Many retailers, large and small, offer layaway programs, allowing customers to pay for products over time. While the terms vary from company to company, the premise is still the same: product is held for the consumer for a set period, while the consumer makes payments toward owning it. Can you use this same concept in your eyecare office? Yes, and it will work, for many reasons.
Just a few years ago, layaway seemed near death. The old-fashioned payment program had fallen out of favor with the vast majority of shoppers, and only a few retailers thought layaway was worth the time and hassle to keep it alive. Suddenly, though, major retail chains are battling it out for layaway program supremacy. What happened? There are several suggested causes, but most likely the downtrend in the economy is bringing the need for layaway back. Fewer people have credit cards now, as one of many results of the recession-credit scores have plummeted, so the easy ability to get credit we all enjoyed a few years ago is no longer available.
Eyewear is expensive. Even ‘budget’ eyewear is not necessarily affordable for some potential customers to have to shell out money all at once for. Think of the college student, the young married couple just starting out, or even the retiree who receives a fixed amount of money each month to live on. All of these potential customers would benefit from a layaway program in your optical store. Yes, they could try to save up on their own to purchase, but layaway allows them to be more impulsive, with the immediate gratification of knowing they have made ‘a purchase’-even if that only entails putting a down payment toward the purchase.
You’ll get bigger sales. If someone knows they can put a pair of glasses on layaway, they are more likely to spend more. They are also more likely to pick out multiple pairs or glasses and sunglasses. They will also have to visit your store at least a few times to make payments-and every visit has the potential to sell, since they will probably at some point bring a friend or relative with them. More opportunity for impulsive purchases, each and every time they walk in your door.
Now, the cautionary side of what is truly a good business marketing concept. You will have to write up an agreement for the customer to sign, explaining your layaway policy, and what possible penalties they may face if they don’t complete the payoff. I suggest the following:
- A 10-20% down payment that is non-refundable (explain that you are pulling your product out of inventory, thereby losing the chance to sell it-most retailers do something along these lines)
- A relatively short time of layaway-I’d say no more than 90 days. This way if the customer defaults, you don’t have product that is 6 months old or older needing to be placed back into inventory.
- A schedule of payments-give them a date, and an amount that they are to pay. You can place this right into the layaway ‘contract’. Subtract their initial payment from the total, then divide the remainder up equally based upon the amount of time of the layaway.
- Explain the glasses will be ready in your normal time period (however long your office normally takes to produce eyewear) AFTER the layaway is paid off. You will be surprised how many customers will pay it off earlier simply because they can’t wait to get their new eyewear.
- Place a disclaimer regarding ‘exchanges’ after a certain period into the layaway. You don’t want them coming in after 50 days and deciding they want a different frame.
While I don’t suggest you place huge signs all over your office regarding layaway, I do strongly urge you to begin to use it as a selling tool. If someone seems hesitant about a purchase, or perhaps buying multiple pairs, layaway is a great opportunity to capture that sale-and that, ultimately, is the goal.
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