However, some readers report they are still feeling the effects of the big wind named Lesley that recently blew through the optical industry. Though nowhere near as dangerous as a hurricane, the blast of hot air from “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl’s report on Luxottica has had some optical retailers and independent ECPs running for cover. Several have told me about patients who viewed the program and then demanded to know why their eyewear is so expensive. These patients swallowed Stahl’s erroneous premise that most eyewear is overpriced because Luxottica controls the manufacture and distribution of most major industry brands and as a result, Luxottica’s eyeglasses, and most others by inference, are overpriced even though they are made of “a couple of pieces of plastic or wire, some screws and glass.”
Is there a teachable moment here? I’d say yes. Here are some facts worth pointing out to patients who think they’re not getting good value on their eyewear.
First, Luxottica does not control the industry. According to The Vision Council, independent retailers and ECPs command 50 percent of the U.S. optical market, the largest share. Chains, of which Luxottica only controls a portion, account for 28.2 percent.
Second, many independents don’t carry Luxottica frames. Even if they do, it is lenses, not frames that are the most expensive eyeglass component (plastic lenses, Lesley, in case you’re reading this). The Vision Council reports that lenses account for about 30 percent of total eyeglass sales, while frames only account for roughly 25 percent. And Luxottica doesn’t own any lens manufacturers or distributors.
The subject of lenses presents a perfect opportunity for doctors and dispensers to educate patients about the many benefits of today’s advanced lens technologies that can help them see better, look better and protect their eyes better. That’s not hot air.