By Julie Bos
Boating. Fishing. Golfing. Tanning. Sporting events and road trips. Summer is in full swing—and full of endless possibilities for enjoying fun in the sun. But let’s face it. While nothing draws people outdoors better than long days and soaring temps, when too-bright sunshine and distracting glare cause annoying (and sometimes painful) vision issues, the love affair with summer can go stone cold.

Fortunately, your lab—and network of ECPs—can help spunky sun-lovers have it all, thanks to a plethora of sunwear solutions for virtually every need.

If you’re up on the news, you already know that today’s range of sunwear choices is broader than ever. Many manufacturers have recently announced all-new polarized photochromatic sunlenses, as well as dramatic extensions to their standard polarized lines. With a variety of colors, sun protection benefits and styles, consumer selection just went sky high.

Just how can your lab ride the wave of new sunwear products—and turn those opportunities into real sales by summer’s end? Try one (or more) of these proven strategies and watch your sunwear sales climb.

Strategy #1: Have an Honest Belief in the Product

According to Robert Scherer, general manager of Premium Optics in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the first step to selling anything is being a firm believer in that product yourself.

“If you truly believe in a product, you’ll always do better with selling it. For example, I’m a big believer in polarized lenses——and all our sales and customer service people know it. I don’t have a prescription, but every pair of sunglasses I buy is polarized. That enables me to speak about the product with conviction.” That persuasive belief also reaches the lab’s salespeople and customer service reps—who continually spread the word about polarized lenses in person and by phone. “If the people who answer our phones believe in it, that’s huge,” he said. “These are the people receiving our orders—and are often the ones who have the first opportunity to talk to ECPs about polarized. Sometimes the ECP will even call our lab while the patient is still there and ask for our advice. That’s a great time to make a polarized recommendation.”

Strategy #2: Be Proactive, Offer Alternatives

Scherer is also a big believer in another winning strategy: being willing to confront ECPs about better alternatives.

“For example, I recently saw an order for a wrap frame with Grey 3 lenses,” he explained. “I went ahead and called the ECP and recommended a polarized lens instead. It’s only a few dollars more, and comes with so many more benefits. By the time you add in the scratch coating and other extras on the sunwear, the consumer will have already raised the total price—and could have just gone with polarized instead for a better overall product. He agreed that I was absolutely right and wondered why he hadn’t thought of that. This is a fairly common practice for either me or one of my staff to call the ECP in cases like these. We’re very big on open communication—and it makes a real difference.”

Strategy #3: Education is Key

According to Danny Singer, lab director of VSP’s wholly-owned lab, Ultra Lens, in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Gloria Llansa, marketing and sales director of HB Optical Laboratories in Miami, Fla., increasing sales of sunwear lenses must always start with education.

“First and foremost, it’s about educating ECPs—and the dispensers—about what polarized lenses are, what they do, and why consumers would come into their office needing them,” he said. “Then we need to educate the ECP to recognize these issues and to have polarized lenses in the forefront of their mind when recommending solutions. That includes challenging ECPs to use stronger language and a more forceful delivery of the message—getting away from ‘recommendations’ and issuing more ‘prescriptions.’ Finally, we need to make sure that the message the doctor is giving in the exam room is reinforced by the dispenser.”

“This training is vitally important—but can only happen if a lab is willing and able to spend time in the office with the doctor and the dispensing staff,” he said. “At the end of the day, polarized sunwear really does provide significant health benefits to consumers: better vision, reduced glare, less reflection and elimination of UV.”

Strategy #4: Promote, Promote, Promote

Another lab, Custom Eyes (Essilor) in Sauk Rapids, Minn., has found sweet success with targeted promotions.

About six months ago, the lab identified its top 10 ECPs ordering polarized and invited them personally to be part of a new promotion. If they agreed, they would receive a brand new display from Specialty Lens Corp., along with sample lenses showing all the available colors—so patients could see, touch and compare the various lens colors with the actual frames. Next, the lab provided information on how ECPs could more effectively sell polarized lenses to patients.

“Basically, they need to sell these lenses like they would a mirror coat,” said Janelle Trowbridge, customer service manager. “Polarized lenses are a specialty; they’re high end—and need to be sold as such.”

“So this promotion was all about exposing ECPs to the full range of color options out there—and helping them compare the new colors to the standard browns and grays,” she said. “Not only can the ECPs see the differences for themselves, they can put the choice and decision in the hands of the patients—so the patients are empowered. We’ve seen that patients really enjoy being part of that process.”

As a result of this promotion, the lab’s sales of polarized lenses increased dramatically—approximately 20 percent.

Strategy #5: Offer Cash Rewards

As the saying goes, money talks and “cash” is a great four-letter word. HB Optical Laboratories uses that fact to its advantage when motivating ECPs to increase polarized sales.

As part of its recent “Spring Break Fun in the Sun Promotion,” HB Optical Laboratories encouraged opticians to earn an extra $2 for every pair of single-vision and flat-top Drivewear and NuPolar polarized lenses and $5 for every pair of Image progressive Drivewear and NuPolar polarized lens sold during the promotion period (March 1-May 31). At the end of the promotion, HB Optical Laboratories tallied up the earnings and loaded pre-paid Visa cards for each participant to spend any way they chose.

“We already know that ‘out of sight means out of mind,’” said Gloria Llansa, marketing and sales director. “So every two weeks, we would send a flier to each account, as a reminder. We also made sure that all the participating accounts had a Drivewear/NuPolar demonstrator, which helped them promote the lens features and benefits. Potential buyers can put on these ‘demonstrator’ glasses and actually see the benefits firsthand.”

