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Lens Technology not Fashion Driving Multiple Pair Sales

Can new specialized lenses alone drive real market growth?

By Mark B. Mathews

A December survey of Canadian ECPs conducted by VuePoint indicates clearly that specialized ophthalmic lens functionality are the drivers of multiple pair sales.   Lenses adapted to personal lifestyle and specific vision tasks including sun protection, digital device use and sports all ranked significantly higher than fashion accessorization as reasons for ECPs to put forward the second pair sales pitch.

In fact, fashion accessorization was dead last – less than 5% of respondents identified “fashion accessorization” as a top 3 reason to offer a second pair. Price objections, whether in the mind of the consumer or driven by dispensers’ preconceptions of consumer affordability, were overwhelmingly offered up as the challenge to a second pair sale.

Over the past few decades, the fashion frame industry, thankfully, has lifted the “glasses” market from staid functionality to phenomenal fashion accessory   – but only for the primary pair of glasses and still, only for a segment of the market.

Now, advances in lens technology appear to be leading the way for multiple pair market expansion. Lens manufacturers, facilitated by free form technology have created an impressive array of specialized lens designs. New designs with innovative coatings, materials and various combinations thereof have put advanced personalized functionality at the forefront.

Can multiple pair selling lead by technological lens innovation really bring the “glasses” market to the next level? Significantly move the needle on either the number of pairs purchased per person or improve the purchase frequency? Or, will these innovations only serve to help keep prices attractive and eek out marginal market growth through higher prices to offset the commoditization at the mid and lower end of the market? Where is the real unit growth in the market going to come from?

What’s needed is a holistic approach to “glasses for the masses” that are fashionable, functional and affordable. Innovative retailers have shown the way, Warby – Parker the US click and brick upstart, comes to mind.

This approach is a real challenge for independent ECPs. The innovation required likely needs to be led by the frame and lens suppliers. The challenge is that frame suppliers and ophthalmic lens manufacturers and labs are not in the same league; they play different sports. While they are both great at what they do, they don’t play together – so far.

We look toward new developments and innovative technology, and unforeseen collaborative models and cross-over projects between frame suppliers and ophthalmic lens makers to lead in product and marketing innovation to catalyze the growth. We’ve seen glimpses of this in some developments, but only the tip of the iceberg. Exciting and challenging times are ahead.

Read the OPTIK February feature on the Challenge of Multiple Sales Selling.

For more information on VuePoint’s market study of Multi-pair selling, contact sales@vuepoint.ca

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