Extreme Kids

From playing organized sports to blazing trails, today’s youth are tapping into their active side—and their need for the right eyewear and sunwear to keep them in gear

Extreme Kids

From playing organized sports to blazing trails, today’s youth are tapping into their active side—and their need for the right eyewear and sunwear to keep them in gear

Photography by Peter Baker


Kids are active by nature, but today their participation in everything from team sports to extracurricular activities, and from martial arts to BMX bicycling and skateboarding, is on the rise. In fact, according to the 2013 SFIA Participation Topline Report, a full 50 percent of Generation Z (ages six to 12) take part in team sports and outdoor activities.

This highly active group of children needs to be outfitted with all manner of gear and equipment, including the right eyewear for their activities.

“I always recommend sports glasses and sunglasses to our kid patients who are active and play sports,” says Mary Lou French, OD, with French & Associates in Orland Park, IL, where 40 percent of the eyewear sold is for children. “Today, the product available is so much more attractive than years ago—it comes in great colors like reds, blues, and silvers. Plus, we can often order it in the child’s team colors.”

In particular, team sports continue to grow. Projected spending on team sports at school is on the rise, according to the 2013 SFIA Participation Topline Report from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. In 2013, nearly seven percent of American parents said they expected to spend more on team sports at school. This was a slight increase over the six percent that expected to do the same in 2012. Additionally, nearly eight percent of parents said they expected to spend more on team sports outside school in 2013.

Some eyecare professionals are looking to tap into this spending trend by selling sports eyewear and sunwear to their young, active patients. “Their parents spend $1,000 to $2,000 on lacrosse equipment for their kids, so we don’t hesitate to suggest they spend $500 or $600 on two pairs of glasses for their active child,” says Julie Bart, managing optician at The Glasses Menagerie in Minneapolis, where kids’ eyewear is 90 percent of the mix. “I always tell them that almost everything on the body is pretty much replaceable except for your eyes.”


While some kids may walk in the door specifically for sports eyewear or sunwear for their outdoor pursuits, most are there for an eye exam and prescription eyewear. With a full 50 percent of kids ages six to 12 participating in sports and outdoor activities, active eyewear and sports eyewear are a slam dunk for a second-pair sale.

Web Exclusives!

Visit throughout the month for exclusive articles on the kids’ market including the following:

An exclusive interview with a youthful extreme sports enthusiast

Considering contact lenses for active kids

The latest in sports participation data

And more!

Ophthalmic eyewear, Body Glove style BB 126 from FGXi, and sunglasses: Dolce & Gabbana StripeDG4201 from Luxottica (top) and adidas style Little Evil a413 by Silhouette


Sport-ready sunglasses style Crown from Bollé (below top) and Rxable sports safety Leader eyewear from Hilco


Marchon Flexon shapes for boys and girls. Top l and r, Flexon Kids Galaxy styles 320 and 690, below, Nike 4675

Displaying Sports

How do ECPs merchandise their sports selections for the best effect? At The Optical Center in Burlington, VT, there is force in numbers. “Inside, we have a large display with four shelves of plano sunglasses with a big sign above that reads ‘Kids,’” says owner Gary King. King gets active kid customers in the door, however, by featuring a large display of kids’ sunwear in his street-front window. “We keep a big display of 10 or 12 really colorful sunglasses in the window in our Julbo display—this has a presence every month of the year in our window,” he says.

At French & Associates in Orland Park, IL, the kids’ plano sunglasses and sports eyewear are right in the middle of the dispensary at kids’ eye level. “They are really vibrant colors, so they are very visible in the shop and kids can try them on themselves just off the shelf,” says Mary Lou French, OD.


(L to r) Op style 824 by ClearVision, Float Milan by Match style KP235, and sunglass style Bowl 351 by Jublo

ECPs agree that one of the best ways to sell this second pair to parents is to educate them on the importance of proper eye protection for their child.

“We try to educate the parents about the importance of both eye protection and UV filtering because a lot of parents aren’t aware of the sun damage that can happen that can’t be undone,” says Gary King, owner of The Optical Center, in Burlington, VT, where a large, kids’ sunwear display is always front and center in the shop’s street-front window. “There can be a lot of price resistance with parents, so we have to do a lot of educating.”

Patient education has paid off in spades at The Glasses Menagerie, where second-pair sales, which are almost always eyewear for sports or outdoor activities, are the norm. The focus at the location is on educating parents that if children break their glasses, they need that second pair on hand.

“More than 80 percent of our kids who buy eyeglasses here get a second pair,” reports Bart. “And that second pair is usually for sports or active wear.”

Some ECPs are also employing a discount strategy to bolster second-pair sales. At French & Associates, patients who choose a second pair receive the frame for free. “There is no limit on the frame price; they just pay for the lenses,” says French. “Everybody wants free or a discount, and we’re promoting second-pair sales more aggressively with this strategy. It works really well for adults for sunwear and with kids for sports eyewear.”


(Top) Sunglass style Iced by Eyes Cream Shades and (bottom) Juicy Couture style JU907 from Safilo

In most cases, parents want (and need) that second pair of ophthalmic sports eyewear for their child. But sometimes this is not the case. French says some of her older kid patients are now wearing their sports eyewear 24/7 as their regular prescription eyewear.

“We have a few 10 year olds that wear their sports Rx’s for their regular eyewear,” she says. “They are really into it.” EB