Premium Sun Selling

“Reprinted with permission, Jobson Medical Information LLC, all rights reserved”

By Michelle Fleischer, Luxottica and Mark Mattison-Shupnick, ABOM

Course Description

Plano sunwear is a practice opportunity that makes for good business. Yet, most offices aren’t committed to being their patient’s sunglass source, don’t have enough sunwear inventory and/or don’t see themselves as a place that the consumer can drop in to shop for non-prescription sunglasses. Plano sunglasses are a 99 million pair opportunity (VisionWatch, 2013) in which optical could/should have a larger share. Sell Plano sunglasses and the ECP the logical source for more premium products.

Course Objectives

1. Understand the harmful effects of UV rays on our eyes and vision.

2. Recognize the sales opportunity when educating customers on how high quality, premium sunglasses are the only choice for consumers to best protect their sight.

3. Teach how to better educate customers on premium sunwear.


Bringing Plano SUN into the sale

By Michelle Fleischer, Luxottica and Mark Mattison-Shupnick, ABOM

Plano sunwear is a practice opportunity that makes for good business. Yet, most offices aren’t committed to being their patient’s sunglass source, don’t have enough sunwear inventory and/or don’t see themselves as a place that the consumer can drop in to shop for non-prescription sunglasses. Plano sunglasses are a 99 million pair opportunity (VisionWatch, 2013) in which optical could/should have a larger share. Why sell Plano sunglasses and why is the ECP the logical source for more premium products?


Quality sunwear provides better eye protection for the eye and its surrounding structures. Therefore, consider discussing the reasons for eye protection. Did you know that worldwide, 3.2 million people go blind due to prolonged UV exposure every year? In fact, the sun is the greatest environmental factor that contributes to cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in countries where cataract surgery is not available. 90% of skin cancers occur on the head and neck area. This kind of UV damage over a period of time cannot be repaired without cataract, cryo-, Mohs or other types of surgery depending on age, depth or significance of the damage.

These concerns are not just on a sunny day either. Overcast skies still allow 31% of the solar radiation to reach the earth, so eyes need protection on cloudy days as well. Moreover, kids receive 3 times the annual sun exposure of adults. As a result, we need to teach children early (and mom) the importance of wearing sunglasses – just as we teach them to brush their teeth and wear a seatbelt, so that they develop good habits, that last for life.


UV radiation cannot be seen or felt. While most people recognize the connection between sun exposure and skin cancer, less than 1 in 3 Americans realize the hazards of UV exposure to the eyes. Additionally, only 24% know that UV exposure can cause cataracts. Do these numbers seem correct? Unfortunately, they are. Therefore, commit to educating all customers about sunwear. As opticians, we tend to think about the prescription wearer only. That represents between about 60 percent of Americans. However, because UV and HEV radiation affect everyone, the entire US population should wear quality sunwear. From VisionWatch, it is estimated that as many as 85% of the US has sunglasses but at an average sell price of $34. That means that there are more $5 and $10 pairs versus the $150 pair so the public’s eyes could be at risk.

Premature Aging imagePremature Aging is another result of too much UV since UVA are the aging rays. It is estimated that 90% of the premature aging around the eyes is caused by UV damage. Add it up, great sunglasses every year can be a lot less expensive than Botox.

The best prevention against UV rays is not just sunglasses in general. It is high quality, PREMIUM UV blocking sunwear. Who says so? The most respected optical organizations across America (Fig 1). It is all over the media as well. Even Dr. Oz has promotes sunwear that absorbs UVA and UVB, see

Figure 1 organizations

External factors like wind or airborne dirt are a problem. When cycling, skiing or just enjoying the view outdoors, sunglasses are an effective wind barrier. They reduce the rate of evaporation of tears and help keep the eyes moist and comfortable. If you wear contact lenses, sunglasses will help with moisture and prevent windblown particles from getting in your eyes and causing corneal abrasion. Consider close-fitting “wrap” style frames, as a particularly effective barrier.


Direct glare from a principal source like the sun, projectors or a photoflash can be debilitating because of its intensity. Reflected glare bounces off shiny surfaces like sand, water and snow. Regardless of the source, glare reduces visibility while it causes discomfort and even pain to the eyes.

Lens treatments that reduce glare are tints, mirrored surfaces, anti-reflective treatments, polarizing films and photo-polar combinations. Table 1 describes the benefits of each of the treatments.

Sun Science Table 1

First, Tinted Lenses have a variety of advantages yet can also miss some important characteristics of high quality sunwear. For example, tinted Plano lenses reduce glare i.e., excess light but their ability to absorb UV for example is a function of the base material itself and not the dye that created the tint. It’s possible that a grey 3 plastic lens is not 100% UV absorptive. Confirm that your supplier provides 100% UV absorbing plastic tinted lenses.

