I often have clients ask if it makes sense to carry more lines and increase the number of vendors they carry. Every instance is a little different depending on the clientele and the frames they do buy. However, as a simple paradigm with eyeglass frames, often less is more. Let me explain why….
1) Certainly by now you have heard of the 80/20 rule. In the eyeglass world, this simple rule of thumb absolutely nails the sales distribution matrix for eyeglass frames you have on your boards. Roughly 80% of your sales will be made with just 20% of the products you display. No practice I have ever been involved with has deviated much from this reality. So the question then is…”Will I increase the number of sales we make if we expand the offerings” Answer…probably not. Further, if you choose this strategy anyway, it will come with unintended consequences (evidenced below)
2) If you choose to spread the frame offerings around and expand the number of lines you carry from just a handful of vendors to many different vendors, what happens is you become less important to each vendor. Instead of carrying 50 or 75 or 100 of any one companies frames, you chooose 20 from one and 30 from another and 20 from still another etc. What that does is increase your breadth of frame offerings but reduces your value to any one of them. The consequence is felt in the wallet. Your 20% discount becomes 15% with the vendors. Or 40% off becomes 30% off. You are simply less important to them and the less important you are to any one vendor, the less they are willing to do for you price wise.
3) Third, While I strongly do not recommend hitching more than 50% of your available board space to just one vendor (most don’t have the depth in lines and price points to adequately cover that and what happens if they have a flood or warehouse fire etc), I do recommend that you take 50% of your board and spread it to just 3 – 4 vendors. This way you are assured of your value to the rep and his/her bosses. They are typically a bit more willing to jump through a few hoops to keep you happy and they value your account more significantly. Improved discounts, free frames, consignment opportunities, additional co-op support and heightened awareness of your needs are the result. Definitely worth it.
So the next question to ask is if I choose this frame board strategy, will I have enough products to properly fill out my boards and cover all the needed price points and demographic markets of my practice? To that question, there is very good news.
Within every major frame distributor, there are a host of different brands and lines available. They carry high end, middle of the road product and some value offerings. Some of the frame distributors focus more on Luxury brands like Luxottica with significantly less mid end and value offerings as a result. But most carry a mix and they do so because frame companies are smart. They typically provide a solid good better best story within their own collections which allow the retailer of eyewear opportunities to cover more of your frame boards with their products. Smart right?
In my opinion…….
1) Every optical frame board should carry multiple brands from at least two of the three major frame distributors on the market (Luxottica, Marchon and Safilo), guaranteeing your value to those major distributors.
2) Every optical frame board should augment the major distributors with at least 4 or 5 smaller/specialty distributors. (Viva, Zyloware, Charmant, Silhouette, etc.) Each company has thier niche that they have developed and you should explore the smaller distributors offerings in depth and give them reasonable representation on your boards as well. The additional benefit of working with the mid sized distributor is that they typically are hungrier for your board space and will make better deals with you as a result. And dont be fooled by the major reps pitch….this product is very high quality, holds up extremely well, is fashionable, and they sell through. Brands are important but quality, durability, sellabilty and PROFIT is important to you as well.
3) Lastly, no frame board should be without at least some representation on the value side. While all practices will sell some value offerings (price points of $59 – $109 at retail), most do so with little effort spent at making that product attractive to the consumer. There are a number of frame companies that sell modestly fashionable and well made product betwen $5 and $20. Explore the world of value offerings and spend some energy to make the product look good on your boards. THE VERY BEST MARGIN PRODUCTS IN OUR BUSINESS ARE VALUE FRAMES. Use them to clean up. Just because you bought it for $10 does not mean it cant be sold for $90 or $100. If you spend time buying the fashionable frames from the value companies, your practice and wallet can benefit enormously.
Frame buying is an art. One that takes time, energy, demographic information and knowledge about the marketplace to get right. Invest your time in it, consolidate your frame vendors, take advantage of value priced offerings and buy fashionable frames from all of your vendors…and the payoff will come.