More independents rewarded for quality services

More and more independent Opticians are being rewarded properly for the care that they provide, according to Eyeplan Ltd.

2006 proved to be a very strong year for growth in the Eyeplan Associate network with more and more independent Opticians choosing to become Associates and be properly rewarded for their efforts. The optics landscape is changing and there are a number of factors that are at play in the market which are encouraging Opticians to adopt the Eyeplan Business Model.

One of these factors is that, amongst patients, there appears to be a growing perception that independent Opticians over inflate the price of spectacles. Within the independent sector it is of course well known that much of the price of a pair of spectacles is as a result of having to compensate for the low return an Optician gets for care. However, this is not understood amongst the general public and cheap internet retailers and supermarkets are more than happy to undercut price. The result is of course pressure on the price of spectacles and the need for Opticians to be properly rewarded for care.

Another reason for the growth in the adoption of the Eyeplan Business Model is the wider recognition amongst independent Opticians of the benefits of a monthly payment system. For many years Eyeplan was alone in pioneering eyecare schemes in the UK however, more recently, Opticians have been presented with more than one way of implementing monthly payments. Chris Clemence, Commercial Director at Eyeplan, likens the choice facing an Optician to that of choosing a piece of furniture. “You can go to a quality shop and buy a quality dining table, you can go to MFI and nail it together yourself or you can go into the woods, cut down a tree and start from scratch. It depends on your own expertise and the time and effort you have available”. 

Greater choice in the market has inevitably lead to greater understanding of the need for monthly payment schemes and, as market leader, Eyeplan has inevitably benefited from this.

So what is Eyeplan and the Eyeplan Business Model? Eyeplan might be considered a fairly simple idea; in exchange for a small monthly care fee Eyeplan members receive a range of benefits from their independent Optician, including free eye care and value-for-money eyewear. The effect for the Optician who offers Eyeplan to patients is profound; significantly improved fee income, significantly improved dispense rates, significantly improved loyalty and, of course, a more advantageous VAT situation.

The growth in 2006 was impressive, but it is now 2007, and it is the future that is concerning Eyeplan. Revenue for care remains under threat with the recent low rise in NHS Sight Test fees and now the reorganisation, in many PCTs, of Diabetic Retinopathy screening which will see many independent Opticians lose out.

2007 has started well for Eyeplan Associates. Despite the seasonal trend in optics for a poor January, the month saw the single largest growth in the number of members across the UK for some months. Eyeplan believes that this is partly as a result in the surge in new practices joining in late 2006, but also the investment in training that Eyeplan makes to encourage practice staff to present the Eyeplan value exchange and encourage patients to make the Eyeplan choice. Eyeplan trained its first new Associate, Eyes of Swavesey, as early as the 5th of January this year and they have already made a flying start. Simon Mills, Eyeplan Managing Director, comments, “One thing we will never forget is that Eyeplan is not successful unless our Associates are."

2007 will see Eyeplan launch new schemes to further help Associates; see Eyeplan ‘Fortune Telling’ at Optrafair and see Eyeplan co-sponsor the excellent Independents Day event. As well, of course, as more growth and more independent Opticians being properly rewarded for the quality services they provide!