A pair of spectacles can cost up to $300 today. And it’s not as though things have changed that much: they’re still made of a couple of pieces of plastic or wire, some screws and glass lenses. So why should a pair of glasses cost so much? There are two plausible reasons:
- Prescription glasses are where medicine meets fashion. Consumers are price inelastic when they have it comes to eye protection, and staying stylish. This makes eyeglasses one of the world’s most overpriced merchandise.
- Another major factor, is because a large chunk of the industry is monopolized by one company – Luxottica.
This is a list of eyewear brands that Luxottica owns:
Luxottica owns the entire supply chain of the eyewear industry. It manufactures your eyewear under different brand names, and even sells them directly to you through retail channels like Sunglasses Hut, also owned by Luxottica. This is the list of retail brands under the Luxottica umbrella:
Due to this monopolistic nature of the eyewear market, prices are generally artificially inflated and lack transparency. Retailers like Sunglasses Hut are often running sales that seem too good to pass up. However, consumers should remember that a business is always for profit. Hence, to be able to offer major discounts while continuing to profit, one must question the amount of markups retailers impose on their everyday prices.
Are glasses really so expensive?
An everyday spectacle frame costs less than $10 to manufacture, the rest goes to operations, licensing and profit. Yet, brands justify their high prices with quality, and with the impression that pricey spectacles offer better eye protection, many are willing to fork out a significant sum. But is your expensive eyewear really better than a pair of glasses that costs much less?
It is worth noting the huge price difference for two pairs of spectacles that look similar and offer similar features. According to Dr. Jay Dunker, the chairman of Ophthalmology at Tufts Medical Center in the U.S., a significant bulk of what you pay for is not in the quality of the lenses, but the brand. Hence, with the emphasis place on branding, the outrageous price tags on our eyeglasses have been accepted and treated as the norm.
Besides the heavy price tag, customers also often have to wait for days before they can collect their prescription glasses at traditional retailers. However, with the boom of the Internet, the long wait, and costly prices of the eyewear industry will slowly become a thing of the past, as new disrupters protest against the monopolistic industry.
Disrupters that protest the system
More recently, a new norm for eyewear has emerged. An impressive array of private label and in-house brands are making their debut, with creative marketing and simple pricing systems to boot. For instance, Japanese label Owndays has disrupted the industry, offering a simple price system with no hidden costs and no extravagant price tags.
At Owndays, you can purchase a basic pair of eyewear at $198, with no added costs on your High Aspheric Lenses. The price tag is clearly attached on every frame, with no additional fee, regardless of your degree.
Besides cost savings, New disruptors also often offer a drastically different customer experience. Owndays allows its customers to collect their prescription spectacles 20 minutes after their purchase, compared to the industry norm of a 1 week wait. (*Note: You may have to wait for 3 days if you make a pair of high index spectacles with Owndays)
With new business models, consumers have more options and have the leverage to choose between traditional retailers and unconventional platforms. Besides owndays, there are many other platforms that offer spectacles without premium brand names, and in turn, without hefty price tags.
Visual Loft is an online platform that provides customers with access to smaller eyewear brands in neighbourhood optical shops.This concept is perfect for anyone that prefers to try on their spectacles. Consumers also enjoy a greater variety of affordable eyewear, and also provides smaller optical shops with some exposure – a win-win situation for all!
A similar metal frame spectacles alone would cost you $68, a far cry from a Rayban spectacle frame. If you want a high prescription and high index lens, the spectacle would only cost you $188.
Firmoo is a brand based in the U.K., but has received a significant number of positive reviews. If you’re open to purchasing your eyewear completely online, this platform may be perfect for you.
A similar metal frame costs $23.99 on Firmoo. To ensure that you make a pair of functional spectacles, you can upload your prescription, or fill in your specifications manually.
Firmoo also provides detailed instructions and graphics to help customers identify their frame size accurately.
To further assure you of your purchase, Firmoo also has a 30 day exchange and return policy. You can easily opt for an exchange or return if you’re unsatisfied with your purchase.
As the saying goes, “Knowledge is key”. With this knowledge, consumers can informed decisions when they are looking for a new pair of eyewear. Here are some general tips that may be useful for you:
- If you’re unwilling to splurge on a pair of spectacles, think about the eyewear specifications you need before heading into the store.
- Your purchasing criteria should consists of factors like frame shape and quality of lens, instead of the brand name.
- It is important to know your prescription. If you have a high prescription, remember to plan ahead as some optical retailers like Owndays require more time to produce a a high prescription/high index spectacles.
What’s your justification?
Many unconventional retailers have proven that the relationship between price and quality is nothing more than a fallacy. If you’re still pro-brand name, what’s your justification? Do you truly believe that price equates quality, or are you trying to make a statement to display wealth?