Grey lenses deliver true color and are advisable for extended periods of use in extreme conditions. Yellow lenses enhance brightness absorb blue lightSun Science -Polarized Lens.png and the ‘dazzle’ is effective for some users (driving during the day for seniors, skiing in fog). However, yellow is not advisable when the light is intense or for those with less than optimal vision. Yellow lenses are not a good solution for night driving in very dark conditions. Yellow lenses absorb too much of the ambient light.

Brown lenses improve contrast and image resolution. Ideal in changing light conditions, brown tints also absorb harmful blue light. Amber lenses brighten cloudy, hazy, or foggy skies are excellent for contrast and help to minimize eyestrain. Lastly, they are good for hunters, pilots and snow skiers. Rose lenses enhance contrast and are perceived as relaxing and are best in green or blue environments (water, grass) and can reduce blue light. Last, green lenses provide better contrast and a more precise and relaxed vision. To know the exact absorption characteristics, as your supplier for transmission charts of the variety of lens colors in the materials in which they are supplied.

Polarized Lenses provide comfort for patient’s eyes by reducing glare, most importantly eliminating blinding glare (intense flat surface reflections) enhancing contrast and clarity as well as being 100% UV protective. The result is reduced eye stress and strain.


A helpful chart for US sellers might be the Solar Protection Index (SPI) used in Europe and is part of the required markings for sunglasses sold. The Index categorizes the darkness of the lenses and recommends use based on environmental conditions. As we can see the protection index have 5 categories that increases as light intensifies. It starts at Category 0, when there is very little light absorption and is used for safety lenses and as cosmetic or fashion. Category 1, which allows from 80% to 43% transmission is for indoor and cloudy days. Category 2 reduces light transmission to 18% is for standard illumination. When it gets very sunny, as is the case at the seaside or the mountains, suggest Category 3, which lets only 8% of light through. Last is Category 4, this allows from 8% to 0% of light and is used when there is intense illumination, for example high altitude trekking. It must be noted that Category 4 is not suitable at all for driving.

Table 2 Solar Protection Indec



Some manufacturers engrave the SPI and the kind of sunlens on the temples. In the example, the lenses are a medium strong color shade (2N) and tinted. N may also designate lenses that have been tinted as well as mirrored. The letter designations are “P”, Polarized, “N”, tinted/mirror and “F”, PhotoPolar.

Temple image

Like the European standard, ANSI Z80.3 also includes traffic signal recognition as a requirement. This is especially important since most traffic lights and lighted warning signs are LEDs which some sunlens colors can obscure.


Answering this question for you is the basis of being able to answer this question for customers. What is the difference between these two sunglasses, priced about $220 and $10 respectively?


ray ban image

There are 6 factors that define the characteristics of premium versus generic for sunwear. They are UV protection, visual clarity, lens quality, frame quality, warranty and branding.

UV Protection – Some sunglasses are marked “UV Absorbing”, “UV Protective” and “Blocks most UV light”. Not sure what that means. Sunglasses sold in the United States are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and are required to conform to safety standards. The recommended U.S. standard is ANSI Z80.3-2010, which includes three transmittance categories. According to the standard, the lens should have a UVB (280 to 315 nm) transmittance of no more than one per cent and a UVA (315 to 380 nm) transmittance of no more than the visual light transmittance. Lenses of course must pass the drop ball test. Teach patients that the best you can do is choose premium brands you trust that guarantee 100% UV protection.

Visual Clarity – Premium lenses have ophthalmic quality surfaces i.e., optically correct with no distortion, ensuring clear vision. Low quality lenses may have local distortions or prism that contribute to blur or discomfort. This can lead to headache, fatigue, even nausea. “Consistency is a concern with lower-priced glasses. You might find one pair that offers great clarity and another that’s the very same brand and model and highly distorted”. (Peter H. Kehoe, O.D., Former President of the AOA).

Premium sunlenses ensure surface and centering accuracy. As you know, a small amount of Base In prism is required for Plano wrap sunglasses (called decentered planos) to ensure comfortable binocularity. Point out to patients that the increased nasal versus temporal thickness means that the lenses are optically correct.

Premium sunlenses with proper lens surfaces ensure that the potential damaging elements of sunlight and distortion are reduced or eliminated. The filter reduces or eliminates squinting from glare for greater visual comfort.

Lens and Frame Quality – Perceptions of lens quality include ‘how dark’ or are based on style and looks. Lens and frame quality is based on more than that. Lens durability for example, a part of its inherent value to the wearer, is augmented by a scratch resistant or mirrored front surface, an anti-reflective rear surface and the overall impact resistance of the complete lens. The performance of each of these characteristics is tested extensively by subjecting the lenses to boiling, artificial sweat, cycling heat and humidity and outdoor weathering. Ask your supplier for a list of the tests that their sunwear are subjected to so that you can teach customers why you and they can trust that brand.

