Combating bootleg resellers, enlivening your marketing, getting into the swing of Halloween and hopefully — if you operate in a neighborhood with a large zombie population — adding a healthy new revenue stream ... There are several reasons to consider selling and fitting novelty contact lenses. Color contacts have become a popular item, especially during prom season and other special events, and if you already fit and sell contacts, providing a legal avenue for these attention grabbers to customers is an easy add-on. But with the witching season almost upon us, you may want to consider adding them soon. Here is our handpicked selection of ECPs’ novelty contact lens dos, don’ts and a couple horror stories.
Cynthiana Vision Center Cynthiana, KY
Cynthiana Vision Center makes all patients aware that “anything bought at the flea market, comic convention, or gas station does not belong in the eye,” says Angel Miller. They ensure the patient is a contact lens wearer before ordering them (usually from ABB Optical). “If not, we set up a lens fit and tear film analysis along with teaching the patient the dos and don’ts of novelty lenses — for example, some schools don’t allow them,” she says. Miller (who’s also handy with a make-up kit — check out the above photo) said the most intriguing request she had was from football players looking to intimidate the opposition. “Make sure you differentiate between what can be Rx’d, and what can only be plano,” she says, adding that it’s important to start advertising in September, as there can be a wait for lenses.
Eye Can See Eyewear McDonough, Ga
It’s the stuff of a horror film: Periodically, the staff at Eye Can See Eyewear looks out their windows to see a troop of pale-eyed, head-rolling zombies stumbling through town. Actually, it IS the stuff of a horror film; McDonough, GA has provided the backdrop for a number of zombie flicks including The Walking Dead. According to practice manager William Chancellor, novelty contacts sell year-round. “We are in a community that oozes movie themes … We have patients from all walks of life interested not only in traditional color lenses but in cosmetic lenses as well.” Eye Can See doesn’t necessarily fit the actors in those films, Chancellor says, but their presence boosts demand. “With The Walking Dead being filmed here on our block this has brought tours and non-residents into our small community and boosted not only color lens requests but also sunglasses and prescription ophthalmic lenses.”
Attleboro Vision Care Attleboro, MA
At Attleboro Vision Care the most popular novelty designs are cat-eye and whiteout lenses. Christine Howard says that after an initial expression of interest, “Nine times out of 10 once they discover the cost/process involved, patients decline. They often assume it’s a grab-and-go thing.” If the patient is new to contacts, Attleboro insists on an insertion/removal class, and they must demonstrate they can do so before leaving with contacts. Attleboro sources from ABB. Demand skyrockets at Halloween, though one of the more memorable patients was an actor who needed theatrical lenses for a play. “We don’t actively market these, but we will work with patients who express an interest,” she says.
Behavioral and Developmental OptometristS MIAMI, FL
“This is the optometrist’s place to shine!” says Pauline Buck, OD, about novelty lenses. “It is so cool when a patient comes in and wants me to help them complete the perfect costume.” She often follows up with a post-Halloween phone call to find out how the costume went down. Buck is a big fan of Orion Vision Group’s “great-fitting” lenses. “They have totally done right by me in the past. I started using them for a patient who had no iris and moved into the funky lenses for fun.” If the patient has never worn contacts she’ll teach them proper lens care and hygiene, and insertion and removal. “They will stay in the room until they can remove them several times.”
HD Optical Express Lansing, MI
HD Optical Express provides costume and novelty lenses to patients year round, but by special request only, sourcing the products from Orion Vision Group. According to office manager Cassie Nash, HD Optical provides contact lens exams to all patients requesting the lenses in order to ensure that comfort and vision are as good as they can be, along with instruction on insertion and removal.
Fox Valley Family Eye Care Little Chute, WI
Selling and fitting novelty (or “theatrical”) lenses has won Fox Valley Family Eye Care some low yal patients. “We had a patient that wanted them so the doctor fit him with clear trials. After coming back in a week for his evaluation he was approved,” Scott Felten says, adding that the store ordered Eyedia Clearcolor “Phantom the Snow Cat” lenses for him. This lens devotee has since ordered “Midnight” and the all whiteout “Blizzard” lenses. The practice provides lenses upon request to patients whose eye exam is current and who have been fitted for contacts, says Felten. Patients new to contacts have to be fitted and trained to insert and remove them. They are scheduled for a follow-up appointment a week later so the doctor can assess their vision and fit. For Halloween, Felten and his wife join the fun. “I wear all white-out contacts. It’s pretty freaky; I always get looks and comments.”
Visualeyes Optometry Sherman Oaks, CA
Given Visualeyes Optometry’s proximity to L.A.’s movie studios and legion of actors, demand for theatrical contact lens evaluation and sales is sufficient that Dr. Lee Dodge offers the lenses all year. Staff train all patients in insertion and removal; none leaves the office until they can do it. Dodge says the horror/zombie styles are perennial favorites. He sees offering such lenses as part public service, part marketing exercise, part just good business, but mostly it fits in with his desire “to offer everything that has to do with the eyes that patients like.” Dodge says he’s worked with “many, many patients that have come in with corneal ulcers, abrasions, and contact lens-associated red eyes secondary to ill-fitting contact lenses.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2018 edition of INVISION.