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Buying & Selling

Ultimately, it’s about what sells. Here we look at best-performing brands, categories, channels and strategies. And how you get those goods via your relationships with vendors.

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21. Do you offer …

Private label
33%
Medicaid/value brands
49%
Color contact lenses
68%
Low vision aids
18%
Dry eye treatment services
55%
Nutraceuticals
27%
Topicals
25%
Accessories
55%
Ocular aesthetic services
7%

22. Has a vendor ever gone the extra mile to help you through a tough time? Please share your story.

  • “We had an employee out sick with COVID. The lens rep came [for the whole period] the employee was out to order the lenses for customers, check the status of the orders and get them ready for customers to pick up.”
  • “A rep came out during a snow storm during the pandemic to get me a frame that was lost in the mail.”
  • “We have a rep who is a former optician that has filled in [during] emergencies, as well as gone out of his way to hand-deliver a frame for a patient in desperate need.”
  • “We had an overabundance of contact lens inventory and our rep came in and pared it down for us.”
  • “Altair helped with inventory issues on recalled and discontinued frames when we were short-staffed.”
  • “David Spencer sent out the best letter as the pandemic started. He helped find a way for me to profit off eyewear sold from his website (Tokyo Bay). They kept sending me frames and waived shipping for a while.”
  • “Let me borrow wheels for my edger.”
  • “A vendor helped us numerous times when we were without an optician to get frame selects and measurements done.”
  • “My L’Amy rep made a special trip and helped me fit a petite patient with an extremely high plus prescription and itsy bitsy bridge.”
  • “I’ve had a rep bring a frame from his bag 1.5 hours away.”
  • “We had a brand new patient who submitted their own frame to us to put lenses into. We went through the usual spiel of we can’t be held liable if anything were to happen to the frame at the lab etc. But then when the worst inevitably happened and the glasses broke, we still wanted to help her source a new frame. We reached out to the local Tura rep, Kalyn, who we had never met before. She was so incredibly kind and helpful. Not only did she replace our patient’s frame at no cost, she gave us some Tura swag, a nice handwritten letter and 10 free Tura frames to see how they sold with our patients. Her frames flew off the boards…”
  • “A contact lens rep once helped me put together a shelving unit.”
  • “Always sends us product out of their own personal stock if we have a discontinued frame that is not past the warranty—or even if it is and the patient is being a d**k and we need to service the issue for them.”
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23. What’s your biggest pet peeve in dealing with vendors?

Counting down the 10 most commonly cited…

10. Inconsistent or Unreliable Info

  • “Saying one thing and doing another.”
  • “Dishonesty.”
  • “Over promising, Under delivering.”

9. Minimums/Punitive Quotas

  • “I could do without the minimum purchases per year, especially if they aren’t introducing enough new styles. You want me to keep 36 of something but you’re showing me the same styles all year.”

8. Pushy/Fake Salespeople

  • “Schmarminess.”
  • “CL reps trying to change our prescribing habits.”

7. Frame Board Blues

  • “When the original sale is more important than keeping current stock on the boards.”
  • “Knowing more about brands/options/promos than the sales reps do.”
  • “Discontinued product that has not been pulled from my board.”
  • “Vendors who do not know their inventory.”

6. Shipping Costs

  • “Having to pay large shipping fees to return defective frames.”
  • “Shipping fees and tariff charges make the cost of the frames more than the buying group discount we get with some vendors.”

5. Padded Orders

  • “Shipping out frames that we did not order just for us to ‘see.’”
  • “Their only care is maximizing sales. It is unbelievable how many reps we have thrown out for padding orders recently.”
  • “The constant need to make sure they don’t send more then we asked for.”

4. Surprise!

  • “Just come in without calling or making an appointment. Stand in the way of customers trying to pick out glasses.”
  • “Reps that show up with no appointment in the middle of the day and want the doctor to just ‘talk for a minute.’ Nope.“

3. Shoddy Service

  • “Apathy from customer service reps.”
  • “Rude customer service.”
  • “Reps being MIA between visits, especially when we have questions or concerns.”

2. Warranties/Terms of Exchange

  • “Some warranties are like a jigsaw puzzle! Some reps hate to take back product; then next time they come, it’s too far gone to exchange.”
  • “It was simple when the frame rep would come into the office and take back defective frames. Now we have to jump through hoops to send them back for credit.”

1. BACK ORDERS

  • “Backorders with frames really causes patients to be dissatisfied.”
  • “If you can give me a date you will have the product, great. But don’t keep saying it’ll be available in 2 weeks.”
  • “No communication when dealing with backorders.”
  • “No notification of an item going on backorder after I purchase it, causing an unknown delay without notice.”

24. Please rank your offerings, from biggest generator of revenue to smallest.

The Big Survey 2021: Buying & Selling

Your top 15 self-reported best performing lens and contact lens brands:

1. CooperVision Biofinity Toric including Energys, Toric, Multifocal, and Multifocal Toric
2. Alcon Dailies Total 1 including Aquacomfort +, Total 1, Total 1 Multifocal and Total 1 Toric
3. Acuvue Oasys including for astigmatism
4. Air Optix including for astigmatism, Hydraglyde, and multifocal
5. Alcon Precision 1 including Toric
6. Vistakon Oasis including Oasis 1 Day
7. B+L Biotrue including 1 Day and 1 Day Presbyopia
8. B+L Ultra including Multifocal and Toric
9. Varilux including Comfort+, and X
10. Acuvue 1 Day Moist
11. Shamir including Intelligence 15
12. Acuvue Oasys including for Astigmatism and with HydraLuxe
13. Zeiss including Individual and Light D PAL
14. Transitions
15. Unity including Via, Via Elite and Via Plus

Your top 10 self-reported best performing ophthalmic brands:

The Big Survey 2021: Buying & Selling

Your top 10 self-reported best performing sunwear brands:

The Big Survey 2021: Buying & Selling

25. What do you think will be the next breakout trend in optical products?

Among the usual suspects — larger frames… smaller frames… metals, acetates… vintage! — we had some true standouts in this category.

