Dispensing, Feature

Getting to know your product range

Choosing the frame product range can be both an exciting and stressful prospect for any independent practice. It also says a lot about a business, so it’s important to get right, writes EMMA ROBERTS.

2020 is sure proving to be a tough year, especially for small businesses. The optical industry has taken quite a hit, and made us all realise that to survive times like this we need to be adaptable, and open to looking at new ways to conduct business.

Emma Roberts.

But before that, we need to understand what we already have. One area that gets overlooked is frame product ranging, and how to get it right.

Product can be the most exciting and the most stressful part of an independent eyewear practice. Eyecare is undoubtedly the main priority, but having the right frame and sunglass selection is what keeps the customer in the practice. Knowing and understanding our demographic is key to getting the stock formula right, but many practices are unsure of how to manage their stock ranges effectively.

By conducting a regular range review, optical dispensers can identify their best- selling brands, the most profitable price points, slow moving stock and areas that are worth investing in – or not.

I’ve developed a list of tips to help dispensers organise their product range.

Getting started

An Excel spreadsheet that’s updated monthly is an ideal place to conduct a range review. Other people are happy to write one up fresh each time they need it. There’s no right or wrong way, as long as the plan makes sense.

Next, separate RX frames and sunglasses and review for each independently. These two categories are quite different from each other. Just because a brand performs well in sunglasses, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the same for frames.

Dispensers should make a list of how many pairs they want to stock. This will become the target range. For example, the number of display spaces plus six weeks’ back up. Put as much detail into this as possible. Try splitting the range into men’s/women’s/children’s, fashion, sport, budget etc.

Practices should stick to one brand per row if their frames are displayed this way.

Run a stock listing report per brand and see where these numbers fit into the above plan. This can be time consuming but gives an understanding of the stock performance. Manually going through this stage is the best way to understand what is working. And there are sure to be a few surprises.

Enter the numbers into the spreadsheet as goal quantity, current quantity and over/under quantity per brand.

After this, run a report showing sales for the category. I look at this every three months. Ensure the report run is listed by brand so it’s possible to see which are best performing.

At this point, the dispenser should have an idea of where changes need to be made. It makes no sense to have 30 frames on the shelf of one brand if only two are being sold per month. Ensure to look at prices too, checking GP, repetitive product faults, quality of after sales service from suppliers etc.

Once deciding which frames will stay, ensure these brands are topped up. If the eyewear display is in rows, I strongly suggest sticking to one brand for the entire row as splitting them makes the ranges look messy.

Following this, dispensers can contact the frames wholesaler about slow or poor performing brands, and see if they are willing to swap out the models and start afresh, or swap out for another one of their brands.

By following these steps, there should be a clear understanding of what is missing from the range. Next, contact the practice reps and explain the gap to see if they have any brands that may fit. Alternatively, look around to investigate any new potential suppliers.

Overall, a good product range says a lot about a business. If it is neat, organised and tells a story, this is how our overall business will be viewed. Knowing our product and having a solid goal in place will alleviate some of the stress of purchasing and managing product in uncertain times.

With the knowledge that the practice is investing only in brands and product that works for its business, frame ranges become less of a risk and more of a benefit to invest in.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Emma Roberts has 17 years’ industry experience and is a qualified optical mechanic and dispenser. She founded The Eyewear Girl, a platform that informs consumers about quality eyewear.

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