Opticians – The Retail Dream – but for how long?

By Bob Morrell on September 23, 2021

I have been fighting against my ageing eyesight for some years. I had a test a couple of years ago with Tanya from Ireland, and she explained that my vision was 20/20 – but that I would need reading glasses and that this was quite common for someone my age. So, I have a selection of reading glasses that I use which helps me read, see screens and use Zoom more effectively, and I make sure I always have them on me, just in case.

More recently, I felt my eyesight was worsening. When driving, my vision ahead was fine, but as soon as I looked down to see the instruments, they blurred, which is clearly a concern. I joined my wife last week, when she went to her opticians to pick up fresh contact lenses. I thought we could maximise the trip and I would buy myself some trendy varifocals, and the fact that I was with my wife would mean I could choose some she actually likes, rather than my current reading glasses which she says make me look like a Gestapo officer.

I spent 5 minutes choosing a trendy pair, that we both agreed made me look intelligent and strangely attractive – and then waited in line to be seen. I observed families buying 4 sets of specs. I observed individuals like my wife moaning about having to come in to pick up her lenses, (because she hadn’t had a recent eye test) and I also saw people buying new, fashion specs. To buy eye related products, you have to be seen. That’s the beauty of it. If I commit to lenses, it’s a monthly amount, if I buy specs it’s the frame, lenses and then all the additional options and choices. I have to get my eyes tested, which I have to be there for. It’s a guaranteed growth market. As most of us get older our eyesight will deteriorate, we’re an ageing population so opticians are quids in – plus they help you spot more serious eye problems which could save your eyesight or your life.

Some opticians have apps which allow you to take a picture of your face and ‘try on’ different spec frames. Good idea but you’ll still go in to buy them, just to be sure. Some opticians offer a speedy service, which is attractive, too. Like any market though, things are changing. I know someone who buys their contact lenses online, daily disposables, and they’re great and cheap. The challenge is tests. Will there ever be an online eye test that accurately tells you your prescription?

The optician who served me was sweet enough, but we couldn’t get round the fact that I hadn’t had a recent eye test and as it was a Saturday, they couldn’t offer me one there and then (a missed opportunity!). She wasn’t that bothered. She knew if I wanted that frame, I would have to get my eyes tested somewhere, probably with them, and return. As I said, a retail dream. But, for how long?