Is Optical Retail Dying?

The demise of the optical industry was predicted years ago. Still, it gets stubborn every time and “adapts”

I have been a part of this industry for over 25 years now and I have seen it all. As the editor-in-chief of VisionPlus Magazine, I believe it is vital for me to impart all the knowledge that I gather, every day.

Optical retail is prospering, friends. And not just thriving, it is accepting the changing dynamics of retail and trying to be in sync with the digital.

I read an article by Mark Graham, the other day and I realised that all is possible if only you know where you are going. To be honest, without a little competition and a bunch of hurdles, it wouldn’t be the least bit interesting. I believe, competition only makes you better as it leads you to invest your time in making your business practices better.

How it all started? 

In the 1980’s, contact lenses made an appearance and the world felt like it would lead to the death of frames. The frame manufacturers took this as an opportunity and started to design frames which were unique, stylish and fashionable! Now, who does not want a little spunk every day to kill the monotony?

Brands like Givenchy, Elizabeth Arden were one of the first names to make it work. And it did. This was the transition of a medical device for eye correction to a fashion necessity.

OpticalSoon in the 1990’s, there was a new kid on the block called Laser Surgery and everyone wanted to play with it. Again the same prediction aired and the death of opticians was almost certain. They, in turn, used this as an advancement like it was a blessing. Technology has been their friend ever since.

Now in the year 2018, the complaint is about competition in terms of pricing. The lens karts are offering everything at some discount and poor optician has nothing to offer.


The poor optician is actually the king with the wealth of retail experience, product, and engagement. Three things the world wide web cannot offer. It cannot offer an experience and it cannot be engaging. You are interacting with a computer, how interesting can it be?

I, like every other consumer, is scared to buy expensive things online because it might not be what I expected and the entire hassle of going through the so-called one-day return is honestly, petrifying.

What should an optician do? 

First of all, don’t base your selling point on discounts. There is a reason sales promotion works only occasionally and not always. Low prices and unnecessary discounts arise a doubt and that leads to disparity between you and the customer. You want them to trust you, not keep an eye on you.

Any business plan that relies solely on discounts or low prices to set themselves apart ultimately leads to low margins and eventual insolvency. Short term, you might see a sales bump but long term you’ll see disaster.
– Mark Graham

A product is secondary to the shopping experience

Let’s face it, there is competition online. People are selling prescription lenses on Facebook. What can you do?

You move on. And you build your empire, wherein a customer is treated with utmost luxury. The idea is to make your customer the priority, make their experience in the store as the best time of their day and then rely on their choice of product. I can say as much, they will buy.

Engagement is a very funny yet easy term. It is talking, gesturing and smiling. An optician is a customer’s friend, guide, and confidant when they walk into their store. They expect them to be the most loyal, and that’s all. They expect them to not fool them and let them enjoy their shopping time. Why? Because when they walk out of the store with the product they want the best first memory attached to it. Not some hassle of a bargain or a bad behaviour by the salesman.

An experience a customer can remember and repeat is the souvenir of an amazing shopping experience. Optical

Some key points to ponder:

  • Focus on displays
  • Merchandising
  • Store Decor
  • Store Odour
  • Store Cleanliness
  • Lighting

So that is the environment of your store. Then the most and majorly important, your employees and their etiquettes. And finally- the product! That’s right, the product comes after.

Let’s face it, there is a reason why a person feels like a breath of fresh air has passed through his entire internal system when he/she walks out of a Louis Vuitton boutique.


For an optician, it is important to know their product. But also, know the aesthetics, the quality, and the competitors. So when a customer walks in for a Ray-Ban, you need to be capable of showing them other aviators as well. Also, it helps when you know the worth of a brand’s product. Keep in mind that not just the online retailers but the factories in China and Italy are too working every day to stay on top of the line.Optical

Thumb rule of optical retailing

The first impression is the last impression. As an optical retailer, you must know what is going on in a customer’s mind just by the look of them. How? You are not a psychologist. You cannot read people. But you can read customer behaviour.

Consider my suggestion and work in teams with your employees. Go through case studies on consumer behaviour that offer a different approach to various situations. Implement them. Use the technology that is free-flowing nowadays. Read on the internet, attend seminars and sessions that are specially conducted for the optical retailers and store owners, grow from your mistakes and shortcomings.

Optical retail is alive, dear friends. It is time you believe no rumours telling you otherwise.

– Siraj Bolar, Editor-in-chief, VisionPlus Magazine

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