Readers of our print edition will already notice that this issue debuts a brand-new look for the publication timed to coincide with our 130th anniversary. You can read a brief retrospective on our history and the profession’s, and see a gallery of the many different logos—and names!—this magazine has sported through the years.
That quick trip down memory lane reminded me of how some of the structural problems that independent optometrists face have been around almost literally since day one. Skimming old issues, I came across an editorial on price competition—from 1895. In it, founding editor Frederick Boger related a recent competitive dust-up between grocers and “dry goods” stores, what today we might call a big-box retailer, a place that thrives on a low-cost, high-volume business model.
New York City grocers of the day couldn’t compete on price, so they went about publicly condemning and trying to restrict this formidable new competitor. Far from being intimidated, the dry-goods stores used it against the grocers by circulating their laments as proof that the bigger stores offered the better deal—and then their business went up.
Boger warned his readers against making the same mistake. “The more you call the attention of the public to your inability to compete with the peddler or the dry-goods store,” he wrote, “the more you seek to curtail their business by neglecting your own to call attention to theirs, the more those people prosper and the more goods they sell.”
He reassured his readers to “not be frightened because the dry-goods store sells eyeglasses for 9¢ a pair.” Offer the same, he argued, but point out the superiority of your more precise, customized methods and the competitors’ advantage will vanish.
In other words, upsell.
“Get people to your store, then you have won half the battle,” he concluded. “Treat them right when they come, and you will create a custom and a business that will place you above worry as to what peddlers or dry-good stores are doing.”
This magazine has been giving that sort of advice since its earliest days, whether the topic at hand is eyeglass sales or medical eye care. It may sound a little trite by now, but it really does work, especially in the era when struggling businesses live or die by their Yelp reviews.
ODs who are dismayed at all the price competition that surrounds them, from the likes of Warby Parker and 1-800-CONTACTS and a litany of others, would do well to remember that price is only a means to an end, not the end itself, for patients. Communicate the value proposition—and then be sure to deliver on it.
It’s fitting that our issue theme for this anniversary month is vision care, optometry’s original mandate if ever there was one. We’re proud to honor our heritage—and yours—with a return to this essential need, while rounding out our slate with advice on medical and surgical responsibilities, too. The profession, and this publication, have evolved and flourished together for decades. Sincere thanks for your loyal readership.