports enthusiasts who wear contact lenses.
BEAT PATIENTS TO THE QUESTION
Sometimes it’s a wake-up call for me when a patient asks me about the availability of sports eyewear that I should have told them about. We should be the ones directing the patient, so when that happens, I feel like I’ve dropped the ball. We haven’t invested yet in specialty hunting or shooting tinted lenses, but we may in the coming years. Our goal is to be able to accommodate patients’ sports vision needs, whatever they may be.
We have an in-take form in which patients can indicate sports participation by circling a long list of sports, from golf to boating and beyond. Nevertheless, I always ask about sports participation in the exam room–you never know, a patient may be involved with a sport not listed on the form, like karate.
USE POINT-OF-SALE MATERIALS IN OFFICE
We have sports eyewear promotional materials in the office including posters from companies like Nike and Liberty Sports. We’ve also issued press releases about sportswear and I’ve done interviews with local media on how to protect your eyes when playing sports. We also sometimes tie promotional discounts on sports eyewear to events like National Eye Injury Month in September and back-to-school season.
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