Article

GOT KIDS?

Everybody’s got ’em.
But do you really have a grip on your kids’ merchandise mix? 3 ECPs deliver a guide to the inside line on exactly what to stock—and how to sell it—today

The kids’ business is serious stuff. In fact, according to the Eyecare Business Frames Focus Group Study 2016, kids’ eyewear accounts for a full 12% of ECPs’ product assortments. [In perspective, ECPs reported that plano sunwear makes up 13% of their total merchandise mix.]

And, a whopping 18.8% of parents surveyed by The Vision Council’s Children’s Vision Care Report have children who wear prescription glasses.

In addition, almost half of parents (48.1%) across different income groups say they are willing to invest in their child’s optical health, the survey found. They’re also willing to give their kids a say in the frame looks their youngsters fancy—67.2% of parents said they are influenced by their child’s eyewear preference (to varying degrees).

Okay, so we know the kids’ market is important—but are you truly ready to serve your younger customers with the right mix of products?

Here, we serve up an ECP-informed guide to the key elements of a covet-worthy children’s eyewear mix, plus some bonus tips on what it takes to win over your littlest patients—and their parents, too.

» Melanie Denton, O.D.

SALISBURY EYECARE AND EYEWEAR

Salisbury, NC

Melanie Denton, O.D.

#1 Kids’ Assortment Strategy.

Salisbury Eyecare and Eyewear, which opened its doors last year, departs from traditional inventory practices by commingling children’s and adults’ frames.

“When I started a year ago, I set up my optical as I had seen done in every other office I’ve ever worked in: I put the men’s, women’s, and children’s frames in separate sections,” says Dr. Denton. “But eyewear is such an expression of who you are, and style varies so much, that I now don’t feel it’s best to showcase what we carry in that way.”

Hence, the practice now merchandises its small, curated collections of eyewear lines as a group, which includes a mix of small eye-sized frames for kids who are growing out of kids’-sized frames.

Salisbury Eyecare and Eyewear aims to fit children from the age of 6 months up to bigger kids. And, its children’s assortment takes a cue from what the grown-ups are wearing.

“We emulate the styles we’re doing in the adult frames to a large extent,” says Dr. Denton.

#2 In the Mix.

» The Kids’ %: The frame mix here is 11% kids’ eyewear, and another 5% to 7% reflects smaller eye-sized frames that can be worn by a child.

» The Price-Point Range: $75 to $275, and the average frame priced at $150.

» The Kids’ Breakdown: The mix is 60% girls and 40% boys, with 50% of “highly feminine” styles in the girls’ assortment and 10% reflecting more unisex looks.

» The BIG Mix Tip: Dr. Denton says Salisbury tends to stock two versions of each frame it carries—one for adults and one in a smaller eye size or kids’ model. “I think it makes sense to carry a neutral and a fun/bright color in each shape,” she adds.

#3 One BIG Dispensing Tip.

“I try to make the eye doctor every child’s favorite doctor to visit,” says Dr. Denton. “We have an inviting area for kids that they gravitate to when they walk in.” She also makes the environment interactive with fun distractions like a LeapFrog kid’s tablet. “It’s a wow for the kids and parents.”

» Robert Silva, ABOC CEO

A CHILD’S VIEW

Two locations, in Laguna Hills and Brea, CA

Robert Silva, ABOC

#1 Kids’ Assortment Strategy.

When planning the eyewear assortment for A Child’s View, Robert Silva starts by looking to children’s peers, celebrities, and even family members for inspiration and to help spot trends. Then, he looks to stock complementary styles in a child’s size while the look is “still hot.”

Trendy adult looks that have trickled down to kids’ eyewear include Ray-Ban frames and a plethora of similarly inspired styles. “With that trend in mind, I will try to carry frames that meet that look and that come in a 42-52 eye size,” he says.

Key kids’ brands for the practice include Ray-Ban, Nike, Original Penguin, OGI, and Ocean Pacific.

#2 In the Mix.

» The Kids’ %: 5% infants, 15% toddlers, 65% school-aged children, and about 15% young adults.

» The Price-Point Range: $100 to $250, with the average frame priced at $150.

» The Kids’ Breakdown: Girls’ frames make up 65% of the total kids’ mix, with 35% for boys.

» The BIG Mix Tip: When it comes to appealing to girls, it’s less the brand name than the design that drives sales, Silva says. In addition, A Child’s View stocks colors that tend to complement children “and have a lot of pizzazz without being a distraction.”

#3 One BIG Dispensing Tip.

More than any other factor, critical to a successful kids’ business is that dispensers treat children as their own, Silva says. “Take on the challenge and responsibility of fitting each child with the most appropriate frame and with the best, most accurate lenses,” he notes. “Provide glasses that will be worn as prescribed; and if the optical doesn’t have what the child needs, refer them to someone who does. The result will be a happy parent and a compliant, glasses-wearing child.”

» Linda Chous, O.D.

THE GLASSES MENAGERIE

Uptown Minneapolis, MN

Linda Chous, O.D.

#1 Kids’ Assortment Strategy.

The Glasses Menagerie cultivates an idiosyncratic eyewear mix to set the practice apart from the national optical chains. While its patient base includes children as young as 2 years old, the average age of its kid customers is between 9 and 11.

A parent might come in asking for a low-key frame design that will make it appear less conspicuous that their child is wearing glasses, but The Glasses Menagerie takes the opposite approach. “We might as well make it fun and colorful—and other kids will say, ‘Those are really cute!’” she says.

#2 In the Mix.

» The Kids’ %: It stocks hundreds of children’s frames, from designer lines to classic looks, along with a line that’ is unique to the practice.

» The Price-Point Range: $139-$425, and the average frame at $239.

» The Kids’ Breakdown: The practice doesn’t break the inventory down by sex, as many of its frames are worn by girls and boys.

» The BIG Mix Tip: As opposed to simply stocking miniature versions of adult frames, Dr. Chous’ kids’ mix is stylish, yet rugged and durable.

#3 One BIG Dispensing Tip.

This pediatric optometric practice, in business since 1991, eschews the standard exam room vibe in favor of a kindergarten-classroom look.

“When children walk into my exam room, they see lots of drawings on the walls from my little patients,” says Dr. Chous. “I want the patients to feel comfortable with me.”

Primo Kiddo Tip Sheet

  1. BE PLAYFUL. When Linda Chous, O.D., senses a kid’s apprehension in the exam room, she shifts into fun gear, asking them something like, “Do you want to see a picture of my cat?”
  2. GET DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL. When working with children, meet them at their eye level, says optician Robert Silva.
  3. SMILE. “Greet them with a smile and a playful tone, which wipes away a lot of their stress and fear,” says Silva. “It eases the task of trying on as many glasses as necessary to find just the right one.”
  4. HAVE TOYS AND SURPRISES ON HAND. “I make every child a balloon animal at the conclusion of their exam and we have a treasure box they can visit as well,” says Melanie Denton, O.D.