Prescription sunwear protects patients’ eyes from ultra-violet radiation and blue light, and increases their comfort and visual quality. And from a practice profitability standpoint, selling Rx sun builds revenues.

With so much to be gained by selling Rx sun, it’s surprising that independent optical shops don’t sell even more. Some 6.15 million pairs of Rx sunglass lenses were sold in the U.S. in 2016, increasing 1.2-1.5 percent yearly, according to The Vision Council. This number represents 7.4 percent of all Rx lenses sold. Reports show that roughly 43 percent of those lenses were sold through independent ECPs.

So where does the other 57 percent choose to buy their Rx sunglasses? Not from your independent practice!

If you and your staff don’t have the know-how to make those sales, the dollars walk out the door to online retailers, to a corporate-owned chain, or to a specialty sunwear shop.

Setting off a particular pair of sunglasses can draw attention to an exciting buying opportunity for patients browsing the shop.

Know the Many Options Available to Your Patients

Polarized solid, or gradient, are the first two choices the patient has. From there, you have many photochromic variations to choose from, including lenses in grey, brown or green, Transitions Vantage (photochromic and polarized) for indoor and outdoor in one pair, and dozens of colors in mirror coatings, blue-guard tint, back-lens AR, racing red tint for mountain biking, and high-contrast amber for golfing.

Talk Rx Sun in the Exam Room

If Rx sunglasses seem to be a difficult sell to your patients, maybe the presentation is coming too late in the conversation, when they are ready to go home.

The solution: Make prescription sunwear a key part of your exam-room conversation with all of your patients requiring vision correction, including presbyopes.

For example, you might say: “Emily, in addition to a pair of glasses for the home and office, I’m prescribing a pair of prescription sunglasses. Your eyes will be more comfortable, and you’ll be able to see much better when doing anything outside, from driving, to walking your dog to doing the activities we talked about, like hiking and biking. Since you also sometimes go boating, I’m also prescribing lenses with polarization, which cuts out the glare from the water, so you can see better and more comfortably. We’re learning more and more about the sun’s harmful effects on the eyes, so it’s important that you wear sunglasses whenever outdoors. Since you also wear glasses, it makes sense to have a pair of prescription sunglasses, so you don’t have to worry about only being able to wear your sunglasses if you have your contact lenses in.”

In the exam room, the OD can also look over the patient’s current RX sunwear and make suggestions about updating the fit, tint, or mentioning the new gradient polarized lenses now available.

Having the OD’s own prescription sunglasses on hand to show off a new style of polarized lens color, or the lightweight styles now available, makes the hand off to dispensing optician much easier.

Have Staff Ask Patients to Bring All Eyewear to Appointment
I can’t stress enough that dialog about the need for Rx sunwear needs should be addressed as early as possible in your office’s interaction with the patient.

Consider planting the seeds for the conversation during the call for an exam appointment. Staff can suggest the patient bring all of their recent eyeglasses, and sunglasses to be cleaned, adjusted and evaluated during their exam. If the majority of your patients now make appointments online, you can program a pop-up bubble to appear with the same message of bringing along all eyewear, including sunglasses, to the appointment, or you can make the request on one of the online forms the patient is asked to fill out.

Placing sunwear in a display case like this one sends the message that this is a special selection of products.

Train Opticians to Show Sunglasses at Same Time as Frame Options
Sunglasses tend to be an afterthought in too many frame sales, when in reality, they should be presented along with frames for new glasses.

While the patient has only asked to be shown frame options, every optician can casually include one or two pairs of sunglasses. Your patients will appreciate the thought your optical puts into also offering them sunglass options.

Your optician might say: “I’d love to see this on you! We just got these new Christian Dior sunglasses in, and I need someone to model this pair to see how it feels and looks. May I see it on you?”

Promote with Special Offers

Sunglasses are most often a patient’s second pair of Rx glasses, so a discount can help to encourage sales. For example: 25 percent off the frame, or 15 percent off the frame and lenses, depending on your profit margin. Making the discount on second pair Rx sunglasses as attractive as possible keeps those sun Rx dollars in your practice’s pocket.

Don’t skimp on frame board space for sunwear. If you feature it prominently, you give more patients the chance to notice it, and make a purchase.

Make Sunwear Merchandise Easily Accessible with Opticians On Hand
Keep your sunglasses out front and easy to try on. Having an optician easily available, and sunwear easy to touch and feel, makes sales more fluid than keeping sunglasses locked away in display cases. Too many locked cabinets make patients feel they aren’t trusted. Being sure you’re properly staffed, and that your staff is out front, keeps theft down and your patients buying. While security today is more important than ever, personal service is paramount.

Greeting every shopper within a few moments of entering your business keeps theft down, and upfront personal care and knowledgeable experts on hand to increase sales.

