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HomeminewsThriving in a Tough Climate

Thriving in a Tough Climate

According to the latest Westpac Survey of Consumer Sentiment, Australian consumer confidence rose significantly in July following slumps in May and June. With continued volatility predicted until the end of the year, mivision caught up with Simon Cosgrove, General Manager at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care (JJVC) for his expert opinion on how to thrive in these difficult economic times.

Q: Simon, what is your view on the optometry industry at present?
A: Our interaction with optometrists indicates foot traffic is down across the board. With volatile economic times predicted through until the end of the year, optometrists need to consider new ways to do business.

Q: What tips do you have for optometrists?
A: In the last few years, JJVC has done a lot of research to determine the value of a contact lens wearer. Australian research shows if contact lenses were offered as a vision correction option, there are close to one million spectacle wearers who would be happy to try them. These are not patients that need to be dragged in off the street but the ones that optometrists are already seeing. Therefore, we call these patients ‘dual wearers’ since they buy both specs and contacts.

In addition, the average value of a CL customer, as is well known, is much higher than a patient who just wears specs. Independent research conducted in 2008 has clearly shown the following facts about contact lens wearers:

The patients and optometrists are not discussing contact lenses because they are each expecting the other party to initiate the conversation.

  • 90 per cent of them have specs as well as contact lenses.
  • Contact lens wearers spend 32 per cent more on specs than spec-only wearers.
  • Contact lens wearers are three times more likely to purchase sunglasses than spectacle only wearers.
  • They visit their optometrist 2.5 times more often than spec only wearers.
  • The average annual spend of a spec only patient is AUD$260 versus a patient who wears both contact lenses and specs is AUD$510 – this represents an average increment of AUD$250 per “dual wearer patient.”

Q: One million new CL patients, seems a lot, but what does this mean to the average optometrist running a retail practice?
A: Say there are about 2,500 practices in Australia. If we breakdown these million spec wearers per practice, it means there are potentially 400 spec wearers per practice who are interested in wearing contact lenses. Based on an incremental value of AUD$250 this means an additional AUD$100,000 for your practice per year. This is converting just one to two new patients per day! That’s what I call a low hanging fruit.

Therefore, we believe that in tough times when the sale of frames and lenses is slow, or margins are squeezed due to pressure to sell “packages” or two for one deals – contact lenses can be the stimulus package for optometrists.

Q: So, what do you think is stopping optoms from taking advantage of this opportunity?
A: Our research shows there seems to be a communication gap between the optometrists and patients. The patients and optometrists are not discussing contact lenses because they are each expecting the other party to initiate the conversation.

In addition, there is very little or no visibility for contact lenses in store so patients have no way of finding out whether the optometrist sells contact lenses.

Q: I hear that optometrists don’t like to be seen to ‘sell’?
A: If you mean selling something that is not needed, then I fully agree. This is bad for the patient, the professional reputation and not least, really bad for business. Understanding patient needs is key for the optometrist to provide the full range of options to meet the patient’s vision care needs.

Q: OK, what would you recommend optometrists do to take advantage of this opportunity?
A: In my opinion, three simple tips can go a long way:
1. Engage, Talk and Listen: Simply by asking the patient about their lifestyle and visual needs, you can uncover new opportunities. Don’t be afraid to ask them whether they would like to try contacts, especially because it can lead to a great outcome for the patient.
2. Apply contacts after refraction: By applying contacts before frame selection you can help patients select their glasses and give them an experience of what contacts feel like. We also hear that the level of frames returned drops dramatically too!
3.Keep inventory in store: According to a Perth optometrist; “People say that the internet is more convenient but if we have stock here it’s even more convenient because they buy immediately, instead of waiting for delivery. Therefore, having stock in practice is good for the patient and practice since it leads to happier patients and money in the bank for the optometrist.”

Q: What type of lenses would you recommend for these patients?
A: New contact lens wearers look for a hassle-free and convenient option. Therefore, daily disposable contact lenses are a suitable option for these patients.

Q: What is J&J doing to support the Independent optometrists?
A: In the last 18 months, JJVC has conducted the highly successful business building workshops to share insights and provide tools to help optometrists maximise patient outcomes. Apart from that, we have been running consumer campaigns for the last four years to drive new patients to optometrists. The number of new wearers into contacts has increased significantly in the last four years, especially into daily disposables.

In 2010, we are planning a series of seminars on ‘maximising patient outcomes’ to help optometrists engage with patients for more successful outcomes. The seminars will focus on practical tips to enhance the patient experience.

Q: Thanks for your time Simon! Any final tips?
A: To finish off, I would like to reiterate my point about contact lenses being the stimulus package for optometrists. They are great for patients, practice and the profession. Pretty simple really!

1. Westpac Banking Corp and Melbourne Institute Survey of Consumer Sentiment survey of consumers between 5 and 11 July