Karp: We’ve Got Some Explaining to Do


Andy Karp
Group Editor; Lenses and Technology
Here’s a scenario most readers are probably familiar with. You walk into a party where you know the host, but most of the guests are unfamiliar. Sooner or later, you are asked, “What type of work do you do?”

When you reply, “I’m in eyewear,” the next question is inevitably, “I just paid $500 for these glasses. Why are they so expensive?” This query is often accompanied by a quizzical expression or perhaps an accusing stare. Next thing you know, others within earshot start chiming in with similar complaints, and suddenly you’re on the defensive. You begin to patiently explain what goes into making a quality pair of eyeglasses. You point out the beauty and style of the frame design, the special manufacturing techniques used to achieve the colorful pattern in the temples and the comfort afforded by the spring hinges and silicone nose pads.

Next, you launch into an explanation of all the research and development that went into designing the lenses to make them thinner, lighter and safer. You discuss the sophistication of multilayer coatings, and how they have been improved in recent years. For good measure, you mention that the lenses have built-in UV protection and are now available in photochromic.

Finally, you wrap up your impromptu speech by saying how essential eyeglasses are to everyone’s daily existence. You point out, they are not only the means by which you see the world, but they are the means by which the world sees you.

Just when you think you’re off the hot seat, the questioner turns to you and says, shaking their glasses for effect, “But I still don’t see why these things cost so much.”

As consumers feel the effects of the current economic crisis, many are questioning the value of our products and services, including what they perceive as unreasonably high markups on eyewear. Under the glare of such scrutiny, it is important that all of us in the optical industry be able to explain to our friends and acquaintances the value of the products and services we provide.

If you’re a retailer or dispenser, tell your customers about the care that goes into designing and manufacturing a quality frame or lens. Point out the skill involved in dispensing a pair of glasses or contact lenses. Make sure your office staff and salespeople are knowledgeable and professional in their dealings with customers. And don’t forget to spruce up the look of your office or store so it’s as attractive as possible.

Now is the time to reassure consumers about the value of their eyewear and eyecare. If we don’t, consumer confidence in our products and services will erode, and that’s a long-term prescription for trouble.