Avoid the help-yourself atmosphere. Your place of business is not a self-service discount shop. Offering quality sunglasses, and displaying them in such a way that shows their worth, represents how you care for each patient. Prescription sunwear is a premium product that improves patients’ lives.



is a licensed optician, and owner of Spirited Business Advisor, a consultancy that works with small businesses, including independent eyecare practices, on how best to serve customers and generate profitability. To contact her:


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Editors Note:

According to VisionWatch Canada (published by The Vision Council) reports, 87% of US consumers wear plano sunglasses, versus only 62% in Canada, a significant difference. It is not a seasonal aberration. The 62% penetration level has held fairly steady through each of the four seasons, since the VisionWatch Canada data started tracking data in 2014.

Learn more, read the  C’MON, EH! CANADIAN SUNGLASS WEAR LAGS BEHIND! article.

Plano sun may jump out at you as a summer-based sales opportunity, but as we head into fall, it’s important to remember, it’s a year-round chance to protect your patients’ eyes while boosting optical revenues.

Sunwear offers a dual opportunity: protect eyes from ultra-violet radiation and blue light, while enabling the wearer to have fun making a style statement. How many fashion pieces offer the wearer both health benefits and style savvy?

Source: VisionWatch, The Vision Council

But despite this great opportunity, many independent optometric practices are still missing out on plano sun sales. The top sellers of plano sunwear, according to The Vision Council’s VisionWatch statistics are sunglass specialty shops, followed by drug/grocery/mass/warehouse clubs, department and specialty stores, optical chains, and sporting goods stores. After all those sellers, come independent opticals, capturing $155 million in sales of plano sunwear in the first quarter of 2017.

Compare that to the $1,703.6 million in plano sun sales captured by sunglass specialty stores. The only plano sun sellers tracked by VisionWatch that ranked lower than independent opticals were flea markets/street vendors.

To help turn that sales-losing trend around, I spoke to my optician friends, and together we came up with this list of plano sun sale promotions and marketing strategies that work:

Discount for Contact Lens Annual Supply Buyers: Offer “25% off non-prescription sunglasses with purchase of a year supply of contact lenses.”

Market to LASIK Patients: “Same-day discount on sunwear for LASIK patients.”

Advertise Wide Inventory: “We sell 150+ sunglasses in our office, and we offer the service of cleaning and free adjustments. Stop back by every 3-4 months for tune-ups to make sure your sunglasses fit comfortably. Purchasing sunglasses from us means also purchasing high-quality customer service.”

Promote Memorable Optical Displays: Post photos of your sunglasses on display in your optical on Facebook and Instagram, with a message like: “Check out our ‘Wall of Sunglasses.’ Drop by and find your perfect pair.”

Offer Superior UV Protection. “Do you know if your sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun? If you buy from us, we guarantee UV protection. Know what you’re getting–and protect your vision.”

Prescribing in the Exam Room Means Selling in the Optical
Let’s back it up to the exam room. Knowing your patients’ sports, hobbies, the amount of driving they do in a week, travel patterns, dry eye problems, sensitivities to sunlight, and their personal style, is the first step. Uncovering those personal details, and prescribing accordingly, makes your optician’s job easier.

Prescribing sunwear should never be about selling; it should be about presenting solutions and improving lives. When you invite a conversation about the patient’s biking, golf game, love of hiking or fly fishing adventures–whatever takes them outside and on the road or trails–you are showing the patient that your prescription is a customized solution, especially for them.

Suggest a Sunwear Demo in Hand-Off
When you hand-off to your optical staff, suggest a demo of the lenses you have prescribed, such as a polarized pair of sunglasses for driving, or a wraparound pair for golf.

Train Staff to Speak Like Plano Sun Experts
Have you had a sunglasses meeting to be sure all your staff is on the same page about selling sunwear? Are you absolutely sure your staff has expert knowledge of tints, ideal lens color choices for sports and other technical details?

Tints. Opticians should be conversant about the benefits of the many different tints of sun lenses. They should be able to match the ideal tint with the patient’s favorite outdoor hobbies and sports.

Driving Sunwear. Be sure opticians can discuss how the right pair of “drivewear” sunglasses can make accidents less likely, and can make the experience of driving safer and more comfortable. Point out the benefits of polarized sunglasses in deflecting glare while on the road, and how polarized lenses compare to photochromatic lenses like Transitions.

Impact resistance. Prepare staff to explain to patients why it’s important that their sunwear be able to withstand impact, and how high-quality sunwear meets FDA standards for impact resistance.

Wraparound protection. The optician should be able to explain how wraparound protection offers a greater UV shield to the eyes, preventing UV rays from getting in at the sides of the eyes.

Blue light protection. Opticians should be educated about what harmful blue light is, and why sunwear that protects against both UV radiation, in addition, to blue light, is important.

Editor’s Note: Comparison of Canadian and American Plano Sunwear Market





Source: VisionWatch Canada Q1 2017, The Vision Council

Learn more about the 2017 Canadian Market Overview. Data provided by VisionWatch Canada, distributed by VuePoint IDS with consent of the Vision Council. 




is a licensed optician, and owner of Spirited Business Advisor, a consultancy that works with small businesses, including independent eyecare practices, on how best to serve customers and generate profitability. To contact her:


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