Why is the optical industry currently so expensive?

//Why is the optical industry currently so expensive?

The queen in specs (using our virtual mirror tool)
Photo from endlessstudio

Have you ever wondered why glasses are so expensive? For a couple of bits of plastic or metal?

Part of the reason is the design & manufacture, although they’re small, they’re quite complicated things to make, plus the lenses have to be made in highly sophisticated laboratories that measure distances in thousandths of millimetres.

However, one of the biggest reasons is that opticians currently subsidise the low cost of eye tests and examinations by inflating the price of the glasses you actually end up buying with a massive markup.

It means they can get you into the shop, and then, once you’ve been through the test, you’ll often be passed to a salesman who isn’t a qualified optician, whose job is to sell you the most expensive pair of glasses they can.

This is the way it’s been done for years and years, which is why the industry has been so aggressive towards us when we’ve challenged this pricing model by offering more realistic prices for the glasses themselves. We can offer you a much better deal on glasses, and a lot of people in the industry don’t like that.

You should always get your eyes tested by a properly qualified optician – at least every two years – but before you buy something from the same store, make sure you check our prices online to see how much you could be saving.

Our aim is to give you the widest choice of glasses, and all the information and advice you need to make a decision, with none of the pressure you often feel whilst in a high street opticians.


About the Author:

have been a dispensing optician these last 14 years. Been in practice and on the road working for Carl Zeiss. Used to play a lot of golf (not any more) and now play far more online poker than I should!


  1. Emily September 3, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    You are of course, spot on. You did, however, forget to mention the fact that a significant downturn in the sale of glasses at these retailers, will result in a dramatic increase in the cost of an eye test, as the £20-30 most opticians charge means they are providing eye tests at a significant loss. And the £19 or so given by the government for NHS-funded eye tests is, frankly, offensive.

    A realistic figure, that takes into account the costs involved in running a practice, would be £150 per hour of chair time, so £75 say for a half-hour eye test. Paying the true cost for an eye test negates any saving made by purchasing the glasses from online retailers such as yourselves.

    So, there seem to me to be a number of possible outcomes:

    i) Opticians start to charge twice as much for an eye test and less for glasses.

    ii) Opticians charge the appropriate fee for an eye test, move into smaller premises and forget about selling glasses altogether.

    Or, far more likely:

    iii) Independents go out of business, leaving only the chains to monopolise the industry. Opticians will never charge an appropriate fee for an eye test, because it would need to be something they all did at the same time, and no one’s brave enough to do it first.

    Even more likely:

    iv) The profession evolves in some way and a balance is struck between online retailing and high street retailing.

    Think how much you pay a plumber, solicitor, mechanic, dentist etc. ? The prices for glasses (where I work at least) seem perfectly reasonable, all things considered.

    I’m not an optician, I’m a part-time receptionist at an independent practice, and my dad was an optician. I actually admire what you’ve done.

    Basically, I think that those who are so aggressively against online retailing of glasses are making a lot of fuss about nothing (and, possibly, a little annoyed they didn’t think of it first?) – the profession has been through so many changes over the years, each one “spelling disaster”, but everyone coped. The place I work is ticking over nicely, although it has had to put up the price of an eye test :o)

  2. designer frames March 8, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    As in other manufacturing industries, the actual cost of making designer frames or prescription glasses is low, but by time reaches the customer, gets inflated either due to middlemen, online retailing do help to bring the prices down

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