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I have visited literally dozens of opticals in the last several years. One of the biggest issues I find in the dispensary is what I have termed “optician bias”. This encompasses two different realms of concern: The act of buying frames, and the pre-judgment of potential customers. This article will focus on the first, and the second side of this will be addressed in a forthcoming post.
When I walk into a dispensary for the first time, I immediately begin assessing the inventory. A quick estimated count of frames, as well as manufacturers and collections. Inevitably, I find many lines that look alike on the frame boards, in some cases exactly the same, simply with a different name on the demo lenses. We have all been guilty of this, at one time or another. So how does it happen, and how do we fix it?
The reason this duplicate buying happens can be many reasons. We, as individuals, have our own tastes, and those tastes are reflected in our purchasing habits. We tend to lean toward what we like, and we end up with a dispensary filled with frames that appeal to us, but are not necessarily what our customers want.
Another mistake many frame buyers make is to become too “safe” in their buying habits. This results in a dispensary full of brown and black plastic frames, and similarly basic colors in the metal frames being shown.
The good news is that the solutions for ‘optician bias’ in frame buying are simple, and easy to implement.
1. Have more than one person order frames. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need five people sitting at a table with the frame rep during appointments. Some opticals have 2 designated frame buyers, and they work together with each rep. It’s best to choose buyers who have disparate taste in fashion, if possible. Or, alternatively, have the buyers deal with specific lines. One may deal with ½ of the product, the other buyer the other half. This will keep the dispensary showing a good variety of product.
2. Before putting in a frame, know your existing inventory. Ask yourself, as you flip over styles, “Do I have something that looks like this already represented on the boards?’. If the answer is yes, then you don’t need this frame. Choose frames that fill a niche for you, not ones that will compete against what you already have.
3. Use the same philosophy from solution #2 when debating on bringing in a new line. So many times dispensers will put a new line in simply because of the name, or they like the rep and want to do more business with that person. If the collection repeats something you already have, then you don’t need it. This is business, and you have to remember that.
4. Rather than ordering all black and brown, when you have a great selling style, go deeper in the colors. Greens and blues look great on blonds, and on those with grey hair. The berry tones are important for women over 30 who need a little color on their faces. Younger men like a bit of difference in their frames…so put in that navy blue, or olive green. Not only will your dispensary begin to have product that stands out, you will also see an increase in multiple pair sales as you offer a favorite color to a customer to complement the basic choice they’ve already made.
Admitting you do tend to lean toward a certain type/color/style of frame is the first step toward fixing the issue. Once you address this issue, you’ll be on your way to a more fun, exciting sales experience, for yourself and your customers.
Nikki DiBacco, ABO/NCLE, is an educator, writer and owner of DnD Consulting&Design. She is also co-founder of The Visionaries Group. Learn more at www.visionariesgroup.com