Article

Sports Eyewear Setup

How to serve and ace selling sports eyewear to patients of all ages

feature
Sports Eyewear Setup
How to serve an ace selling sports eyewear to patients of all ages
By Lindsey Aspinall

Beach volleyball is popular among athletes of all ages. These players are wearing Boll� sunwear to protect their eyes

Selling sports eyewear means keeping in mind that every generation has its own needs, and every sport has its own product. To successfully market sports eyewear within your practice, you'll have to cover the whole court.

Sports eyewear for today's youth, Generation Y, is a lot more appealing than it used to be. "Having eyewear that is attractive to our younger patients is important because it gets good habits started early in life," says Brian Hoyle, director of marketing at Eye Care Associates in Raleigh, N.C., the official eyecare provider for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes.

The best way to market sports eyewear to kids, is through their parents, explains Michael Peters, OD, of Eye Care Associates. "Kids still try to wear their regular glasses while playing sports, but they could do serious damage," he says. "We try to educate parents on the importance of sports eye safety. You wouldn't play baseball in school shoes, and you shouldn't play in regular eyewear."

"Twenty-seven percent of eye injuries are sports related, and 40 percent of those cases are kids under 15 years old," says Judy Ruiz, certified optician at the Eye Associates of New Mexico's Albuquerque location. "Yet, 85 percent of children who play sports do not wear any protective eyewear. Once we educate parents on these statistics, they're anxious to buy something more protective."

Another effective marketing tool is reaching out to local sports teams. Peters visits the area schools. "We've just screened the local high school softball and lacrosse teams to make sure everyone is seeing ok," he says. "It's another great way to market. We're involved locally within the community�it's not just about advertising."

THE X FILES

While Generation Y is probably looking for eyewear to protect them during school and team sports, Generation X seeks eyewear for an active lifestyle outside of work. "Our patients in their 20's and 30's look for eyewear that will rotect their eyes during high-impact sports," says Ruiz.  

An interest in celebrity style also tends to attract a younger crowd. "When we use posters of professional athletes in the windows, we often get younger customers asking about the products those athletes are wearing," says Shannen Knight, owner of A Sight for Sports Eyes in Portland, Ore.

Posters aren't the only way. "We've tried something different at our practice�we don't have a lot of posters or pictures. Instead, we have mirrors everywhere," says Ruiz. "We encourage our patients to try things on. We'd rather they were looking at the eyewear on their own face."

REMEMBER THE BOOMERS

Find out what sport your patient likes, then suggest eyewear. Shown: Columbia Trekker 2010 by L'Amy

Be sure not to count baby boomers out of the equation. A 2005 research report showed that boomers value physical activity. And a Del Web survey showed that 88 percent of adults aged 44 to 56 said they would be happier in retirement if they remained physically active.  

"We see a lot of very active boomers at our practice," says Jenny Wallace, a licensed dispensing optician at Snoqualmie Valley Eyecare Associates, with two locations in Washington state.

In order to determine the correct marketing approach for these patients, Snoqualmie Valley has each patient complete a questionnaire. "This information tells us which activities our patients might need eyewear for," explains Wallace.    

SUPER SENIORS

Senior patients are also good candidates for sports eyewear�most likely for activities like fishing, golf, or even tennis. When it comes to these older patients, marketing the importance of eye health is equally as important as marketing the product itself, says Peters. "In North Carolina we've got a lot of problems with cataracts, and a lot of older folks out there playing golf," he says. "We market the importance of eye health to these patients, explaining that if they're going to be golfing outside, they'll need to protect their eyes from the sun."

The major difference when marketing to older patients, as opposed to your younger ones, is that many aren't as concerned with fashion. "One thing to note with these patients is that they'll buy anything when it comes to sports eyewear," says Ruiz. "They don't care what it looks like. They're looking for comfort, fit, and protection."

Maui Jim is a popular sunwear choice among golfers

COME ONE, COME ALL

For patients of all ages, the store layout is a key element in marketing sports frames. Keeping the sports
eyewear in a zoned area assures the patient won't overlook it. "We keep sports eyewear in a separate area," says Wallace. "Patients know exactly where to go to find the type of sports eyewear they want."

Using setups beyond P.O.P. is also effective. "If we're marketing soccer or baseball eyewear, we might include an actual soccer ball or baseball in the display," says Peters, whose practice has a separate sports-themed area.

"We almost always make our own displays, and regularly change them depending on the season," he says. "We always try to do the displays for the season coming up. That way patients can prepare early for their sport."

BEYOND FRAMES

When it comes to pitching sports eyewear to your patients, it's okay to think beyond the mindset of frames. Suggesting contact lenses (standard or specially tinted) to your active patients is a great alternative�even for kids.

Nike MaxSight tinted lenses by Bausch & Lomb offer an edge over competition

"I always tell parents and their kids that wearing contacts is a great way to protect eye injuries from broken glasses," says Jared Pearson, OD, of Advanced Eyecare, with two locations in South Dakota. "Of course some parents think their kids are too young for contacts and at that point, we'd move on to looking at protective eyewear."

Pearson is a big advocate of tinted contact lenses. "Tinted contact lenses are designed to enhance the perceived contrast differences that an athlete would pick up on," says Pearson. "They can help an athlete determine the spin on the ball, can enhance the perception of the environment, and can also prevent the athlete from squinting."

With the weather getting warmer, Pearson is starting to talk to some of his patients who golf about wearing green tinted contact lenses. "The green tint is designed for golfers and, since spring is here, that's what I'll start recommending to improve their game," he says.