Now is the time for the rise of the INDEPENDENT
I had some time set aside today to write a few styling articles & make a couple of vlogs, but each time I tried to put pen to paper my mind wouldn’t move past the heartbreak I feel right now at the fear and pain which seems to be manifesting as blame and aggression throughout the independent Optical Industry right now.
From recent conversations I’ve had, it seems that due to the impact of Covid19, many independent practice owners and professionals are on the verge of giving up on years of blood sweat and tears, walking away from their practices and looking into career changes. And this deeply saddens me – especially as I absolutely do not feel the same way, in fact I’m excited for the future.
Now is our time!
I feel as independents this is our time to shine, to really give our clients the very best experience and show what it means to be truly Independent!
So, before you make or take any drastic decisions, I want you to remember why you chose to work or own, an independent practice in the first place.
INDEPENDENT – adjective
- Free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority. “an independent nuclear deterrent”. synonyms: freethinking · individualistic · unconventional · maverick · free · liberated ·
- Not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence.”I wanted to remain independent in old age”. synonyms:self-sufficient · self-supporting · self-sustaining · self-reliant · self-standing · able to stand on one’s own two feet · self-contained · self-made · living on one’s hump
- Capable of thinking or acting for oneself.
Most of us became independent practice owners so we could have full control of our business and the experience we offer our clients. We don’t have to play by the rules when it comes to pricing, changing the way we do things or how we communicate with our clients. We really are our own boss!
One of the big conversations dominating our industry in the UK is whether to go private. I would say yes,If you are deeply unhappy with the NHS, perhaps now is the time to walk away from them – rather than the industry as a whole, and claim back your true independence.
But whatever you choose, make a bold choice and stick with it. A half hearted choice of ‘well I’ll be private on this day and NHS on that day’ may be difficult to explain to your clients. And if some of your clients leave you for the sake of an extra £20-40, my question to you would be – ‘are they clients you really want to keep anyway?’
Or is there something you are missing in your experience that could have kept them?Because you may want to ask yourself, would you leave your favourite store because they had to increase a few prices here and there after a crisis, or would you want to support them?
In my experience as a practice owner who has played around with pricing structure over the years, most people don’t bat an eyelid at price increases, especially if you add value in other ways. The issue is very often in our own heads. If you make the decision to go completely private, add some extra incentives such as an eye examination report to the fee, extra nutrition advice, eyewear styling consultations- or something that makes the client feel they are getting something more. People need to feel that they are getting value.
And trust me you will feel far happier when you are getting what you are worth.
Clinical or Retail – Do we really have to make that choice?
I’m also hearing a lot about cutting costs of glasses and increasing clinical fees. My question would be, ‘why can’t you increase both?’
As an industry we do eye tests and we sell glasses; we are both clinical and retail. So why can’t we offer an exceptional all round experience and attract clients who want both quality eyecare and quality eyewear. That’s the beauty of being independent, surely?
My clients are happy to pay for a premium, 1 hour eye examination and then through my eyewear styling consultation, have great fun selecting from an exciting range of artisanal bespoke eyewear. That is why they choose me as an independent retailer – for something different.
But although they pay a premium, they also get tons of value. Such as extra time in eye test to ask questions, nutrition advice etc and a bespoke eyewear styling consultation with myself or my team of certified eyewear stylists worth £150!.
This is what I believe being independent is about giving our clients far more than the high street. To offer clients the best in terms of frames, lenses, eyecare and experience and charging a premium for the difference.
In fact now more than ever, many practices are seeing less clients per day due to social distancing and cleaning measures and therefore we need to have processes in place to really maximise the spend of each client we see.
For those people who want cheap/ free eye tests or cheap glasses, there is plenty of choice on the high street and online. But they are not my ideal clients and they shouldn’t be yours either.
Here are the top 3 reasons people shop at Independents:
- The personal touch- knowing the clients name when they walk in the door, being able to pop in and have a conversation, feeling part of a family. They simply don’t get the level of care in a large corporations- and many of you offer this in abundance.
- Character and individuality. As independents you have our own unique character and personality which makes you different from anyone else
- Artisanal values- people ultimately shop at independents for something different from the high street. To have more choice and to shop quality. I offer a unique eyewear styling consultation service at Style Optique, something that clients travel hundreds of miles for! This is where we can really stand out from the high street with both our products and services.
Since lockdown, I have had back to back record weeks because my practice is already set up for lower volume and higher spend. And also because most clients come first and foremost for the styling consultation, which means they are ready to spend money on eyewear. I don’t say this to gloat , I say this to inspire you, to show you growth is possible.
I promise you can grow despite this crisis, you just have to rethink how you do things. And trust me, you can transform your practices and those that take brave leaps and commit to change, will be rewarded.
Please don’t forget why you came in this industry- to help people and give the very best of yourself. And people out there want and need this from you. But please open your eyes to new possibilities and know that ultimately you can do what you want to do- You are in control of your destiny. No one else!
Eva Dave is a multi award winning boutique practice owner, Optometrist and Image Consultant and creator of Eyewear Styling Academy.
If you want to learn an eyewear styling process that creates and elite client experience and can triple your average dispense value check out her free training by clicking the button below