Simon Jones: How to make friends and influence people
Author: Simon Jones
A few people this week were kind enough to send me a copy of a letter Silhouette sent to some of its customers. Or should I say, former customers, because the letter served as notice to practices that Silhouette deemed them ‘no longer commercially viable,’ after the introduction of minimum sales quotas, meaning the working relationship would be ‘paused’.
The decision to introduce sales quota was set against the backdrop of a ‘difficult economic climate’ following the coronavirus pandemic. Sales quotas and minimum orders have always been a bone of contention among practice frame buyers, but they are fairly common, and I have to admit, the figures quoted by Silhouette (24 rimless and 16 full rim or supra frames per year) didn’t seem outrageous. But it isn’t just Silhouette that’s experiencing a ‘difficult economic climate’. Practices are too.
During the past 12 months, practices have been: closed for periods of time; dealing solely with urgent care; operating with an appointment-only diary; implementing strict, time consuming infection control measures; and seeing fewer patients. Things have been hard, so the timing and, let’s be honest, the tone of the letter put a number of backs up. It seems incredibly harsh to judge any practice sales data through the prism of the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Please be assured that we are open to renewing our partnership if the situation or circumstances change in the future,’ says sales director Andy Long. I’m not sure that offer will be taken up by many practices, especially when they’re also being asked to remove marketing materials and logos from their practices. What if the practice still has stock to sell?
As the letter points out, customers now have the opportunity to move on to more ‘beneficial relationships’ with other suppliers. Of which there are many.
Silhouette has a long-standing reputation of quality of eyewear and I worry, for the UK at least, that this might be an own goal of Gerald Ratner proportions.