Georgetown Optician

Similar But Different; Selection Important to Both Groups


 Pierce Voorthuis.

Georgetown Optician.
Both Millennials and Baby Boomers enjoy discovering the latest from their favorite brands and discovering new technologies, frame materials and avant-garde designs, according to Pierce Voorthuis, general manager and second generation of family-owned Georgetown Optician, celebrating 35 years with two locations in the Washington, D.C. area. “I find Millennials typically come in looking for a certain brand but are more open to seeing the range of products we carry and discovering a brand they’ve never heard of. While, Baby Boomers typically choose a new pair more quickly and are more open to bold, artsy options, since many have worn glasses all their lives and want what’s unusual and new.”

According to Voorthuis, Millennials and Boomers can have very different buying processes.
“I see it more and more as a result of Millennials growing up with so much technology and information within reach.

“Our older clientele typically purchases a frame and lenses upon recommendation, trusting the optician and themselves in their choice of frame,” he said. “They recognize the quality of a higher-end frame and justify the price accordingly. Our younger clientele are much more prone to researching a purchase before committing and checking prices in other major cities to ensure they are getting a valued product. This habit seems to come from the ‘internet generation’ and what’s become second nature when buying online.

“While it is easy to assume a younger clientele is not as willing to spend $700 on a new pair of glasses, we’ve always had the philosophy that showing any potential customer a range of eyewear options, including some of our more expensive brands, is essential, because you never know what kind of spending they justify on fashion,” he explained. “Many of our customers also value feedback from not only our staff but family members, and with Millennials we find ourselves taking more pictures, e-mailing and texting potential pairs. Sometimes a secondary visit is also necessary with younger clients.

“We cater our selection to cover both groups, as well as all those in between,” Voorthuis added. “Both can have price conscious consumers, so we make sure our mix has offerings at multiple price points with both conservative and bold options. We also always work to find what niche we’re missing and fill it to satisfy any consumer that walks through our doors.

“When we realized many Boomers were happy with their classic rimless frames, but wanted more options with color or customizability, we expanded our selection,” he said. “A few years back when we found that many of the Millennial customers wanted a more exciting basic wire frame with more innovative technology, brands like Mykita filled the gap and we got many of our first-time patients into its clean styling.”

Voorthuis said specific brand preferences aren’t as clear as specific styling is when it comes to Millennials and Boomers. “I wouldn’t say any one of our brands caters just to one type of client, even classic brands like Lunor or Robert Marc, which one would think skews a little more mature, are quite popular with our younger clientele. Additionally, one of our most fun and colorful brands, Anne et Valentin, has certain models with extreme color, which tend to go for more mature buyers, while their unique but more subtle colorings are more popular with our younger clients.

“Oliver Peoples is one of those brands that has huge brand recognition and a large repeat client base since many Boomers have worn the brand several times in the past and like to buy a new variation of a classic style,” he said. “But we also see younger clients shopping for a pair that mimics the retro styling of their parent’s glasses.

“Brands like Dita, Thom Browne and Barton Perreira are more often requested by younger clients, while more established brands like Oliver Peoples, Lunor and Cartier tend to appeal to repeat buyers,” explained Voorthuis. “It seems all consumers have a preference toward acetate, with younger clients still preferring the chunkier, edger zyl. A newer category, wood eyewear, which has been touched upon by brands like Cartier and Chrome Hearts, is impressive to both generations when done in all wood, and we’re often surprised by younger clients falling in love with a Rolf frame and willing to spend the extra money it costs.”

The most significant changes between groups are in the way they are marketed to and the degree to which their vision correction needs dictate the way they interact with associates in the store, according to Voorthuis. “We have found that brand-marketing has been an important part of our advertising budget, but we are increasingly working on social media and blogging to advertise toward Millennials.

“For the most part, we treat both groups quite similarly but realize the vision needs of each are quite different,” he continued. “When working with Baby Boomers who require progressives or other multi-focals, we adjust our selection process automatically, suggesting frames that accommodate their needs better. We also find ourselves asking more questions regarding use of their frames and past vision experiences with progressives, to ensure that we offer the correct lens and that their frame selection meets their needs.

“We really try to individualize our service toward each client’s particular need. A client that wears progressive lenses requires quite a bit more attention regarding measurements, lens uses, and choosing a specific progressive design, and our staff is trained to treat each of these cases as a chance to offer a newer technology and a customized experience. And we have started to find that we can use some of these same techniques with our younger clients, recommending digital lenses and some of the more advanced technologies available in even our single vision sales,” Voorthuis concluded. 

—Deirdre Carroll