Article by Andy Tabrizipour / Gazal Eyewear
With all the constant changes creating a successful business in the eye care can be tricky. One of the biggest components to success is frame inventory purchases. Not planning out your inventory lineup can be detrimental by reducing sales and increasing debt. You can create an eye-popping display, make your patients happy, & improve profits all through inventory setup. Each Optical practice has different ideas on what frame inventory they should stock to make their business more successful. Some of us focus on just the numbers while many of us will go for what they like or the “hippest “frames. Neither of these approaches are wrong but limiting your focus can leave a lot of risk to business success. There are many ways to “beef up” what you may or may not stock to not only make your customers happier, but attract new types of patients, and improve your bank account.
How to Choose the Right Eyewear Brand Mix
Having a balanced inventory mix is always difficult because many of us cannot predict fashion trends, or just have never had exposure to a unique brand that speaks to us on a personal level. Keep it simple and remember that there are products that are just going to move no matter what. There are the patients that only want black or tortoise frames and then the consumers that want only color. Obviously, if you stock just black frames you will miss out on a ton of sales and new patients. Many practices are now so excited about all the new colors and unique designs that they forget to stock a few standard colors and shapes. Keep a good blend of standard colors and make sure you balance it out with some fun shapes and colors. Just because you do not like round frames doesn’t mean it won’t sell well. Round frames may not fly off your boards, but its good to have the right ratio in stock.
Identifying Different Eyewear Types:
- Fashion Eyewear Brands: These are big eyewear brand names such as Gucci, Chanel, Tom Ford, Coach, etc. Easily recognizable and they usually make multiple products such as clothing, jewelry, & other accessories.
Contrary to what many believe these brands are not crucial to success. I am not picking on fashion brands but many believe that they have to have these brands in order to succeed but this could not be further from the truth. Big brands may drive a few patients a year into the door just because you stock them but may not be enough to justify the thought that one single brand is going to keep you in business. You could very easily stock your store with brands that are not very popular and focus on marketing your boutique in different ways. If you want the marketing behind big names, keep in mind that these products are popular which means that they are easily obtainable almost anywhere. The high level of competition especially from much larger companies will drive down ROI. Patients can buy these products anywhere, which means there is no reason for them to come back next year. Another problem that can arise with fashion brands is changing trends. One year a brand maybe super popular, but the next year it may completely lose that hype. Now you are stuck with a lot of inventory that is hard to move. It is okay to have a few of these lines but going too deep can cause lots of trouble down the road when the trends change.
- Comfort/Tech Brands: Eyewear lines that have unique designs that focus on comfort & durability such as Lindberg, Silhoutte, Starck, Innotec, Blackfin, etc
These brands may or may not follow the fashion trends but their own particular style. The customer following behind these brands are very strong and loyal. Tech brands have or will solve an issue for your customer, which creates instant loyalty to the brand but more importantly you. Having at least one brand that fits into this category really separates you from the competition and drives patients that return year after year.
- Insurance / Door Savers Brands:
These eyewear brands are the most basic and lowest priced available, and it is the price that attracts customers to it. Unless your main goal is to have the best prices in town, and you want to focus on quantity not quality, I would not buy too heavy in this department. Many make the mistake that they need more of this category and most just “will not spend” more than their insurance allowance. There is a big difference between what someone can spend and what they are willing to spend on eyewear. With lower pricing comes lower profit margins which will in turn create a need to constantly increase the quantity that needs to be sold.
It is good to have at least one brand in this section so you can capture patients that fit into this category. You never know what they will buy next year. It is also very helpful to have these brands side by side to your luxury brands so you have the opportunity to educate the consumer on the difference and “why” the other eyewear brands are worth more.
- Unique & Independent Label Brands: These are brands that your patients will connect with on a more personal level. They are unique, and not something that every optical shop in town is offering.
Independent eyewear lines are usually the hardest brands to get on your shelf because you need to have some street credit (other luxury brands on the shevles) to get these brands to even consider opening up your account. Wholesale pricing can be similar to the other brand types from super basic to ultra-luxury, but the ROI is usually there. These are highly recommended to have in your shop and to make up a good percentage for multiple reasons. Have unique products and services differentiates you from big box retailers, online websites, and local competition. It also gives your patients another reason to visit you year after year to see what is new from their new favorite brand. If you are able obtain some of these rare finds, then you are in luck. Be sure to ask the rep what the best sellers are, exchange rate, warranty, and any additional questions you may have. Do not be afraid to ask and stock the top sellers from the rep, they should know their brand pretty well and what moves.
I am sure you are now wondering how much or what ratio of each of these brands I should stock, & how can I find them? You may also be saying that my patients won’t spend that much money on eyeglasses. The saying “If you build it they will come” has a lot of truth here. If you stock mostly bargain priced frames, each year that you are open you will attract more and more patients looking for bargain deals. However, if you stock more moderately priced frames you can start to build up a customer base that is interested in those products and are not price conscious. It comes down to the simple question. “What kind of practice do you want to be?”
Answers to these important question and more will be all part of the next section of this article, Tip# 2 “Balancing the Inventory Ratio for your Eye Boutique”