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Physical Stores Can Thrive As Online Retail Grows … Here’s How

Online eyewear sales will only ever get so much of our business.

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ON ITS SURFACE, the rise of the online eyewear industry is directly connected to the decline of brick-and-mortar. While the vast majority of eyeglasses are still sold the “old-fashioned” way, with patients receiving an eye exam in an office and selecting frames in the dispensary, online sales have steadily increased year over year. In 2017, 8 million pairs of prescription eyeglasses were sold online, totaling about 4.2 percent of the market. That growth is likely to explode once consumers are able to access online eye exams. How can physical stores compete?

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Video: Your Eyecare Business Should Be Getting Way More 5-Star Online Reviews Than It Is

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Retail Trends are Cyclical

I took my daughter shopping recently, only to gasp at a row of acid-washed jeans like the ones I owned in 1985. Eventually, it all comes back. The same is true of retail sales environments. We’re now seeing the rise of highly differentiated local retail settings where once developers cynically shut-down vibrant, community-based shopping centers in favor of cookie-cutter, big-box retail fronts.

Really, it’s all about local relevance. Shopping experiences are as much about necessity as they are about community. We live in a café society, where people seek the casual ebb and flow of walking down the sidewalk, stopping for food and drinking, gazing through the windows of unique storefronts and enjoying colorful streetscapes and open-air spaces. In the suburbs, especially, retail success demands attention to the location, how the business is differentiated, what community needs it satisfies and how successfully the concept is executed.

An Optical for the Community

When Dr. Joe Borden and I sat down to redesign our optical we not only wanted to transform the space visually, but to create a sense of community through design. All too often, patients sit in a lobby with their head buried in a smart phone, waiting to be called back for their eye exam. Instead, we wanted the space to be shoppable, inviting and inherently social.

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We converted the receptionist’s desk into a coffee bar. Patients could come in, whip up a cappuccino and pull up a chair to chat, or browse our frame collection with a mug in hand. We eschewed a “waiting room” lined with chairs. Who likes to sit and wait? Instead, we offered window seating so patients could gaze at the storefronts and passersby on Washington Ave. We hung paintings by local artists, and opened up the floor plan.

In an age of technological enablement, we brought the buying experience back to the values of the community by mixing the social and the sustainable with customer service and a vibrant, unique retail design. Our business became intimate, locally optimized and differentiated. It worked. We are busier now than ever before, attracting new patients and keeping long-time customers engaged.

No matter how hard vested interests try to force us away from economic gravity, eventually the immutable desires of people in local markets bring the pendulum back to sustainability. In some ways, online retailing may bring us back to a more interesting and relevant blend of retail alternatives.

Rebecca Furuta holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health Policy from the University of Colorado Boulder, and works as a sports vision specialist and ABOC/NCLE optician at Avenue Vision in Golden with Dr. Joe Borden, with whom she co-founded the eco eyewear lifestyle brand, Yeux & Eye (yeuxandeye.com). Email her at admin@avenuevision.com.

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The 4 Key Elements to Building a High Performance Team

It isn’t experience, skills or talent… it’s all in the mindset.

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MANY PEOPLE BELIEVE that the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team is the greatest team in the history of sports. This means all sports, any team all over the world. They are three time world champions and have a winning percentage of 77 percent over the past 100 years. They have not lost at home in the past 10 years.

What is it that creates a high performance team? It is not merely talent. There are many professional sports teams with a roster full of superstars, but which do not live up to their potential. It is not the money invested in payroll; the New York Yankees have famously spent far more money than other teams but often fall short of even making the playoffs. The 2008 World Series Tampa Bay Rays had the 29th payroll ranking out of 32 teams.

When you break it down, all high-performing teams have certain traits in common:

Shared Leadership

A team that reaches toward its full potential does not rely on one person for leadership. Each member of the team steps up when required to provide leadership. Each member respects the talents and abilities of other team members and follows another when the job requires.

Leadership in difficult situations requires different skills, and a high-performing team recognizes that each member brings their own talents and skills.

An Achievement Mindset

High-performing teams are focused on accomplishment. They are unified toward reaching their goal, be it winning a championship or hitting a sales target. They understand that accomplishment is not a once in a while endeavor, but the result of habits executed consistently each hour of each day. They don’t understand or accept the concept of close enough. Successful teams take the view that either they got the job done or they didn’t. Failure to them is not an option; they figure out a way to make success happen.

Integrity and Respect

High-performing teams believe in the dignity of each team member. They perform their responsibilities with honesty and integrity. They know that cutting corners when offering a service is not good for the customer or the practice. If a mistake has been made, they own it. They don’t make excuses or blame the customer. They truly believe that while the customer isn’t always right, they are always the customer. They do not encourage or tolerate team members who do not live up to the same standards of integrity.

High-performing teams respect each other by listening and considering the views of others. When faced with a challenge, they work together instead of believing that they alone have all the answers. They understand that collaboration among many can produce a better result than the opinion of one individual.

Look for Opportunities

High-performing teams are continually working to improve their skills, their services, their products and their processes for delivery. They foster an environment of continual training, understanding that it is the excellence of consistent execution that delivers to the customer.

They encourage learning of new technology, new products and an ongoing review of how the work flow process can be improved. They don’t believe in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” To the contrary, they believe that they must break it to see how they can make it better.

