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Article Date: 1/1/2017

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Sunwear, Simplified

Sunwear, Simplified

What makes for a stellar plano sunwear business? Get a success-driving, bird’s-eye view with a close look at how two (very different) ECPs merchandise + market a superlative mix


What do you need to know to nail down a successful plano sunwear business for your optical? To find out, we checked in with two very different eyewear retailers—a regional optical chain and a one-location independent.

Here, Brad Childs, vice president of the 14-store optical chain Eyetique, and Lori Branco, RDO, optical manager with Center for Sight, share their insider views, tips, and key strategies—from pricing and product mix to marketing philosophies and customer service.

Barbara Thau is a contributing writer at, where she writes about the intersection of retail and consumer trends.


Pittsburgh area

Assortment Strategy:

For Eyetique, putting together a successful plano sunwear assortment is akin to diversifying an investment account. “You’ve got to have a little bit in each bucket,” says Brad Childs, vice president. Eyetique’s bucket includes the most recognizable brands and an assortment of fashion, sports, and high-tech plano sunwear frames.

Price Point Range:

Eyetique’s most successful plano sunwear mix tends to hover between $150 and $300.

Optimal Mix:

Plano sunwear accounts for 20% of Eyetique’s total eyewear assortment, and the gender breakdown of the sunwear mix is 50/50. A variety of classic black and tortoise styles are essential to the fashion assortment. In sports sunwear offerings, a few high-tech pieces serve as good “conversation starters,” Childs says. For example, Eyetique carries a pair of plano sunglasses from Oakley with a built-in GPS that tracks the wearer’s running speed. And while a shopper might not trade up to buy that frame, per se, “it gets them thinking” about buying a sports-specific frame in addition to their Rx eyewear purchase, he says.

Merchandising Focus:

Merchandising plano sunwear effectively calls for a little retail theater and a lot of optical expertise, says Childs. “When you walk in, are you going to read a counter card? Or would you prefer to have a world-class optician take care of you?” he asks. “Staff trumps all.

“At the end of the day it’s staff and lighting. You want it properly lit,” he notes. “It’s like having a romantic dinner—you need a certain dimness. We want to tap into your emotion; that's very critical.”

Marketing Solution:

Childs has one major rule of thumb when it comes to the plano sunwear discussion: If you’re selling patients a single pair of frames, you’re going about things the wrong way.

“Selling a pair of plano sunglasses is a loss. Selling multiple pairs is a win,” he says. “Too few people are looking at sunglass sales as multiple pairs.”

The key is getting to know your patients and customizing frame fittings to the details of their lifestyle by asking them open-ended questions.

Eyetique displays sunwear with optical frames


1. Make It Glow.
Romance your in-store sunwear assortment with lighting “akin to a jewelry store,” says Brad Childs.

2. The Two-Pair Sell.
Because a single pair of plano sunwear won’t meet any one consumer’s complete lifestyle needs, sell them two pairs. “Of course you don’t need to have any of them,” Childs says. “We want to show you that you want to have them.”

3. Get Personal.
Take your selling cues from your patients: Make sure your optical staff asks shoppers questions about their lifestyle and fits them according to their idiosyncratic wants and needs, says Childs.

Center for Sight

Optical location: Fall River, MA

Assortment Strategy:

Center for Sight’s assortment delivers a good-better-best mix of plano sunwear that appeals to a broad audience.

“A variety of price and quality levels are needed in a sunglass selection,” says Lori Branco, RDO, optical manager. “You need to have something for everyone.

“Some patients wear sunwear for fashion and would rather have multiple inexpensive pairs. Some wear it for function and want the best for what they are using them for, such as boating or biking,” she notes. “We also carry Babiators for babies and toddlers. We try to be able to fill whatever the patient’s need, want, or budget allows.”

Price Point Range:

Branco’s sunwear assortment serves up a range of quality and price points, ranging from $48 to $349.

Optimal Mix:

At Center for Sight, plano sunwear accounts for approximately 25% of the practice’s 1,350 total frames. “That percentage works because then there is enough of a selection for everyone’s style and price tag,” says Branco. “We have a large enough selection to be noticeable and compete with the mall kiosks.”

The practice started off with roughly 100 plano sunglasses, but it has more than tripled its selection over the years to just under 400 frames, which has in turn fueled category growth.

While about half of the plano mix is polarized and half is non-polarized, “we do emphasize the visual benefits of a polarized lens to all our patients,” she says.

The style breakdown that works for the practice is 20% high-tech frames, with lines such as Maui Jim; 20% sport sun, reflected by brands like Nike; 25% classic styles such as Ray-Ban; and 35% fashion styles like Vera Wang.

Merchandising Focus:

This practice showcases plano sunwear in branded displays, and tells revolving merchandising stories tied to seasonal themes. During the summer months, for example, “we use beach items in our sunglasses displays. Other times of the year we may use a pumpkin or a singing Santa wearing sunglasses,” Branco says. In addition to merchandising the category in its optical, the shop features freestanding displays for Maui Jim, Revo, and Nike, “which draw attention to each brand,” she says.

Marketing Solution:

Center for Sight finds that a mix of in-store sales, local events, online/social media promotions, and traditional advertising is the right marketing mix.

“We also have a yearly sunglass sale, and if we get a new line [in store], we use social media [like Facebook] and email blasts to promote it,” says Branco. The shop also advertises on local radio stations and will occasionally run a newspaper ad.

As for community outreach as a marketing vehicle, “We are currently putting together a promotion with one of our brands for our local police department,” she says. “We try to be creative.”

Center for Sight’s dedicated sunwear display


1. Cast a Wide Marketing Net.
Reach shoppers by casting a wide marketing net that ranges from in-store and local community events to online and social-network promotions to drum up excitement for new lines.

2. Keep Displays Seasonally Fresh.
Merchandise like a fashion retailer: Change out the in-store environment to inject excitement into the experience with displays that reflect the seasons.

3. Maximize Your Expert Staff.
A store’s merchandise mix is only as good as the experts on hand to educate and guide patients. “What is needed the most is knowledgeable opticians and optical sales staff,” says Lori Branco.

Eyecare Business, Volume: 31 , Issue: January 2017, page(s): 60-62

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