By Stuart J. Thomas, OD,
and Ellen Byrum-Goad, LDO
Dec. 9, 2015
Optical sales can slow in the winter months–but effective seasonal promotions can stimulate exams and optical sales.
TEACH SUN PROTECTION. Educate patient on protecting their eyes from the winter sun, and show the sun products you sell.
CELEBRATE HOLIDAY SPIRIT. Decorate your windows and office, have a holiday party or trunk show and offer special promotions.
THROW END-OF-YEAR SALE. Tie holiday promotions to end-of-year sales that make room for the next year’s merchandise.
The winter season offers practices a great opportunity to promote products, such as sunwear, that patients may not associate with the colder time of year. Last year, we sold 22 frames in a closeout end-of-the-year sale, for which patients paid the full price on the lenses. This year we are hoping to do the same–or even better.
Throw an End-of-Year Sale
An end-of-the-year sale is an effective way to move stale merchandise. Through DemandForce we do an e-mail blast about using health reimbursement accounts/health spending account money to get that second pair, and include the savings that we have on “closeout” frames. Our staff knows our costs of goods, and they are allowed to play “Let’s Make a Deal” with closeouts. I usually spiff them $2 for every close out they get rid of, which ends up being a modest outlay considering the numbers of closeout frames we sell.
Teach Winter Sun Protection
The biggest eyewear challenge during the winter is getting patients to realize that sun protection for their eyes is just as important in the winter as in the summer. Our practice in Athens, Ga., has noticed that if Southerners aren’t hot, they don’t realize the damage of UV rays. We have made more than one conversion by demonstrating polarized lenses to patients and explaining to them how much safer they will be driving. For many, the sun is lower on the horizon during the commute home and back from work during the winter months, which puts it right in many patients’ faces on a morning commute heading East, or a commute toward the West in the evening.
This year we have been focused on moving plano sunwear, and we are doing marginally better than last year. Our hope is that by continuing to make a push to educate patients about the need to protect their eyes from the sun, we can improve plano sales more significantly.
A polar bear frame display in the window of Thomas Eye Center in Athens, Ga., leverages the holiday season and winter spirit.
Make Lenses Free for Kids
We do a Kids See Free promotion during the holiday season, and parents love this. The promotion offers single-vision polycarbonate lenses for children that are no-charge as long as they are in a stock range. Parents always buy the AR we sell for $125, and so that covers the cost of the lenses. Frame purchase is mandatory. You get the frame sale and the AR, and make a tidy profit on the children’s glasses. This has been a growing portion of our business for the past two years. You get the kids, you get the parents. And Kids See Free is something our competition hates us for.
Decorate with Holiday Decor
We love Christmas décor, and we put enough up to look like a store selling it. We don’t have exterior “shopping” windows. You have to come into our optical to see the décor. We are in a professional medical complex. I saw large plastic balls that had holes cut out in them at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby – they looked exactly like clear ornaments, but large enough to set a frame in. You can fill the bottom with red, green and gold filler paper. Hang them about with sunglasses in them! Put red bows on top. I would give up much to have a window for the public to look in from the street or sidewalk and see our products. If you are fortunate enough to have a street- or sidewalk-facing window, take advantage of the opportunity, and create holiday-themed windows.
Thomas Eye Center e-mails patients, encouraging them to use their health reimbursement accounts and flex-spending accounts by the end of the year. Promotions are effective when offering special package deals.
The week of Christmas, we serve warm cider and cookies in our office. The patients who are pre-appointed often ask to come in that week specifically because they love it. All week long it is like a visit with family and friends.
Change Your Frame Board Color Palette
For the winter, the selection of frames on our board does not change, but the colors do. We tone down for the winter months and lighten up for spring and summer. That means you would see more blacks, browns and deep colors, like wine reds, for the winter, in contrast to the greater number of frames in lighter shades like pink or baby blue, that you might see during the spring and summer months.
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Stuart J. Thomas, OD, is the owner of Thomas Eye Center in Athens, Ga.
Ellen Byrum-Goad, LDO, is practice manager. To contact: Ellen.Goad@thomaseyecenter.com