Developing a high-performance team requires selecting team members with the right mindset. This mindset is more important than years of optical experience or years in a particular position. The owner or hiring manager’s job, in many ways, is to select the right people, give them direction and then get out of their way.

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Editor's Note

The Year’s Not Over Yet. There is Still Time to Fix It

And you won’t need a magic spell to do it.

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IN FULL DISCLOSURE, I am not a Potterhead. I don’t know an apparate from a veritaserum. But I do love a personality assessment. (I’m a Cancer, INFJ, and Idealist, in case you wondered.) So when we asked, “What Hogwarts House would you belong to and why?” in Buzz Session (page 60), I thought I had a pretty solid idea what my Pottermore results would be… definitely Ravenclaw, maybe Gryffindor.

To my shock, I was sorted into Slytherin. The snakes! The house all the villains come from! But I’m a good guy! So, of course, I retook the test but the results didn’t change … even when I fudged a few of the answers (so Slytherin of me!)

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To be fair, I am a good guy but I can also be cunning, aristocratic and power hungry… though I prefer the synonyms clever, refined and ambitious.

Sometimes we don’t like to acknowledge our less desirable traits. Like that we can be lazy, unmotivated, or procrastinate until the stress of getting things done becomes overwhelming.

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Maybe that’s where you find yourself now. The last quarter of the year snuck right up on you and you’re nowhere near meeting the goals you set out for yourself at the beginning of it. Don’t worry, you don’t need a magic spell to fix it. We asked a few industry experts and our own Brain Squad what to focus on for end-of-year peak performance and came up with a 90-day plan you can start executing now in our Big Story on page 34.

If you’re just feeling a little burned out and apathetic, visit our Special Feature (page 44) to help remember why you do this. It’s all about ECPs’ MVPs, those most valuable patrons that have become so special the relationship has transcended the office environment. Eyecare is an intimate business and sometimes “How can I help you?” can be the start of a beautiful relationship.

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Most of us feel we’re working harder just to stay on top of things (One Quick Question, page 47). That can be frustrating. But as we head into fall and holiday planning, I hope these stories leave you feeling a little more prepared, and grateful for the privilege of working in such a crucial and dynamic industry.

Best wishes for your business,

Dee Carroll

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

dee@invisionmag.com

Five Smart Tips From This Issue

1. Party time! As we head into the holidays and the invitations start streaming in… say yes! (Manager’s To Do, page 20)
2. Do you provide vision therapy? Try practicing it at its highest level. (Best of the Best, page 48)
3. Forget Christmas cards. Birthday cards are where it’s at. (Tip Sheet, page 50)
4. Sometimes a new employee is just not gonna hack it. We tell you when it’s time to let them go. (Ask INVISION, page 52)
5. Trouble finding good help? Have you tried a working interview? (Do You or Don’t You, page 61)

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Develop a Custom Visual Standards Manual to Look Better and Sell More

Such a manual details and explains how a store should look and how to keep it looking that way.

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ONE OF THE BEST ways to guarantee your employees maintain the look and feel of your store is a Custom Visual Standards Manual, or CVSM. Such a manual details and explains how a store should look and how to keep it looking that way. A good manual allows room for change and it teaches store employees how to access their creativity while staying within the boundaries of the store’s image and brand.

Visual standards include everything that can be seen as you drive or walk up to, into and through the store to the back door. It includes: lighting, signage, flooring, surface materials, fixtures, merchandising, displays, focal areas, aisles, desks, daily maintenance, safety standards, back room standards, washroom standards and back office standards. Standards must be maintained in order to maintain your image and support your brand.

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Each person has his or her own style. Some of those creative endeavors may not exactly be in keeping with your image. A standards manual clarifies your image and gives clear direction and boundaries to individual creativity and expression.

If you are looking to establish, or recreate, your image and want to re-train your employees, a manual is one of the first steps in making this transition happen consistently and successfully.

How to develop a CVSM:

  • Assign this job to one or two people with a clear understanding of your merchandising, fixtures, signage, store design and overall brand and image. If you choose two, consider one in marketing and one in operations. Or, hire someone from the outside with CVSM experience.
  • Develop an outline for the manual with a chapter for each area of your business. Describe the fixtures in each area and how to merchandise each one. Add chapters on non-selling spaces, lighting, signage, safety and holiday decorations.
  • Take a ton of photos. Before and after shots of merchandise presentation and displays make great teaching tools.
  • Determine what final format works best for your employees: binder, bound printed manual, webinar in several parts, or training movie. Consider a quiz after each section to make sure employees looked at it. Flexibility for changes is important so plan that into your format.
  • Have comprehensive staff meetings to introduce the manual and hand it out to each person. If it’s in digital format, give everyone the link and let them know when they will be quizzed on it.
  • Rather than just stating rules, explain why the rule exists and why it’s necessary. It will be remembered much longer. Pare down the information and present it as a mix of photos and copy. People today are used to reading bullet points and listening to sound bites. Less is most definitely more, and a picture is worth 1,000 words.
  • The purpose of a CVSM is to have a standard that all employees are required to live up to. If sales lag, an easily observable issue may be visual presentation. Getting everyone “on the same page” will keep the store looking great.
  • Consider a CVSM if you have more than two stores. It will keep your business attractive and welcoming. All of which will be reflected in your sales and service.

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