The partnerships between wholesale laboratories and eyecare practitioners are among the optical industry’s most fundamental business relationships. Practitioners depend upon their lab to provide expert, up-to-date information on lenses, coatings, frames, contact lenses, as well as guidance on how to market and merchandise these products. They also value the education and training many labs provide. An experienced, capable wholesale lab that meets all of these needs can greatly improve an ECP’s ability to serve their patients and improve the bottom line of their business or practice. In L&T ’s 2006 Lab Usage Survey, we polled 215 independent vision care professionals and optical retailers from around the country to find out their perceptions and attitudes about the wholesale labs they use. Here’s what we learned.

—Andrew Karp

Topline Analysis
  • About 8 out of 10 (81.2 percent) of locations work with more than one wholesale lab.
  • 57.2 percent expect to do more business with wholesale labs in the coming year. Only 4 percent expect to do less.
  • Lens brands distributed by a lab are an extremely/very important factor in selecting a lab.
  • The number of locations who said AR coating brands distributed by a lab is an extremely important factor in selecting a lab has more than doubled, 55.9 percent, in 2006 compared to 2005.
  • The factors that were rated ‘very important’ in selecting a wholesale lab are based on the quality of services more so than the characteristics of the labs themselves (e.g. location). The most important factors in selecting a lab are lens surfacing quality (96 percent), lens finishing quality (92 percent), quality of drill mounting (90 percent), lens coating quality (90 percent) and product turnaround time (89 percent).
  • There was a notable increase in the percent of respondents saying their lab provides the services of online ordering, going from 66 percent in 2005 to 85 percent in 2006, and remote tracing, going from 34 percent in 2005 to 54 percent in 2006. Among those labs that provide online ordering, the majority of respondents say the service has improved over the past year.
  • Most labs that sell spectacle lenses offer online ordering; however, 68 percent of respondents have never sent in frame tracing data with an online order.
  • Although only 32.7 percent of respondents have ever sent in frame tracing data with an online order, this number is up from previous years.
  • Half of the locations have lens edging capability in-house. Among these locations, an average of 73 percent of all edged jobs are done in-house.

The L&T Wholesale Lab Usage Survey 2006 was conducted during the August 29 to September 5, 2006 time period by Jobson Optical Research’s in-house research staff. The sample of 215 independent optical retailers was derived from the proprietary Jobson Optical Research Database. The 2006 survey was conducted via the Internet and respondents who completed the survey were entered in a sweepstakes to win a $200 American Express gift card. Three years of data is shown for trending purposes. The 2004 and 2005 surveys were conducted via telephone. Respondents were asked a series of structured questions and no incentive was offered. For the complete results of L&T’s 2006 Wholesale Lab Usage Survey visit

—Jennifer Zupnick and Beth Briggs