COVID-19: Optical Purchasing in 2020

By Kayla Groves May 14, 2020

COVID-19 has caused a significant impact on our business, and it will continue to affect how we move forward. As companies slowly begin to re-open, we face a new normal. This time last year, we were a few months into the busy season and getting ready for summertime. Sunglasses and flip-flops. However, with COVID-19 closing most businesses and locking us indoors, the future is a little cloudy. Moving forward, we need to prepare for that new normal. It is imperative to maintain inventory, but how much product will you need to purchase? To sustain social distancing, you need to limit the number of people in your office.

The days of overbooking and crowded waiting rooms may stay in the past, at least for a little while. This means you need less product. Fewer people equal less product. Typically, we can sell 10-30 pairs of glasses a day. However, many people are still fearful of leaving their homes. Adequately preparing is essential to your bottom line, but how can we do that? If you have not already, you should put your optical boards on frame management. The most crucial step is considering your demographics and ensuring that your inventory matches your customers’ needs. Board management improves inventory tracking, helps you maintain an adequate supply of product, and eases the worry of buying. Afterward, take an in-depth look at your "Bread and Butter." These are the frames that continuously turn, and you should always have them in stock. Right now, it is the perfect time to stock up on your top sellers. Frame companies are utilizing all their promotion codes to generate income, making it a buyers' market. If you know you can sell it, buy it. If it is questionable, steer clear. It is not the time to try the trendiest product. What is working in California may not work in Colorado.

Utilize extended billing, take advantage of free frames, and only keep product that you know you can move. Frame buying is a lot of fun! It is easy to get side-tracked, and you can end up overbuying. You must resist temptation and commit to the mentality that less is more, especially with COVID-19 still hanging around.  Before you meet with your frame representative, you should have an idea of how many frames you need to purchase. Ask for any promotions going on and utilize everything the representative has to offer. Now is the time when companies will pull out just about anything to get you to purchase their product. It is okay to take advantage of this opportunity. If you are on board management, the representatives should know how many slots they have. Board management helps you prevent buying too much, and it can make the buying process a lot smoother. Most of your frames are coming from overseas, and they are experiencing the same troubled times we are experiencing. Some product is on backorder, and many frames are unavailable. Make sure you are aware of what is in stock and what is on backorder. You do not want to be in a position where you do not have enough product to present to your customers accurately. Make sure you properly inform your patients if something is on backorder and make sure they are aware of the delays. Communicating efficiently with your patients lets them know they can trust you. If you can, offer your products online and make buying more convenient. While it is impossible to compete with the online optical market, you can join them. Many of your patients will love having the availability to order their contacts and glasses online.   Something to keep in mind is insurance. Now, millions of Americans are unemployed. Thus, they are without medical insurance. Unfortunately, this alone will cause a massive decline in sales.

Hopefully, as COVID-19 begins to decline, so will the unemployment rates. In the meantime, keep this in mind. Stock product that is reasonably priced and keep the luxury products to a minimum. We are all struggling, and it may take some time to get back on our feet; but it will happen. Time will heal all wounds, and we will recover. In the meantime, it is vital to maintain your customer base. You should reach out to your patients and let them know you are here for them. Tell them all about your new safety measures and how their health is essential to you. We are all in this together, and we will come out more resilient than ever.

Kayla Groves

Kayla Groves is a highly accomplished Optician who has worked every aspect of the Optical industry. She has successfully run several Optometry practices, including her private practice. Kayla has over 13 years of experience in the optical field and specializes in practice management. Currently, she provides business consulting services for private practices and strives for continuous growth. When she is not working, Kayla Groves enjoys spending time with her family and writing.

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