Everywhere you look, you see news about a dreary economy. Youre pinching every penny, and youre trying to make ends that seem further and further away still meet. To top it off, your practice is showing some signs of agefaded paint, dingy lights, and, is that point-of-purchase (POP) display from the summer collection three years ago?

You might think that now is not the best time to allot funds for an office redesignand youre right. Now is not the time for a full-scale, top-to-bottom overhaul of everything in your practice. Instead, set a budget and a list of priorities, and youll see your attitudeand your staffsbrighten almost as much as your freshly painted walls.

Classic, neutral wall coverings, if chosen well, will not become dated or require updating as frequently.

Courtesy: Barbara Wright Design

A No-Budget Fix

First, what can you do to clean up the place without spending any money? Get rid of the clutter, says Barbara Wright, C.I.D., of Barbara Wright Design, in Portland, Ore. It has a huge impact.

But, dont just think you can throw away a few outdated brochures and be done with it. The effort has to be pretty extremetake a weekend and strip the displays, clean them, rearrange the frames, and take down all of the outdated counter cards and POP materials, says Ms. Wright.

Doing something like this, she explains, is still technically work, but can give you and your staff a fresh perspectiveit revitalizes the dispensary with relatively minor effort and zero financial input.

Then, once your dispensary is spotless, keep it that way by minimizing further clutter. You should have the bare minimum when it comes to POP materials, she adds. Dont keep any display items for longer than six months. This way, each new display card has more impact when its put upit doesnt get lost amid those from last years collections.

When youre finished, step back and evaluate the impact of this step on your dispensary. You might just have solved the problems you were worried about. But if not, set your budget, set your priorities, and stick to both.

Lighting is Key

A good budget for minor renovations might be between 0.5% and 1% of your net income, suggests Ms. Wright. If your net income is $300,000, then your renovations budget would be between $1,500 and $3,000.

Thats not a huge budget to work with, so you need to have a clear sense of how youll tackle your project. First, examine the lighting in your dispensary.

So many offices have inadequate lighting, says Ms. Wright. It doesnt make the frames sparkle and stand out. For example, if you have display fixtures with fluorescent lighting at the top, it doesnt do much for the frames. Some display cabinets include halogen down lights, but there isnt enough light to illuminate all of the frames.

Halogen track lighting is current, minimalist and relatively inexpensive, says Ms. Wright. Once your current displays are stripped down and re-merchandised, the next thing to add is halogen track lighting. A little bit of track lighting will make a big improvement.


Spring Cleaning


Now is the perfect time for some spring cleaning, says Dan Sloan, a designer with Fashion Optical Displays. You dont need to spend a lot to stay current and spruce things up a bit.

Take advantage of your inventory and rearrange it to create focal points (through the careful use of POP materials, for example) to draw patients attention. Use  of such graphics and signage can help you brand your optical and refresh your displays with very little financial input.

Make sure to weight the displays correctly, warns Mr. Sloan. Consider the size and color of the frames, as well as gender.

Or, take advantage of the coming summer months and create a sunwear center in one fixture or case. You can create attention in such an area, says Mr. Sloan.

When it comes to the dispensary as a whole, use your dollars judiciously to create a fresher image. If the edges of the carpet are worn, Mr. Sloan suggests, consider a carpet border to outline the dispensary and spruce it up.

Changing the accessories in your optical will go a long way, too. Bring in propssmall things from a store like Pier One Imports, says Mr. Sloan. Create some color with some seasonal accents.

The bottom line, says Mr. Sloan: Create a comfortable, inviting atmosphere.

Show Your Best at its Best

Once your frames are properly lit, examine how you display your higher-end offerings.

These frames should never be on a frame board or a frame bar, says Ms. Wright. They have to be romanced a little bit.

One aspect of higher-end frames is the fact that they are higher-end, and if they are not well showcased, the higher-end aspects of these frames (such as their price) may not seem justifiable to those patients who would otherwise consider them. After all, in their minds, you dont seem to value them highly, so why should they?

