Welcome to the first Innovare Design blog post of 2017. With the UK’s largest optical trade show – 100% Optical – on the horizon, I thought the focus for this month’s blog post should be optical retail design, a sector I’ve been passionately involved in for over 15 years.
Now in its fourth year, and delivered in association with The Association of Optometrists (AOP), 100% Optical provides a great platform for optical buyers across the UK and Europe. It is also where the annual AOP Awards take place – good luck to all those shortlisted!
Of course, the UK optical retail sector is currently dominated by a number of large chains that focus primarily on value. Indeed, Mintel’s 2016 report into Optical Goods Retailing found that “attention grabbing deals remain the cornerstone of promotional strategy” for these particular opticians. And with new competition from supermarket giants adding to the fight for market share, today’s independent opticians need to work harder than ever to maintain and grow their position.
So with the pressure rising, what can smaller optical chains and independents do to compete?
Know your customer
Those of us who have visited an optician will have mixed experiences to share. If we have a positive experience then we recommend it to friends and family and happily go back for our follow-up appointments. And that is where the unique opportunity lies for an optician. Make the right first impression and you are on the road to building long-term customer loyalty – a dream position for any retailer.
But before you can build those loyal customers, you need to understand who they are and what they want, and put them at the heart of what you do. This is a critical subject and one I covered in a previous blog post – Understanding Retail Shopper Behaviour.
Many independent opticians do this well and thrive on a group of loyal customers but with over 40% of optical consumers concerned about the cost of eyewear, independents can’t ignore the very real threat from the value focused larger chains. It is important to emphasise what you do well – choice, service levels, professionalism – all these qualities need to be expressed clearly in your store and throughout all your customer touch points.
In the article Opticians in the Frame in Retail Focus magazine – I contribute to the discussion about the popularity of less clinical, more fashion focused environments favoured by mid and upmarket opticians. I explain that the successful optical retail environments we have designed for David Clulow make customers feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible, encouraging them to spend time browsing. These environments put customers at the centre of the optical ‘experience’ with carefully planned spaces that facilitate every stage of this personal service. They are designed to create desire through attractive and well-lit optical displays. They feature prominent and tempting promotional zones that can be easily refreshed with the changing seasons. And they employ the latest technology to support relationship building.
Last year, I was interviewed by Optician magazine after taking on the optical retail design project for the new John Lewis Opticians concession. I explained how our design development answered the expectations and aspirations of the John Lewis customer. The concession has a fresh, warm and comfortable feel and features lots of natural timber – the perfect showcase for top class eye care and a range of world leading brands.
Learn from your competitors
Opticians of all sizes can learn much from their competition. For example, one of many brands we have been watching is Australia’s Bailey Nelson. A relative newcomer to the UK, their stated aim is to “right the wrongs of the eyewear industry”. We wish them well with their mission and applaud their stylish, friendly and inviting stores and website that offer value for money on a good variety of fashionable frames.
We also wish you well and hope you have a profitable 2017.
And if you are looking for some optical retail design inspiration this year then do get in touch – we are always happy to share our insights.
In the meantime, you might be interested in some these optical and sunglasses projects:
Sunglass Hut An immersive brand experience at Westfield London and Stratford
John Lewis Opticians Visionary new venture with Luxottica UK
Selfridges Sunglasses Bespoke shop-in-shop solutions
David Clulow Opticians New generation retail concepts
Oakley, Olympic kiosk
RayBan, duty free kiosk, Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5
Oakley & RayBan, Airport retail pop-up concepts