Each year, I learn something new from our annual L&T Premium Lens MarketPulse Survey of Eyecare Practitioners. This year is no exception.

One of the study’s most interesting findings is that the average retail price of a pair of glasses fluctuated over the past three years from $290.25 in 2008 to $279.84 in 2009 to $295.07 in 2010. Considering that the 2008 survey was done before the economy tanked, it’s not surprising that the price plunged the following year. It’s encouraging to see that prices not only bounced back in 2010, but surpassed the 2008 level. Although we are still in the grip of a recession, the fact that consumers are willing to spend more on a pair of glasses than they have in the past several years shows consumer confidence is returning and the economy is improving.

This bit of data illuminates key findings on brand and price. Eight percent of the retailers surveyed said brand is “extremely important” to them regarding their decision as to which lenses to carry; 41 percent said brand is “very important.” Yet only 6 percent of ECPs believe that consumers consider brand “extremely important” to their purchase decision, and only 28 percent consider it “very important.”

When it comes to price, the findings vary even more sharply. Twenty-five percent of the retailers said price is “extremely important” when considering whether to carry a product. But 46 percent believe price is “extremely important” to consumers who are considering a purchase. Interestingly, nearly all respondents said quality is an essential for both themselves and consumers.

The data suggests that although consumers are willing to spend more for eyewear, brand names alone are not enough to convince them to make a purchase. Consumers are price sensitive, but will buy a brand if it delivers quality at a fair price—in other words, if it represents a good value. Keep that point in mind the next time you re-evaluate your product mix.

—Andrew Karp