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RED Thinking Like a Retailer Blog Header, How creating a unique customer experience can help independent Opticians attract customers

Thinking Like a Retailer

October 26, 2018 - News -

optical market backdrop...

The UK optical market is buoyant – consumer spending on optical goods and services continues to rise. And, with an estimated 1.9 million more ‘over 55s’ in 2021, the UK’s aging population sets to provide a guarantee for further market growth - for glasses, as well as creating increased demand for eye examinations and monitoring.

However, growth for some retailers could be hampered, as a number of the leading and new players, become more competitive with pricing strategies in the battle for custom. What’s more, it’s these same retailers that are concentrating on developing the online market for prescription glasses.

Independent Opticians are those most at risk as they struggle to compete, but it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom for our cherished Independents. There are opportunities for them to regain share, by differentiating themselves with brand trust and ensuring a strong focus on customer experience.

The optical market remains an evolving concept within the traditional retail space - it’s long been more than, just providing expert care to patients in-store. Opticians understand that to survive and flourish, they need to rely on selling products to those same patients or consumers – it’s the only way to guarantee store profitability and continued success.

Retail Experience Design (RED) Founder and Owner, Dean Waugh explains:

"I once had a client say that he couldn’t understand why he was unable to sell any of his premium frames, whilst pointing over to a dark corner, where glasses sat on a raw MDF shelf, with the edges peeling away from the askew surface. In today’s market, patients and customers are savvy - their expectations are high! Effectively presenting the right products and services at the right time is fundamental. But it’s also about the Customer Experience too"

Independents are unique in that they have their own inherent strengths, that can’t always be matched by others, particularly the larger chains that dominate the market. However, to be competitive, it’s crucial that they position their brand and store on their strengths and core values.

Creating a unique customer experience
The customer experience covers each step through the store, every touch point and interaction, and is often made up of many different elements. Optical retailers should, therefore, be asking themselves does their space create a customer experience tailored to their audience.

So, why should Independent Opticians consider a refit to future-proof their business? Since their refit in January, Dipesh of Parker and Hammond's shares the statistics compared to the same period last year:


How does it work?

To make it work, there are many design fundamentals that need to be in place. Retail Experience Design (RED) Founder and Owner, Dean Waugh also explains:

“I often see new optical fit outs, that, on the surface look aesthetically pleasing. But it’s clear they’re lacking in strategic design. It’s crucial Optical Retailers have a clear understanding of their current and future customer base - what are their customers looking for in terms of product, service, environment and experience? Is there a brand and identity? If so, does it reflect the “true” business values and services provided? How does the brand and identity connect with current and future customers, is it aligned? And, is the brand and identity reflected consistently throughout the space, environment and people?"

A prime example of strategic design, was Parker and Hammond who embarked on a refit project with Retail Experience Design in 2018 to:

Parker and Hammond’s existing space was long and narrow, with a sea of frames displayed on rods that morphed into one. Dispensing was mixed into the retail frames resulting in a difficult and uncomfortable browse for products and dispense. In addition, the flow of space wasn’t working, with clinical areas feeling out of reach and cramped.

The design strategy was to take the space back to the external walls and remodel the entire layout. By doing this a larger space was achieved - 3m depth testing rooms with the inclusion of a pre-test suite, all with perfect synergy to allow ease of patient flow.

The design team at RED reviewed and re-developed the entire customer journey to ensure key touch points along the customer route, as well as product interaction. Through the configuring, 4m of additional space was created, which allowed for an uninterrupted dispense to provide patients time and space to trial their frames.


To align the design and business strategy, a complete re-working and re-design of the retail offering to enhance and promote high end brands also took place. The overall aesthetics further enhanced Parker and Hammonds vision to deliver a space that put the patient at the forefront of advanced optical technology, as well ensuring a strong focus on the retail operation of the business.

What the client had to say...

"We chose to work with Retail Experience Design as we wanted a totally bespoke service and a practice that looked unique. We wanted to create a truly welcoming environment for our patients to feel relaxed, to experience outstanding eye care and choose the very best eyewear.

The RED team listened to all of our requirements and designed an amazing retail environment that our staff enjoy working in and a place where our patients love to shop. RED guided us through materials and finishes that complimented our brand identity and the practice layout to ensure everything really came together!

Our shop fit was extremely challenging as we totally redesigned our retail space. Our store premises had changing floor levels and ceiling heights that had to be contended with and both RED and our contractor worked hard to ensure the project was designed and delivered to perfection.

RED helped us through the contractor selection process and their recommended contractor was great to work with delivering a first class end result that we were all pleased with. We could not be happier with the end result."