Sun knows no season: sizzling sunwear sales

April 24, 2012

By Joan V. Abney, manager, Paraoptometric Section

A patient walks through your office door taking off his sunglasses; during pre-testing, a patient discusses her golf game; a patient’s case history states he is employed with a construction company. Does your office team recognize these are just a few of the “sun indicators” that provide opportunities to educate patients about eye protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays as well as significantly increase your practice’s bottom line?

There is a great deal of potential to increase patient satisfaction through superior service and product knowledge of the amazing sunglass options available today.
This “hot” topic for patient education and product sales is one worth discussing with your front office staff, opticians, assistants, and technicians. By providing training on the basics of sun exposure, how to communicate to patients about the premium performance features of your products and the importance of having a well-planned, pleasing sun wear display, you will set your practice apart from your competition.

Sun exposure basics

UV radation comes from invisible high-energy rays in sunlight. These rays can be absorbed by your eyes and may increase the risk factors for eye diseases. There are three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. The ozone absorbs the UVC rays, thus they are not a risk to our eyesight. Most of the UVB rays are absorbed by the ozone, but still pose some risk for eye damage. They do need to be considered when talking about eye protection from the sun. UVA rays are the most common kind of ultraviolet energy that reaches the earth. UV radiation causes negative reactions in eye tissue and may be linked to cataracts, pterygium, pinguecula, cancer on the eyelids, and macular degeneration.

UVA risk factors associated with unprotected overexposure to UV rays are not limited to natural sunlight, but also can be from artificial indoor rays.

It is recommended to limit outdoor exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and precautions should not be limited only to sunny days. UV rays reach the earth on cloudy or hazy days too.

The UV rays reflect off water, cement, sand, and snow, so don’t let the season of the year or location determine your precautions.

Some types of medication may increase the eye’s sensitivity to light and may put the patient at an increased risk for sun damage to the eyes. The combination of exposure to light while taking these types of medications appears to be also associated with the risk of developing age-related cataract.

The optometrist should introduce sun exposure educational component during the examination. Paraoptometric staff should re-enforce the information and assist the patient in choosing the right sunwear.

Sunwear recommendations

  • Check that sunglasses block 99 percent to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays
  • Choose large lenses that fit close to the eyes and wrap all the way around to the temples to help prevent rays from entering from the sides.
  • Determine what types of activities the patient will be doing outdoors. The lens color will affect light and how the patient will see things. Amber tints block blue light and provide greater contrast. They are good to wear for hunting. They may distort vision so they would not be good for driving. Gray tints do not distort vision or alter color, so they are good for driving. They do not provide as much contrast as amber. Brown or green tints are also good for driving. Choose darker and polarized sunglasses for sporting events that take place in bright light with a lot of reflection–such as skiing and fishing. Orange, pink, blue or red-tinted lenses are good for fashion accessorizing. However, these colored lenses are not suitable for driving.

Product knowledge

The more knowledgeable paraoptometric staff is about the functional features of sunwear products, the better they will be able to discuss the products with patients. First, the optometrists will educate the patient about the risk factors associated with over-exposure to UV rays. This information will be re-enforced by the paraoptometric, and once patients are made aware of the health risks, they will be more willing to consider purchasing sunglasses that offer increased functional benefits.

Paraoptometrics should also be prepared to discuss eyewear protection with young patients or with parents about protecting their child’s vision. They should be familiar with the fun shapes and kid-friendly colors, as well as the UV protection and impact resistance features available.

Fashion merges with the sporting lifestyle by providing trendy shapes, hot colors, and sleek metals to create a strong visual identity. Sunglasses are now designed with the hardcore athlete or those with active lifestyles in mind. Find out about the performance features such as polarization, impact protection, rubberized bridges and temple tips to provide your patients with in-depth information. Become knowledgeable about current sporting events/ personalities and the brands recommended for those particular sports.

Discussing topics such as what brand Team USA and the U.S. Olympic Committee selected for their eyewear for the 2012 London Olympic Games, or what brand pro golfer, Fred Couples, hits the links wearing are great conversation starters.


Think of how a chef presents his culinary masterpiece to a food critic. A great deal of planning goes into what style and color of plate to use to present the meal, what type of garnish will best complement the presentation, what combination of food colors work best together, and what herbs and spices will bring out the most flavor. This kind of thought in the preparation process should be taken when setting up your display area and determining how brands are to be presented to patients.

A well-planned display area is the key to presenting your product. Keeping the display area clean and dust-free is a must. Every fingerprint and dust particle will be noticed if not taken care of throughout the day. If the signature look of a premium brand also has a fragrance, clothing or accessory line, then use them in the display alongside the sunglasses to connect the two. Keep the display simple so that the focus is on the eyewear. Adding a rock, sculpture, antique toy, a piece of jewelry, or a book will add interest, but will not take away from the overall purpose of the display. Seasonal and holiday displays will draw attention immediately upon entering the office.

Signage at the reception counter informing patient’s to feel free to visit the display area will provide opportunities for patients to see what you have to offer, ask questions, and possibly include a pair of sunglasses in their order. Signage within the display area may also draw attention to a particular brand. To provide imagery and identity association with those brands, use verbiage such as:

  • Old-world craftsmanship meets modern designs
  • For those who appreciate innovative mixes of materials, textures and colors
  • Impact protection
  • Glare reduction
  • Superior optical quality
  • For the active lifestyle

The whole office team should use descriptive language when highlighting the special features of each individual brand. Write descriptive verbiage to be used with each brand. Have staff role-play and practice using the descriptions so they feel comfortable using them with patients.

Use information gathered from the patient during their visit to target particular brands that are best suited for them. If front desk staff learned about a patient’s upcoming vacation, they should communicate this information to the optician/ dispenser so they may follow up and direct the patient to brands that are appropriate for their vacation activities.

Limitless potential

Typically, sunwear sales are highest from July to August, followed by May and June. Everyone requires sun protection most every day of the year. When the optometrist and paraoptometric staff work as a team to educate patients about the importance of eye protection, provide excellent customer service, and are knowledgeable of the products, it’s an easy decision for the patient to invest in their eye health by ordering protective eyewear, no matter what time of year it is!

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