The Polarized Evolution - More Options Than Ever

By Julie Bos
Polarized lenses have come a long way since their early days, when customers’ only options were brown and gray. But thanks to higher-index materials, new lens designs and a vast number of color choices, a new generation of polarized lenses is here.

“In both plano and Rx lenses, polarized lenses are becoming the standard, rather than the exception,” said David Rips, president and CEO of Younger Optics. “Polarized lenses are now available in nearly every material and style out there—including polycarbonate, hard resin, and mid- and high-index materials.”

Plus, polarized lenses can also accommodate single-vision lenses, progressive lenses and even bifocals. For this reason, the polarized niche is growing significantly.

“Polarized lenses represent about six percent of lens sales right now—up from only one percent ten years ago,” said Eric Lindquist of Specialty Lens Corp. “It’s clear this niche has grown pretty dramatically and will likely continue in the future.”

In fact, many believe that polarized lenses can double the size of any eye care business—because once customers get hooked on polarized lenses, they rarely go back to non-polarized sunwear.

If you’re wondering how your lab could benefit from the polarized niche, start by getting up-to-date on the latest product enhancements.

A Rainbow of Colors

Bye-bye brown and gray. Today, you can offer as many as 20 color choices for polarized lenses. But according to Eric Lindquist, very few eye care professionals are fully aware of all colors available. One way to overcome the problem is to offer polarized samples and POP displays that showcase the wide variety of colors available. This not only communicates that you’re committed to the polarized lens category, it increases your sales effectiveness.

Last year, in fact, Specialty Lens Corporation placed color displays in 100 key locations. On average these labs increased their polarized sales 75 percent in the first three months with many accounts far exceeding that average.

Higher Index Materials

Another recent improvement is higher index materials–specifically, 1.60 and 1.67. These are limited right now to single vision and four colors, but will soon expand to new choices. In fact, KBco’s 1.67 high-index lens is now made with MR10 resin, which is more stable and heat-resistant than its previous MR7 material.

Polycarbonate Options

For sports-minded patients who want the thinnest and lightest lenses possible, you can also offer polycarbonate polarized lenses—without the drawbacks of complex curvatures.

Utilizing patent-pending technology, Younger Optics can now encapsulate polarizing film wafers into the required progressive curvature before the injection of polycarbonate—ensuring the front curve of the lens perfectly matches the intended design.

Short Corridor Progressive Lenses

Another development in polarized lenses is the availability of short corridor progressive designs, which accommodate small-fit frames. This addition further expands the polarized portfolio—making it even easier to satisfy patient needs, while boosting loyalty and return business.

New Driving Lenses

Specialty Lens Corporation and Younger Optics are among the manufacturers that introduced new polarized driving lenses. The lens from Specialty Lens Corp. is a variable-focus design called RPM, which offers distance on top and intermediate on the bottom.

In June, Younger Optics introduced its DriveWear lenses—the first to intelligently combine polarization and photochromics. Using patented technology, DriveWear not only darkens outside when exposed to the UV light, but also behind the windshield of a car when exposed to visible light.

Harder-Than-Glass Coating

Let’s face it; sunglasses can really take a beating. But many manufacturers now combat the problem with new polarized options. KBco, for example, offers its Contour line of polarized aspheric polycarbonate single vision lenses, featuring KBco’s harder-than-glass HC16 coating. Compared to glass, which has a Bayer reading of 12, the company’s HC16 coating has a Bayer reading of 16.

Wrap Solutions

In June, KBco also announced its new Wrap Solutions—a series of polarized lenses specifically designed for oversized fashion and performance wrap frames. Wrap Solutions are available in single vision Wrap and EOS (progressive) Wrap. The single vision Wrap provides excellent optics from -6.00D to +4.00D. This is accomplished by using six different aspheric increments on an eight base lens. The EOS Wrap provides excellent optics from -4.50D to +2.50D.

Wrap Solutions are made available in lightweight polycarbonate and come standard with KBco’s harder-than-glass HC16 coating. Both products come in an oversized 83mm blank with 13mm of thickness, making most every wrap frame Rx-able. Best of all, labs can process these lenses in-house–thus saving time and money, and boosting optician satisfaction.

Melanin Polarized Products

Another advanced product on the market are melanin-polarized lenses—high-contrast products that help block out blue light. This solution not only provides heightened visual acuity for drivers, fishermen and golfers, it also offers a therapeutic benefit by reducing light for those suffering from macular degeneration and other age-related eye issues.

Specialty Lens Corp. offers a polarized melanin lens in the CR-39 and 1.56-index options, as well as 1.60/1.67 options, and a full-line of color options and lens styles.

Education Is Everything

Once you understand the huge variety of polarized options available today, you need to be able to explain the value to your clients. But where do you start?

Fortunately, lens manufacturers offer plenty of marketing support resources to help you out, such as:

• Desk-top glare

demonstrators

• Availability charts

• Color swatch books

• Pocket dispenser

cards

• Patient brochures

• Informational CDs

Many manufacturers also offer regular ABO-certified seminars, online trainings and audioconferences.

“Most doctors receive very little education regarding sunwear at school,” said Rips. “Also, many don’t realize that virtually everyone needs sunglasses, and if they don't at least offer their patients a premium pair of sunglasses, they’re not only hurting their business, they’re doing their patients a disservice.” Labs can help by educating doctors on why their patients need sunwear — and the potential business opportunities that are missed by not offering sunwear enough. Hosting seminars, offering educational credits, and suggesting sunwear whenever they are discussing an Rx with a doctor all help.

Some labs receive as much as 20 percent of their business from polarized lenses during the summer months. The key is in making it a business priority.

“The single most important factor for success in selling polarized lenses is making it important,” added Rips. “Those that have done so in the past are now enjoying the benefits.”

“We usually do pretty well selling polarized lenses—especially in the summer months, when it’s sunny outside and people are thinking about sunwear,” says Karen Ayres from Collard/Rose Optical Labs in Whittier, Calif. “We rely on helpful selling tools that make it really easy to promote polarized products—such as polarized lens demonstrator from Younger Optics. This tool is always sitting on our counter—and virtually sells polarized lenses all by itself all day long.”

The bottom line…offering polarized lenses to every patient is not only a key to business growth, it’s a vital step toward helping eye care professionals provide complete eye care health for patients.

Encouraging Polarized Sales

Five Steps to Success


• Encourage doctors to get educated and excited about selling polarized lenses

• Host seminars for doctors

• Make discussions of sunwear a priority,and encourage doctors to discuss sunwear in the exam room

• Provide displays of available color options and marketing support materials

• Create sales promotions for polarized lenses


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May/June LabTalk 2017