Breaking Down The Cost of Your Prescription Glasses
What difference does it make if one picks black frames over white frames? From frame styles to lens types, there are several factors that add up in terms of how they affect the cost of prescription glasses. However, outside of the optical shop, there is a much bigger reason for the price you pay.
For several years, eyewear has dominated both the fashion and medical market, becoming an essential, yet fashion statement for many people. A monopoly in the eyewear industry is EssilorLuxottica, an eyewear company that currently dominates the market. Initially starting off as separate companies (Essilor and Luxottica respectively,) the two merged in 2017 in hopes of meeting the global demand for everything related to eyewear, such as corrective lenses, sunglasses, and even luxury frames. Today the company owns a majority of eyewear retailers, including Ray-Ban, Oakley, Burberry, Chanel, Tory Burch, and more. As of 2019, EssilorLuxottica was able to generate $27 billion in revenue, produce 75 million pairs of glasses annually, and possess nearly 40% of the market. In fact, over half a billion people (such as yourself!) own EssilorLuxottica glasses.
While EssilorLuxottica is evidently successful and the numbers remain true, what is odd is the reason why prescription glasses are still so expensive. In Canada, the price of prescription glasses can vary drastically, from $240 to $1000. The primary reason for this is the lack of competition. Prior to 2017, as standalone companies, Essilor specialized in lenses, whereas Luxottica put more effort into frames. Because of the merge, it resulted in a decrease in competition, as the newly-combined company was able to essentially own and manufacture every single element in a pair of glasses.
In this scenario where there is a single, predominant company in the market, many smaller competitors, such as Warby Parker and Ollie Quinn choose to focus on providing eyewear at a more affordable price. Many online competitors have also participated in lowering the prices on their eyewear. Although they own less of the market in comparison to EssilorLuxottica, they are able to charge less for glasses by working with independent suppliers in order to prevent paying licensing costs that are commonly associated with big brands. While many choose to purchase glasses based on their brand, these smaller eyewear companies strive to ensure that their eyewear is more affordable by working closely with their manufacturers to control their supply chain. When glasses are marketed at such high price points, these smaller competitors improve accessibility, especially for those with a low-income, or simply living in an area where eyewear is rarely available.