Strategy #6: Don’t Discount the Value of Discounts

Another tried-and-true strategy for increasing second-pair sales is offering sales bundles, packages and price discounts. Danny Singer, from VSP’s Ultra Lens, suggests a polarized and AR package, whereby you offer consumers a significant price break when they buy both, compared to what they would spend if purchased separately.

Strategy #7: Take Advantage of Selling Aids

Most people wouldn’t buy a new car without taking a test drive. And the same goes for testing out new lens products.

Polarization, for example, can be difficult to explain, but it’s simple to demonstrate. Therefore, wise labs take advantage of the many point-of-purchase and sales tools available through lens manufacturers. Recently, Specialty Lens Corp. created a new booklet containing all its polarized lens samples, including its new polarized photochromatic lenses.

“With our new polarized photochromatic samples, we now offer 16 different color options and many times, the ECP doesn’t have a sense of the true color unless they have the lens in front of them,” said Eric Lindquist, sales and marketing manager at Specialty Lens Corporation. “In addition to this booklet, we’ve also created two new ViewMaster reels that display all our color choices. We take a 3-D scene and split it in half, one side with nothing and one side with the addition of polarized color. It’s been very effective in showing patients what each color really looks like—especially highlighting slight variations between similar colors.”

Add to these resources a new dispensing mat and color recommender wheel—and you’ve got a whole kit designed especially for ECPs who want to increase polarized sales. For more information on these tools, please call Eric at (800) 366-1382.

Strategy #8: Host Seminars

Some labs, like Tri-City Optical in Clearwater, Fla., complement their sales efforts by hosting seminars.

John Zimmerman, sales manager, frequently conducts seminars for opticians in his area, usually at industry conferences, local chapter events and quarterly association meetings.

“Remember, ECPs have to get their 12 credits of continuing education credits every year, and attending seminars definitely counts,” he said. “Sometimes if I have individual customers who are interested, I’ll host a seminar at one of their offices for a handful of people. I do about six to eight of these every year. The seminars can be on any number of topics, including polarized lenses or the need for second-pair sales. It’s a great way to conduct product training for many people at once. It’s also a great way to increase sales while promoting our lab, too.” All indications are that this strategy really works.

“In almost every case, these seminars help increase the sales of specific products at the laboratory,” he said. “Just going out and giving opticians information they didn’t know before—or reminding them of things they may have forgotten—really helps keep products in the forefront of the mind. At times, it’s even brought new customers to our laboratory because their current lab wasn’t providing this kind of valuable information.”

Strategy #9: Partner with Manufacturers for Marketing Strategies (and Funding!)

Want to grow your sunwear sales, but lack the internal marketing know-how or budget necessary to create effective collateral or promotions?

Do what many labs do—rely on market development funds or “co-op funds” from lens manufacturers to help you make some headway. Many times, marketing funds exist, but never get used simply because they’re not requested.

Manufacturers can also work with you to strategize the best plan for using those funds—and boosting your sales along the way. It’s a win-win.


Today, there are more sunwear products available than ever. Market newcomers like iRx Polaroid Transitions SOLFX polarized photochromatic sunlenses now join trusted favorites like DriveWear and NuPolar polarized lenses—and of course, standard tinted sunglasses. And that can mean a perfect match for just about everyone’s needs.

Your job is to help them figure out new ways to sell sunwear, which helps increase second-pair sales and profitability. Here’s a simple, easy strategy that may work for your ECPs:

1. Make the assumption that consumers want sunwear. Be prepared to give buyers a choice. Start with the best, and work your way down to cheaper options, if necessary.

2. Start by suggesting a premium sunlens, like a polarized photochromatic lens.

3. If the customer balks about price, offer the benefits of straight polarized.

4. If cost is still an issue, default to a value-based product: straight tinted sunwear.


Many ECPs (and labs) often forget to suggest mirror coating when selling sunwear. But the truth is mirror coatings are a valuable profit-building strategy. In fact, some lab professionals firmly believe that mirror coating is to sunwear what AR coating is to everyday eyewear—an option that should be presented in every patient conversation and a great way to increase the average per-customer sales revenue.


Fast Facts You Need to Know

•Premium sunwear is a leading source of growth within the optical retail sector, representing around $4 billion in sales in the U.S. (Vision Council of America)

•While the general eyewear retail market has been growing at a low- to mid-single digit average annual rate, the sunglasses segment has been climbing at a mid-single digit rate.

•Premium sunglasses are leading the way, growing more than twice as fast as the rest of the market. (Koncept Analytics, Oct. 2007)

•Growth in the sunglasses segment is driven by increasing awareness of useful benefits (i.e., eye protection and enhanced vision) and trendy appeal of these accessories (Koncept Analytics, Oct. 2007)

•The National Highway Transportation and Safety Authority (NHTSA) suggests that almost half of the daytime accidents may be attributed to glare.


When helping your ECPs increase sunwear sales, a simple game of “word association” may help do the trick. Patients often use certain terms to describe their vision problems—and some of them clearly indicate a need for polarized lenses. By recognizing the following terms, ECPs can easily start a conversation around polarized—and facilitate an easy second-pair sale.

If you hear words like: glare, bright sunlight while driving, reflection off snow, water or windshield. These are all things that would tell me this person is having trouble with distracting glare. When you think distracting glare, you need to think about polarized lenses because the polarization is what cuts out the distracting glare.



•Heavy or blinding glare

•Bright reflections off water or snow

•Excess or bright light


•Outdoor activities: skiing, boating, hiking, fishing, running, driving, rock climbing, reading outdoors, golfing, motorcycling or mountain biking

•Visual discomfort

•Daytime driving


Labtalk June 2020