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VM Basics: A clear view of optician's stores

Optician’s stores can provide great inspiration for all retailers of small merchandise, where the sheer quantity of merchandise can overwhelm displays resulting in a rather ‘bitty’ appearance.

This article looks at innovative opticians which have adopted appealing ideas, commencing with Venetian optician L’ Altraottica, which has a small store in the San Polo area of Venice.

Offering a wide range of frames from one of Venice’s main tourist passages, L’Altraottica has used just two wooden sledges and two sheepskins to display merchandise in an open-backed window. The sledges act as impromptu shelves, allowing spectacle frames to be wedged and propped against the runners, while the sheepskins take on a snowy appearance against which sunglasses for skiwear are perfectly displayed. A scattering of split birch logs allows the angled sledge to be tilted slightly, adding an illusion of movement and a touch of informality to the window. Seasonally, a thick support bar at the top of the window has been simply festooned with pine needles.

A variation on horizontal shelving can be seen at Bailey Nelson’s store on London’s Kings Road, where bespoke plywood shelves fill an in-store wall and, branching like a tree, part of the open-backed window. Both offer a range of spaces on which to display frames, nicely contrasting against a warm wood ground. The remainder of the store includes several touches of turquoise, which contrast with the wood and prevent the merchandise from looking dull – an unfortunate problem for many opticians.

The use of mannequin heads in opticians is classic, but this papier-mache covered version on the glass shelves inside the L’Altraottica store breaks up relentless rows of frames and creates a focus for a simple mini-display.

This optician in Amsterdam offers a more casual, recycled take with rows of heads, some personalised with wigs and hats - always a great means of suggesting character with minimal props - to suggest looks that the frames might facilitate. The cabinet in the foreground showcases old optician’s tools, and the orderly disarray of old frames on the counter suggests a plethora of choice.

The window with its giant wooden optical frame, on which a smaller oversized frame and a regular pair of frames are perched, clearly announces the store’s specialty. The use of the staircase to the loft above as temporary filing space, and the bicycle resting against the stairs, all contribute to the unusually relaxed atmosphere that is part of this store’s appeal.

A final image from the front window of the Amsterdam store shows a selection of sunglasses: an item all customers are potentially interested in, whether they wear prescription lenses or not. It therefore makes sense to include sunglasses in every optician’s window display to maximize potential sales.

To conclude: use of novel but seasonal props, which offer horizontal spaces on which frames can be propped, are a must.

Contrasting textures and colour enliven optician’s windows and stores and make the selection of frames coherent for the customer. They also make the optician more memorable, enabling customers to distinguish between one retailer and another.