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HomemifeatureOne Out of the Box

One Out of the Box

Hansen Optometry in the central west New South Wales city of Orange has celebrated 125 years in eye care with a major renovation and the installation of state of the art technology. The sleek new practice was unveiled at a cocktail party onsite on Friday 16 March.

Hansen Optometry may have its roots steeped in history, but when it comes to delivering eye care, it is definitely operating at the forefront of Australian optometry.

The family owned practice is part of the Eyecare Plus group. They’ve been examining eyes in the Central West since 1886 when Henry Hansen, a Danish jeweller and watchmaker set up shop. Henry’s son Fred was the first of seven optometrists across four generations to practice as an optometrist in the business, which today employs 16 full-time staff members –most of them part of the extended Hansen family.

Michael Jacobs, the Chief Executive Officer of Eyecare Plus, said the extent of the practice renovation came as a surprise. “We felt that the original fit-out, even though it was 18 years old, was a very pleasing one but of course we hadn’t taken into account a number of issues including changing technology, the increasing number of patients passing through the practice and the workflow issues that result from this. Then there is the increasing focus on lens selection and the need for more frames to be displayed.

So much has changed in our industry over the past 10 to 15 years and technology is a key ingredient of that change

“So much has changed in our industry over the past 10 to 15 years and technology is a key ingredient of that change,” said Mr. Jacobs.

“Hansen’s has made extensive use of sophisticated, tailor made spectacle lenses available today and the equipment (and skills) necessary to prescribe them such as Essilor’s Visioffice. In fact Hansen’s has made excellent use of large screen video displays throughout the practice.”

New Store, New Technology

Melbourne based Box Retail was responsible for designing the new store, managing the works and installing all the new technology that, along with Essilor’s VisioOffice, includes an Optical Coherence Tomographer (OCT) for extensive eye examinations, Wi-Fi in the patient waiting area and a fully integrated practice management system with high speed networking between reception, consulting room and even the remote lens laboratories in Sydney.

A virtual mirror, set up with a video camera enables customers to record images of themselves trying on different frames then wear their own spectacles to play back the images, making the selection process easier.

“We’ve purpose designed all the cabinetry, fittings and displays for the practice, replaced the floors, repainted and installed the technology,” said Nathan Robinson, the Managing Director of Box Retail. “Optometry practices have unique needs that we’ve taken care of to maximise both retail and clinical functionality.”

The store itself has been reconfigured and with it the testing/sales process to maximise eye care for patients. Patients now move from the consulting rooms at the rear of the practice through to the laboratory where they select the lenses most appropriate to their needs and budget. Then, they move through to the retail section of the practice where they choose their frames.

Upstairs at Hansens is a ‘high-roller’ room where high net worth customers can enjoy trying on frames in privacy and have their colours analysed by a professionally trained consultant.

It’s All About Differentiation

Mr. Hansen said there were several driving factors in the renovation. “We wanted to move away from having the lens laboratory shut away from the public and turn it into a lens selection area. Our customers need to know there are different lenses available – they can still choose the budget lens if they want but they need to know and understand the options.

“We also want to move into the next era technology – with informed lens selection, an online touchscreen for frame selections that aren’t held in stock and a Wi-Fi hot spot our customers can make use of in the waiting room.

“We’re trying to differentiate ourselves from other practices – to move to where optometry will be in ten years time when we’ll be doing a lot of screen selling as well as holding so much stock in store.”

Mr. Hansen said that as well as investing in new technology and renovations, the practice has invested heavily in training to create a competitive sales advantage and equip staff to educate customers. “Our customers need to understand that we have lower priced options available, but we’d also like them to understand there are advantages in choosing higher priced products. Once we’ve provided all the information and shown them the options, they can make an informed decision.”

Mr. Hansen said the renovation is an investment in the future – in terms of positioning the practice for growth and attracting the best staff. “We decided to renovate now while the economy is depressed so that when it picks up, as it always does, we are ready for expansion. Regional areas are doing it tough. Fortunately, in Orange, we have a mining industry nearby and the custom that comes from that supports local businesses. So while we are not recession proof, we have had steady growth.

“The biggest problem for growth in optics in regional areas is getting optometrists. Those that do come to regional areas usually only stay for a few years, earn good money and go back to the cities. Practices in regional areas are becoming harder to sell and are dropping in value because of this, despite being generally more profitable then city practices.”

Launch Celebration

At the launch, Essilor’s Chief Executive Officer, Tony Gray, and National Sales Director, Nada Pera said they were impressed by the significant investment Hansen’s had made in electronic technology and the development of a separate area for the lens dispensary.

“It’s fantastic to see a practice taking the lens discussion with the patient seriously. The choice of lens has a major impact on optical performance and overall patient satisfaction. And after all, it represents over 50 per cent of the sale to the patient. This is a great way for independent practices to differentiate their business,” said Mr. Gray.

Mr. Jacobs presented the practice staff with a certificate of national accreditation from Eyecare Plus and said that by “focusing on being the best possible in all they do, Hansen Optometry has no need to worry about the competition”.