Top Ways to Increase Walk-In Patients

By Linda Conlin,
Licensed Optician

March 28, 2018

Your walk-in business isn’t a matter of luck. How you promote your optical and your frame mix can have a direct effect on the amount of foot traffic you see. Here are keys to keeping the best inventory, and how best to promote that inventory, to bring walk-in patients into your office.

The average retail price of a pair of prescription eyeglasses is $227, with an average gross profit of 61 percent, or $138, according to the Management and Business Academy for Eye Care Professionals’ “Best Practices of Spectacle Lens Management.” Using those numbers, one walk-in patient per week will generate a gross profit of over $7,000 per year on what can be considered to be unplanned profit. So, it’s worth finding ways to bring more walk-in business into your practice.

Regularly changing out the products seen in your optical window gives passersby something new to be intrigued by, and maybe come in to explore.

Improve Your Window Displays
Most staff comes in the back door and gets right to work. We never see what our patients see when they come in the front door. Our latest styles and products, attractively displayed in a (clean!) window have an impact, not only on our existing patients, but on walk-in business, too. To rephrase an old saying, our windows are the eyes to our practice’s soul.

Window displays are advertising. They should showcase products that we specialize in and differentiate us from our competition (the practice’s soul). What we display is an invitation to see what’s inside.

Let potential customers know what your niche is, whether it’s fashion, sports, kids or another specialty. When we can get someone to come into our office by generating interest in our products, we gain a tremendous sales opportunity. It’s estimated that it costs about $500 in traditional advertising vehicles to get one new patient in the door. Window displays, especially when done by a creative staff member, cost a fraction of that amount.

For example, if you specialize in sports vision, devote part of your window display to showcasing your best-selling sports sunwear. You can easily bring attention to a display like that with accessories like tennis rackets, baseballs and bats, or bike helmets.

Sunwear is a year-round attention-grabber for your window, as it’s become a style enhancer, in addition to an important way for patients to protect their eyes.

Change Displays Monthly
Every month has a special occasion, so change displays monthly, if possible. That sends the message that you have something new. Sunglasses are always an attraction, and should be part of the display year round. Know what your competition is doing, and do something different. Your frame reps can be a great resource for frame selections that would be a good addition to the market, but no one else near your office carries.

You also can maximize holidays to refresh windows. For example, in October, purchase bags of candy and orange and black decorations, and scatter black and orange frames among the streamers and candy.

Or in February, do the same with red and pink frames, and candy hearts and red-tin-foiled chocolates.

You’ll find you can do this same simple quick decorating fix for your windows for nearly any month and holiday, even for Fourth of July. In that case, the frames, of course, would be red, blue and white, and the decorations would be of the same colors.

An optical shop window in the East Village neighborhood of New York City. The hanging gold and silver stars are attention-grabbers, encouraging people to stop and take a look.

Refine Your Frame Mix
2012 Jobson survey found that 56 percent of prescription eyeglass wearers reported that they selected their frames first, then the lenses. So play to the crowd, and by that I mean, know your demographic. We all love to see beautiful and unique high-end frames, but if your neighborhood doesn’t have that kind of budget, you will be perceived as overpriced. At the same time, avoiding the top designers in a wealthy community won’t bring much walk-in business. Income level isn’t the only consideration. Are you in a college town where there are many young people? Are you near a retirement community? Is your community primarily one of professionals or blue collar workers?

The majority of your frame mix should be geared to the largest demographic, but some product outside of that group will give you the variety and flexibility to accommodate more walk-in business.

Consider private label as a cost effective way to have something no one else does. (Think Warby Parker.) “Best Practices of Spectacle Lens Management” notes the average markup on a pair of glasses is 2.6, making the average materials cost about $87 for the average $227 sale. When using private-label frames reduces the material cost to $80, for example, the markup can increase to 2.8 to reach the $227 average. The 0.2 increase in markup results in an additional gross profit on that sale of $27. You now have variety, lower cost and higher profit.

Frame inventory is key to gaining new business and retaining existing business, and the elements of a good mix are:
• Know your demographic
• Stick with your niche–you can’t be all things to all people
• Window displays to show your niche (or as they say in real estate, “curb appeal”)
• Keep the frame selection fresh with frequent evaluation
• Don’t be afraid to experiment, especially with vendor arrangements and private label

Keep Inventory Fresh
Keeping your frame selection fresh is important to attract new business. Evaluate inventory quarterly to see what’s trending and to guide future purchases. A number of frame companies have arrangements in which, once or twice a year, you can swap out product that hasn’t sold. Those arrangements can allow you to try different styles with less risk of having them in inventory too long. Even if your demographic is relatively conservative, a few unique pieces can attract attention and appeal to the fashion conscious. Your frame rep may be able to give you a little advance notice on styles that may soon be discontinued, too.



Linda Conlin is a licensed optician and managing editor of 20/20 Magazine’s Pro-to-Pro Newsletter. To contact:


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