Measuring up to online eyewear retailers

2 August 2023
Summer 2023

Online eyewear sales surged during Covid-19. With many patients still opting to buy online, says Helen Bird, how can optometrists reassert their value and help to drive dispensing back in store?

In response to the General Optical Council’s (GOC’s) consultation on the review of the Opticians Act 1989 last year, 89% of College members who responded to the survey said legislation regarding the sale of optical appliances is necessary to protect consumers (COptom, 2022).

“Some sites will ask for the prescription and will ask if you’ve had [a recent] eye test and patients can lie,” said a primary care optometrist.

In the UK, online eyewear sales are expected to grow 6% in 2023 to reach £888bn, according to Euromonitor International, representing a 17% share of the total UK eyewear market. This comes after 2020 saw the strongest percentage growth change in e-commerce; up 12 percentage points to £1.15bn from £718m. “Growth was driven by the evolution of consumers’ habits following the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the increasing digitalisation of the eyewear industry, such as try-on tools, which have benefited e-commerce,” explains Natasha Cazin, who leads Euromonitor’s global research on the eyewear industry.

But while the rise in sales is good news for online eyewear retailers, optometrists are concerned about the safety risks to patients buying their spectacles and lenses online.

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