DES MOINES, Iowa—As a major growth initiative in 2016, Real Optics, a 14-location practice located in Des Moines, Iowa, explored options to increase the quality of lenses it offered to patients, and after a thorough review of the line, Real identified Varilux products as the means to do so.
“In the past, we’ve offered Varilux products but we have not in the last few years based on our costs versus profits analysis at the time,” said Patrick Farrell, general manager of Real Optics. “However, we now receive special pricing on advanced lenses like Varilux because of our membership in Opti-Port, an alliance of other large multi-office practices like us,” he said.
A Well-Prepared Staff Primes Practice for Success
“Before we rolled out the products in our stores, the sales teams from both Essilor’s Integrated Independent Group and Essilor’s Brand Group came to Des Moines and hosted a learning dinner for our staff,” said Farrell. “They even stayed for three additional days traveling to each of Real Optics’ outlying stores to do one-on-one training for our employees who weren’t able to make it to the dinner.”
At these training sessions, the team provided all of Real Optics’ opticians a pair of Varilux lenses so that they could speak to patients based on their own experience with the lenses.
“Getting our staff to try these products was the key to success in my opinion. Our opticians are able to more accurately present and sell lenses to customers because they have firsthand experience with the product.
“In addition to training on Varilux, they also helped train our staff on other things like Transitions and anti-reflective coatings that bring added value offerings to our patients and additional profits to the practice,” said Farrell. “These guys have great industry and optical experience and our staff learned a lot from having them here.”
Tiered Product Presentation Proves Profitable Strategy
“Since the Varilux roll out, we’ve seen increased optical sales and profitability. I’m very pleased to say that we are now at the national average in sales for Transitions, and well beyond the approximate 30 percent national average for anti-reflective coating. Our AR sales for our high-end stores are consistently over 85 percent and, for our budget-minded outlet stores, we maintain sales over 50 percent,” he said.
The Varilux portfolio has allowed Real Optics to add depth to its product mix so that patients can now upgrade from entry-level progressives to Varilux progressive lenses.
“Our goal was to get our customers to upgrade to Varilux from entry-level progressives. This tiered approach to presenting lens options allows us to better serve patients by providing lens offerings best suited to meet their needs and price point.” According to Farrell, this tiered sales strategy has proven to be a great success for the practice.
“In September, we upgraded more than 200 customers to Varilux. Now that we can process these orders in-house, our cost of manufacturing has been reduced greatly compared to using an outside lab. Between the manufacturing cost reduction and the reduced pricing on Varilux we get through Opti-Port, I estimate that we are adding at least $10,000 in additional profit on a monthly basis.”
Varilux Lenses Tend To Reinforce Practice Brand
In addition to added profitability, the Varilux product offering has also enhanced the practice brand, said Farrell. “People do recognize the Varilux name and ask for it. The fact that we’re able to offer Varilux to our patients that recognize the Varilux name and ask for it is important as it communicates to our patients that we carry the latest in lens technology and the products that they see advertised nationally.
“We’ve been in business for over 30 years but that does not mean we don’t have increasing competition. We have to continually look at how our patients and prospective customers view us,” said Farrell. “That means taking into account how often we improve our stores’ appearance with new carpeting and fixtures and well as the frame and lens products we offer.”
The ability to offer top-of-the-line products like Varilux reinforces the value of the practice, and is an important reason why patients should return as well as refer others, Farrell concluded.