Ensure that your higher-end frames are by themselves in their own distinct area of the dispensary. This area should be a glass display table or cabinet with internal halogen, or even LED, lighting and a locking glass door, Ms. Wright says. If your wall space is taken up with your other frames, consider a freestanding table display case, but ensure that your higher-end frames will be well lit and safe inside it.

Use your POP materials carefully here. If you display well-lit frames with carefully placed POP materials, the resulting presentation will have a much stronger impact on your patients.


Refresh the Patient Experience


If you have a limited budget, says Alan Winig, of Eye Designs, you want to make sure that the patient experience is as good as it can be.

Remember that your patients are as harried and as rushed as ever, and that the time they spend in your practice should put them at ease.

Imagine youre the patient, Mr. Winig says. Youve been in the office for 45 minutes, and its the end of your visit. What are you thinking at this time? You want to get out of there. Youre busy.

So, at the end of their visit, when patients return to the dispensary, you need to make it count. The optical is not only the first impression, explains Mr. Winig. Its also the last impression.

So, make sure that your frame displays are clean and well-organized. A smart, well-defined, clear arrangement of frames can help direct patients to the styles they are looking for without any confusion.

Nothing is worse than when a man is browsing the dispensary, and the optician says, Im sorry, sir, but those are the womens frames youre looking at, says Mr. Winig. If you dont define the areas of your dispensary clearly, its harder for a patient to look for him or herself. If its clearly defined, its an easier, better, more comfortable experience.

Color Me Beautiful

When your frames are well arranged, its time to look at your dispensary as a whole.

If the last time you redecorated was more than eight years ago, says Ms. Wright, its probably time to do it again.

The one exceptionif you were careful in your selection of wallpaper or other wall-covering. If you have a nice, neutral wall covering in your hallways, they will still be looking pretty good after eight or ten years, Ms. Wright says.

Using a bright color to make an accent wall can create visual interest and delineate the space.

Courtesy: Barbara Wright Design

Otherwise, start by examining your color scheme. Does it look dated? Does the paint on the walls seem faded or shabby? Dare you even look at the carpet?

Depending on what your color scheme is like, sometimes just a fresh coat of paint will do well, with a different color here and there, notes Ms. Wright. Or, if your colors seem outdated, pick a new colorits good to go with something neutral. But, some people make the mistake of being so neutral throughout the whole office that it becomes boring.

Instead, select your neutral color, and then choose another color for an accent wall. Where you could include such details depends on the layout of your practice. For example, a blank wall in your waiting room, suggests Ms. Wright, or a wall in each exam room, could be a prime accent wall.

Save the Big Stuff for Later

What Ms. Wright does not recommend doing on a smaller budget is getting new furniture. Trying to redecorate or renovate in a piecemeal fashion often looks hodgepodge, she explains. Sometimes, its better to wait until you have enough money to really make a difference.

Examine your dispensary and furnishings closely. When things look shabbythe paint is faded or the carpet is worn out, for examplethats got to be replaced, she says.


You dont need a frame board or elaborate display fixtures. Mount frame bars directly to the wall and use specialty lighting.

Courtesy: Barbara Wright Design

Think Outside the Frame Board

There are less expensiveand more innovativefixes if you need to expand or revamp your frame displays. You dont actually need wall-to-wall frame display fixtures, says Ms. Wright. You can display frames by just attaching frame bars to drywall and hitting them with some halogen lightingthats perfectly acceptable for most of your frames. This minimalist technique could work as an accent on a wall, especially if placed over a side table display.

Or, if you need more flexible display space, find a way to add some glass shelving, Ms. Wright adds.


Livening up a practice is never easyand now, when the bottom line is so critical, such tasks may seem both daunting and frivolous. But, a strategic freshening up of the practice may help enliven spirits and improve morale.

Remaining in the same space for ages and ages does things to staff morale, says Ms. Wright. They get hopeless because it doesnt change, and it doesnt get any better.

But, after a successful redecoration, Ms. Wright says, its like a fire is lit under everyone on the stafftheyre happy to come to work and they love the new environment. Theyre confident in the value of their services and themselves.




Vol. No: 146:03Issue: 3/15/2009