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This New York Business is Looking to Redefine the Meaning of ‘Customer Convenience’

They offer an exam, own-brand frame and fitting in half an hour for less than $150.

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HeyWear-reception and hallway

ONE OF THE pandemic’s most talked about takeaways for eyecare businesses is a renewed commitment to service. Many owners now say they will be retaining the appointment-only model for their opticals. But while patients appreciate and reward increased attention, the convenience accompanying many of the innovations of the past two years is something consumers have come to value. They love a personal experience, but they increasingly expect a friction-less one.

The question arises: can brick-and-mortar boutiques and optometric practices ever really compete purely on convenience? Earlier this year, New York startup Heywear launched its flagship location in the city’s NoHo neighborhood with a business model that, by putting certain limits on its scope of optometry, allows it to promise a turnaround time and ease of use that consumers want, without abandoning the service and distinctive eyewear people expect from independent ECPs. A second location opens soon in Brooklyn.

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THE IDEA

Customers who show up at Heywear’s “optical studio” (no appointment or insurance needed) can choose a package for $50-$125 and select a pair of the company’s private label frames before sitting down for a “comprehensive eye screening.” The onsite lab starts working on their frames while they’re still in the exam lane, and they walk out the door with their glasses 30 minutes later.

Screenings include refraction, advanced imaging, and visual field and pressure checks, but the company states up front it does not perform dilations or treat eye disorders or diseases, and does not offer CLs, progressive, bifocal or trifocal lenses, or eyewear for kids. It does not carry all Rxs but does accept outside prescriptions and will refer to outside ODs when problems are indicated. Rxs can also be uploaded and frames ordered online.

Heywear’s director of optometric services Dr. Lilan Le and CEO Jaclyn Pascocello are banking on their hunch that the affordability, convenience and accessibility of same-day eyewear and eyecare will appeal to consumers as major points of distinction from conventional optical retail, which they describe as “a traditionally complex, convoluted and expensive process.”

HeyWear-site and product

THE EXECUTION

Heywear currently offers single vision corrections only, but Le and Pascocello are in the process of deciding “where and when we should add new offerings.” At present they have the capability to serve anyone over 18. “We see a lot of guests in the 18-40 range but think this will shift and evolve as we expand.”

The moving parts of the operation are underpinned by the firm’s proprietary software, which was built in house. Heywear recruited New York-based designer Selin Olmsted to come up with its launch collection.

THE REWARDS

So far they are encouraged by the response Heywear has received, pointing to the some 250 five-star reviews on Google they had garnered as of early December. What’s most rewarding, they say, “is the excitement of guests who leave Heywear with eyewear that they feel amazing in, in 30 minutes for a price that they feel is fair.”

Do It Yourself: Offer a more efficient and convenient patient experience.

  • SPEED. “Same day eyewear and eyecare is the future of a traditionally complex, convoluted and expensive process,” say head OD Lilan Le and CEO Jaclyn Pascocello.
  • AFFORDABILITY. The basic frame, lenses and exam package tops out at $125. Two- and three-pair sets run $200 and $300 and a la carte screenings are $50.
  • HOSPITALITY. Heywear’s Studio Associates walk customers through each step of the process to achieve “hospitality moments”.
  • TECHNOLOGY. The company developed its own software to keep the same-day service running smoothly. Rxs can be uploaded for use by patrons of the online frame store.
  • MAGIC. Le and Pascocello say their focus is on creating a “magic moment” for each customer, guaranteeing they’ll return.
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