Eyeplan asks: who do you work for?

Travelling the highways and byways of the UK it seems there is barely a stretch of road without a ‘farmer's billboard’ advertising cheap spectacles on the internet. A UK Google search on 'cheap spectacles' gives 89,800 results and 88 paid for advertisements. Whichever way you look at it the threat to independent opticians is growing rapidly with more and more patients prepared to accept the professional care but purchase their spectacles elsewhere.

At the excellent Independents Day event, James Murray-Wells, in response to a question about who measures P-Ds when spectacles are purchased on line, responded (effectively) ‘you do’. This prompted Eyeplan’s own Simon Mills, in his speech, to question who independent opticians are actually now working for. 

When you consider that if an Optometrist charges significantly less for eye care than it costs to produce and then the patient buys spectacles elsewhere, the Optician is effectively working for wherever the spectacles are purchased. More and more that purchase place is on the internet. Perhaps the on line cheap spectacle sellers have more employees than they thought!

Of course, as with previous on line booms, there is likely to be some consolidation. The low barriers to entry to on line selling mean that there will be a proliferation of sellers initially and, as the market matures, the number of sellers will be reduced. This however does not reduce the threat for independent Opticians, what will be left will be the well managed, the well marketed and the successful.

Eyeplan has been watching the developments on line with great interest and believe traditional Opticians are going through one of the most aggressive competitive periods for some time. Eyeplan also believe that all is not lost, indeed, far from it. Independent Optometrists will always have their primary strength and that is the provision of expert professional care. The real issue is being sufficiently rewarded for the provision of that care.

Unfortunately simply raising the costs of a private eye examination will not resolve the issue. For a start independents will still be under rewarded by the high percentage of NHS patients and competitive pressures on the high street will mean that many private patients will seek care elsewhere should the costs rise. The answer is, of course, a monthly payment based care scheme.

Eyeplan will very soon celebrate its tenth birthday. Ten years of evangelizing the message that Opticians must charge properly for the expert care they provide, and reduce the cost of spectacles and contact lenses to compete in an ever more aggressive market place.

This year has seen more Opticians adopting the Eyeplan Business Model in their practices than ever before. Perhaps this is because of the growing competitive threats or perhaps because of the general recognition that patients are prepared to pay for their care when it is presented as part of a ‘value exchange’ which includes reduced prices and other benefits relating to their spectacles.

Monthly fees collected by Eyeplan now total millions of pounds per year – money paid VAT free into the independent sector. Eyeplan Associates are rewarded for their care by their Eyeplan clients. Who do you work for?