According to many respondents, anti-fog products are not going anywhere, with one positing an “AR fog stopper coating” would hit it big. Myopia continues to be a buzzword when it comes to both glasses and contact lenses to treat it, but serious excitement surrounds the possibility of a presbyopia treating eye drop. On the design side, they expect to see more customization, likely utilizing 3D printing.

On the tech front, respondents expect smart glasses and wearables to be fully integrated with smartphones and feature heads up display.

On the business side, they’ve noted, “more design houses are taking back ownership of their own products” and “an increase in LASIK.”

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26. As a business owner/manager you’re always selling. What’s the hardest sale?

The Big Survey 2021: Buying & Selling

COMMENT: Selling to customers and patients topped our poll, especially when it comes to pricier care such as myopia control packages, treatments such as “dry eye for >$500” and premium lenses “to a patient that has never experienced the difference.” A related sale, “selling your expertise” was a close second, made all the more difficult by rivals’ unrealistic offers. “Trying to compete with advertised bait and switch crap: $69 for a pair plus an exam,” complained one ECP. “We know they’ll never walk out paying that little. But my prices seem crazy compared to that!”

27. Please rank the following forms of payment, from most frequently used (1) to least used.

Credit cards
7.08%
Debit cards
5.98%
Managed vision care
5.43%
FSA/HAS
4.83%
Cash
4.26%
Personal check
4.04%
Apple Pay or some other cardless, phone-based app
3.33%
Buy Now Pay Later programs like Klarna, AfterPay, CareCredit
2.83%

28. What was the single best day you ever had in terms of sales? (Please tell us a little about it)

  • “Surprisingly it was not a special day of any kind. We were seeing patients, all three doctors, like any normal day. Our team was delivering great care throughout, prescribing from the chair, we were hitting on all cylinders.”
  • “I think the record was still an Oliver Peoples trunk show in 2015. Fifty-five pairs of glasses sold in one day.”
  • “Landing a large safety account.”
  • “A family that had an HSA account that had to be used by the end of the day … They went crazy.”
  • “We had a group of engineers working on a project out here and one of our loyal patients referred them and they all came to order glasses in the same week!”
  • “End of 2019, patient came in wanting to clean out her HSA account. Purchased multiple Rx glasses for herself, a couple glasses for a friend, and some non-prescription sunglasses as gifts.”
  • “The day we sold four Cartiers.”
  • “It was shortly after the first stimulus check. Many people purchased multiple pairs of glasses, purchased annual supplies of CLs. This went on for about a month.”
  • “A fluke day of 18 exams with multiple sales.”
  • California correctional officer and his wife, also an officer, and two daughters wearing contacts. Each had four VSP coverages so it was like seeing 16 patients in one family. Add to that the 12 other patients I saw that day…”
  • “Combination of eyewear and bulk contact lens reorders through website.”
  • “All day ortho k patients.”
  • “A lady found our boutique and brought some sunglasses in to get adjusted. After chatting she was so excited she found us and loved our selection, that she booked her whole family of four for eye exams. Each family member also picked up a minimum of two frames each!”
  • “A patient ordered seven pairs of custom-made rimless eyewear including a pair with lenses specifically set for her to paint her toenails!”
  • “I had a husband and wife come in and spend more than I usually make in two weeks. I cried at the end of the day.”

29. Compared to the past, are you opening more/less/same on …

The Big Survey 2021: Buying & Selling

30. What was the most memorable encounter you’ve had with a patient/customer?

From grateful to grouchy, patients come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. Here we look at the patients and customers who have stuck in the memories of ECPs.

Those You Help With Their Vision

  • “Made a father cry when daughter put on her first pair of glasses and she smiled because she could see. Daughter was mute and could not speak. We all cried!!”

Those Whose Lives you Changed

  • “A patient was able to drive again after an AMD diagnosis.”

Those Whose Lives were Saved

  • “Having to tell someone their child has a deadly tumor in the eye and the eye needs to be removed quickly before it metastasizes.”

The Poor Ones

  • “A student, his family is very poor, no money to buy glasses, in my shop at the door, watching, I gave him a pair of glasses and asked him to study hard.”

The Big Spenders

  • “Sold 12 pairs of glasses to one person!! Really fun.”

The Young Ones

  • “An 8-year-old, first exam -2.25 OU.”

The Old Ones

  • “A little old lady who was obviously lonely that came in every month or so to get her glasses adjusted. Always wanted to see a particular optician. He would talk to her for a little bit then take her glasses in back, set them on the counter, and light his pipe. After a few puffs, he would take them back and she would always claim how much better they felt.”

31. How would you describe the contribution of e-commerce — via your website, Facebook, Instagram, eBay, etc — to total sales?

The Big Survey 2021: Buying & Selling

COMMENT: By this point in the pandemic, the percentages of ECPs selling via e-commerce has decreased over 2020’s highs. That’s not all that surprising, given it was a venue many invested more time and resources in while their businesses were shutdown. What is unfortuntate though, is that 2021’s numbers of ECPs with a non-existent or insignificant e-commerce presence (68%) is not in line with consumer trends or demand. According to statista.com, in 2020, there were 256 million digital buyers in the U.S. — for a total $792B — and that total number of consumers is projected to increase to 291.2 million by 2025.
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Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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