Learning from Professionals

The Future Outlook of Optical Stores (2)
Keita Takemoto ,
Representative Director and Business Producer of
Fresnel Line Co., Ltd


Provides wide-ranging consultancy activities for major chain stores in Japan as well as regional specialty stores, voluntary chain stores and even manufacturer product development. Serves as a seminar instructor at the International Optical Fair Tokyo (IOFT). His close-to-site immediate practical stimulation technique has won a strong reputation from industry stakeholders across Japan.

Why is it better to focus on the sale sales of lenses than frames?

The reason why you should focus your efforts on lens sales is because that is what the customer really wants. The results from a survey question “when customers buy eyeglasses?” reveal this. Most of the respondents answered by saying “when it becomes difficult to see” or “when correction has become necessary.” Few people answered by saying “when a new brand is released” or “because the design is novel.” Every age group places importance on vision. This shows it is best to focus efforts on the sales of lenses.
It appears that lenses create not large amount of gross margin in general eyeglasses stores. Lenses may account for close to 70% of this in specialty stores. In addition, lenses are ordered, so there is no stock. There is also the fact that you can determine the price yourself. Accordingly, it is possible to provide items greater than their price. Thorough examinations also lead to the cornerstone of proposing high-quality lenses to match the eye condition and needs of the customer. Therefore, this is a method of conveying persuasiveness for the lenses you have proposed.
It is said that customers replace their eyeglasses once every four years on average. If you use eyeglasses that serve an important role for four years, it is only natural that you will want to buy a pair that gives you an even higher level of visibility. It is also said that customers who choose their eyeglasses based on lenses are more likely to become repeat customers than those who make their decision based on frames. Customers who have experienced comfortable vision will go and buy eyeglasses from the same optical store again. This means that they will not return to mass marketer any more.

How should optical stores respond to the era of aging population?

Of the 19 million people who purchased eyeglasses in Japan in 2018, 10 million of them were aged 45 years or older. That is 54% of the total. In terms of the monetary value of those purchases, of the eyeglasses market size of 403.5 billion yen, the money value of purchases made by those aged 45 years or older was 270 billion yen. This accounted for 67% of the total. Approximately 70% of the eyeglasses market is supported by those aged 45 years and older. This ratio is expected to continue to increase in the future. Even if not to the extent of Japan, this aging is progressing all over the world.
Various problems and issues in response to this steady rise in the age of people are appearing in the eyesight of each individual customer. For example, a characteristic of people in this age group is that a high ratio of them require progressive lenses due to the onset of presbyopia. People aged 45 years or older account for 58.5% of all eyeglasses sold and 68.1% of the entire monetary value of sales. It is said that this is increasing for both indicators. However, even if such people go to a mass marketer, it is difficult to deal with them in terms of time and technology as lenses take effort to adjust. Therefore, it is difficult to receive extra tender care. This is the norm of mass marketers who must handle large volume at low prices. As a result, the number of “eyeglasses refugees” who are difficult to be supported by the lenses of mass marketers is increasing. This has led to a greater need than ever for optical stores that can solve various issues of customers; in other words, optical stores that can provide eyeglasses by offering vision care in response to changes in visual functions.

What should optical stores aim for in the future?

I believe that bipolarization will progress further in the future with stores positioned as mass marketers that sell large quantities by investing in promotional expenses and specialty stores that sell by pursuing the value found in eyeglasses as vision care. To put that another way, it is selling based on price or selling based on stirring the heart.
Under such circumstances, the store sales personnel need a thorough understanding of lenses (vision). Upon that, they must draw out what the customer requires and then propose solution. If the sales personnel can communicate the differences in the lenses (vision) and the price to customers in an easy-to-understand manner, it will be a strength of that store.
Specialist eyeglasses stores also started to concentrate on the sales methods of mass marketers to an extreme degree for a period of time. One of these methods is selling sets with lenses. The budget of the customer comes first with set sales. This is a set with lenses in which the customer can choose thin lenses or bifocal lenses by paying 20,000 yen. In extreme cases, this is a chain store system which allows even newly joined employees to sell products easily. That is because no technical explanation is required. In other words, it is like the customer has a budget and the eyes of the customer are matched to the price of 10,000 yen or 20,000 yen. What kind of image does a customer who has bought such a set have? If you choose a frame you like, won’t you think that the lens should come with it for free? It seems they abandoned the value of lenses(vision). As a specialist eyeglasses store, the value of eyeglasses and the lenses that are the source of the gross profit. Having said that, there are also customers who purchase eyeglasses on a budget. Therefore, this is not a complete denial of that sales method. Nevertheless, it is not possible for small and medium-sized stores to beat chain stores with capital strengths and expansion capabilities under the same system. If you have become used to easy selling eyeglasses, I think it is best to return to your origins as a specialist vision care store again.
I’ve seen sales personnel in many optical stores. However, it is not possible to beat those who enjoy their jobs. What kind of eyeglasses can you propose to customers upon understanding various technologies and products based on the desire to see satisfied expression on your customers? What kind of eyeglasses can you make to bring true happiness? If you have such an awareness, your level will gradually go up and that will also be conveyed to customers.
Finally, it comes down to people. There are stores with sales personnel who can fully use the latest measuring equipment to make accurate proposals; there are stores with sales personnel who can capture the technical progress of lenses to make accurate proposals, there are stores with sales personnel who can propose the optimal vision with fitting technology; and there are stores with sales personnel who can draw out the visual needs of customers by looking after them. I think such optical stores will grow in the future.