The same trust developed for lenses needs to be created for frames. Frame quality requires that it pass endurance testing (temple or front bending, opening, closing) and tarnish or corrosion resistance (sweat, weather, temperature). Choice of materials that are hypoallergenic, durable, hold adjustment and maintain long lasting color vibrancy is essential. If the frame is coated and/or painted, it will not peel or chip. Higher quality frames can be distinguished for their better quality hinges (won’t wear fast making the temple loose), hinge attachment and finish around the hinges as well as the reliability of spring hinges. All this results in a frame that fits better and provides longer lasting comfort.Figure 2 - CE Markings

Frame Markings can describe tests and standards to which a frame conforms. For example, The European Commission requires 10 safety tests be performed on frames sold in the European Union, most also sold in the US. Frames that pass are stamped C{space}E meaning European Commission. Some frames from Chinese factories are stamped CE meaning Chine Export. It can be confusing (Fig. 2).

From a Dec 2010 review by the law firm of Osborne Clarke (, “The European Commission is aware that the CE marking, like any other mark, is misused. For example, the CE marking can be affixed to products which do not fulfill the relevant requirements and conditions or a product may fulfill the applicable requirements but the marking itself does not comply with the dimensions and proportions prescribed in the legislation. Confusion commonly occurs where a product has “the other CE marking” which stands for China Export.  That mark is confusingly similar to the EU CE marking.”

This is not to suggest that you cannot get high quality frames from China. In fact all the major manufacturers manufacture frames or source parts from a variety of countries, including China. By being knowledgeable of frame quality, as well as marking requirements, you can better counsel customers on quality as well as value.

Warranty and purchase satisfaction is always a consumer expectation. When you purchase generic eyewear and it breaks, what can you do? Are there spare parts? Can you return it? Maybe. Maybe not. By purchasing premium eyewear, customers are making an investment. With some manufacturers, this includes a 2-year manufacturers limited warranty and certificate of authenticity. It also includes an information leaflet like SPI index.

Table 3 Warranty

Brands – As the late Karl Lagerfeld once said, “People are great at remembering brands and logos.” We have to remember that a large part of the consumer’s desire for premium sunwear comes from the brand name and the prestige that those brands possess. Have you ever purchased an item that cost more because of the brand? Brands have grown to guarantee quality, fit and identity. Choose the brands that appeal to a specific as well as the broad range of customer segments. For example, Ray-Ban is the best-known sunglass brand worldwide.


Do you think your customers know all of the differences between generic and premium sunwear? What would be the sales opportunity if they did?

Table 4 Market Share

In 2013, the optical channel was only responsible for 2.5% of sunglass units (compare average sell prices (ASP) also, $149 vs. $15). Shouldn’t there be a difference between a $15 and $149 frame? Don’t you think that the customer expects there is but in the absence of your being able to describe it, in detail, they are left to think there is little difference. It’s that 60 minutes review all over again.

On the contrary, the Italian optical channel dominates the sunglass market. In the same time period Italy sold 7 million sunglass units for $1.15 billion at an average sell price of $164. Optical was 65% of the Plano sunglass market. “In Italy, consumers still tend to go to an optician to buy branded sunglasses…”, from a Strategy with Vision, Eyecare Consultants report. The opportunity therefore is to stand up for the quality that is uniquely different in the product that you sell. And, shout it from the rooftops.


It is possible to change the consumer’s mindset so that the ECP is the go-to destination for the right pair of sunglasses. If locations like Sunglass Hut can do it – an ECP that would consider a sunwear store within their practice, can also do it.

A plan is necessary to make this happen. It requires sufficient inventory of branded sunwear, knowledge of the brand and its attributes as well as a commitment to discuss sunwear with every patient who comes into the office, then make the best recommendations.

Sufficient inventory means some depth of frame colors in each of the styles and enough styles for the consumer to believe that you are in fact a good source of sunwear. For the brands carried, be able to talk about that brand using the words and descriptions that has attracted the consumer. Talk to the sales rep – get copies of descriptions of the DNA of the brand, its style and fashion targets for the season and use that language with customers. 85 percent of patients want their ECP to inform them about all eyewear and lens options available, regardless of the price (Source: Jobson).


Be equipped with all of the reasons why premium sun is the only choice for consumers.

For Premium Lenses, describe the benefits of quality, UV and impact protection, better vision, visual comfort, high performance for sports or driving and the durability delivered by scratch and impact resistance. Premium Frames provide a better fit, overall comfort, quality of workmanship and materials, durability, warranty, design and brand identity.

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