There is a great deal happening now in the optical industry

Wednesday June 6th, 2018

There is a wonderful opportunity in health services and vision

An optician will perform an eye examination on you. The purpose of the examination is to work out the type of spectacles you may need. In addition to the spectacles, you will also receive a spectacle card with cryptic acronyms and numbers to accurately tell you about the choice of spectacle lenses in detail. This is a little similar to one’s shoe size. With this number set, you can now easily order your following spectacles via an online store. The determination of spectacles may also already be possible with the assistance of an online store, whereupon it may no longer be necessary to visit an optician.

The familiar and safe environment of the optical industry is becoming digital; not everyone will find a lifebuoy

The purchase of contact lenses via the net is even easier than with glasses, and it is no wonder that many opticians have already halted the sale of contact lenses and their supplies. For online stores, a 15% margin is sufficient, which is however not enough for location based businesses. The same trend will come to be seen in spectacle stores, somewhat with a delay. A slow change is perhaps the most dangerous thing, and we are coming close to a generation that will already purchase spectacles without ever having visited an optician – and, therefore, also lose the guaranteed expertise provided by opticians concerning optical care.


Optician stores and chains have been allowed to enjoy a fairly secure life for decades. The last slow change-the moving of customers towards shopping centres- eliminated one-fifth of optician stores from the map. Now, perhaps, a greater knockout game is taking place- online stores have begun to carry out operations concerning spectacles and their accessories. In Finland, the online stores of optician chains have so far survived quite well, unlike in any other country really. It may however be that for one fifth of opticians, no rescue buoy will be enough to save them.

Business environment is becoming stricter as large multinational and vertical companies expand their grip

Optical commerce has been a profitable business, where the costs of manufacturing come to a few cents or a euro and rise to a consumer price of hundreds of euros. Consumers have absolutely no chance of understanding the manufacturing price of a product, where different coatings are often the most profitable part. Although a large part of the cover remains with the manufacturers, the huge total margin explains the 70% discounts on consumer trades or “three glasses for one price” campaigns. It has also provided marketing opportunities in which services such as eye examinations are immersed into the total price of the product. Opticians have taught consumers themselves that they do not have to pay for their professional skills and time. What is the value of something that is free?

The coverage structure will surely be shaken up over the coming years. For example, the merger of the industry giants Essilor and Luxottica into a 48 billion euro vertical company with a Facebook-size consumer customer base, its own lens and frame manufacturing chain all the way from the raw materials, and its own direct sales channel to nearly 20,000 optical stores in the world, will remain significant, alongside online stores and Asian operators.

Large investor-driven companies will be greatly involved in the international business operations of the optical industry with crude monopoly targets and will also bring artificial competition onto the market with their own parallel brands. For example, did you know that you have Luxottica’s spectacle frames if they hold one of the following brands: Oakley, Ray-Ban, Vogue, Armani, Bulgari, Burberry, Chanel, DKNY, Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren, Prada – to name just a few?


What can optician businesses or chains do?

Of course, leaders of optician chains are struggling to protect themselves against international online stores and the concentration of manufacturing. The simple cutting of costs and hedging strategies, however, is a short term solution. Optician businesses need to develop their own added value, and one obvious way of this is to serve customers better by providing more health services. It may also then be possible to once again charge for the valuable work of opticians, and customers will be delighted and willing to pay for what they consider to be an improved service.


Everywhere in Europe, one can see how the optician chains and stores are increasingly investing in health services, especially in visual health. For example, this can be seen in the fairly routine manner that many chains now provide examinations of the fundus oculi and intraocular pressure measurements. However, consumer benefits from these are often unclear. The consumer does not understand anything about examinations of the fundus oculi and intraocular pressure measurements, except that the fundoscopy images look exciting and technical.


Are you interested in knowing how you see?

Most people are explicitly interested.

I’ll go back to the eye examination and the spectacle card. It is quite astonishing that so little is told to you about a person’s most sensual sense- their vision. Research data on the functioning of one’s own vision is of interest to people. 78% of people in England, and 74% in Sweden, would be interested in knowing how well their vision works, if someone would just tell them about it. 40% of people in England, (Sweden 33%), are even very interested – that is, they might even visit an optician for this very purpose. 40% of people would like to know more about their vision if it were to be offered to them by a professional at an optician.

In addition to the precision of vision – that is, the way in which lowercase letters are distinguished – the main properties of vision are to see images that are clear and not blurry, to be able to perceive the environment through a broad and intact field of vision and be able to react to the sights one sees. This entirety is functional vision.

If you are working in an optician business, will you tell your customers how they see? They are likely to be willing to pay for that knowledge, and in practice, they will always be delighted with such a good service and expertise that is not available on the net.