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Why are eyeglasses so expensive?

At 20/20 Institute, we meet patients considering LASIK for many different reasons.  Every person is different, but in general, people simply want the freedom to live the life and lifestyle that they want to live. Many report to us that their glasses and contacts get in the way of living their best lifestyle.  Frequently though, patients also take into account the rather expensive and guaranteed continued cost of their eyeglasses.

Good vision is important, but have you ever wondered why eyeglasses and sunglasses cost so much?  A lot of people do. The frames appear to be made of mostly plastic and metal, but a new pair of glasses can hit your wallet harder than a new tablet or smart phone.

It seems that they are getting even more expensive too.  In 1986, the year Top Gun came out, you could buy a pair of Ray-Ban® aviators (like the ones Tom Cruise wore) for under $30. Today, a pair of Ray-Bans can cost you upwards of $150!

So why are glasses so expensive?  Let’s explore the possibilities…

One reason: the manufacturing and materials used to create eyeglasses. It’s true that frames and lenses are manufactured better today than they were 30 years ago.  Additionally, when it comes to lenses for those frames, there are many upgrade options that promise (and often deliver) a better experience.

But is the improved quality really that much more expensive to produce?  Does “excellent quality” justify why a pair of off-the-shelf frames with prescription lenses can cost $400, $600, $800 or more?  Even if the quality is really that much better, today’s manufacturing capabilities should be able to improve quality and reduce manufacturing costs, right?

Whether by design or necessity (or both) glasses and sunglasses have absolutely become an accessory in addition to being simply a functional device.  They used to be called “spectacles,” but not anymore.  Now, the preferred term among manufacturers and retail stores is “eyewear.”  Doesn’t eyewear sound SO much better and in fashion than spectacles?!

The fashion component of the frames that surround eyeglasses and sunglasses is another reason eyewear costs are high. The more frequently certain frames are worn by famous musicians and Hollywood stars, the more they are “worth,” right?

So, why is eyewear so expensive?

Improved design, structure, materials, manufacturer expertise, and the “fashion factor” may not be the whole story. The entire answer is more complex. One of the lesser-known realities of the eyeglasses industry is that it is less of a “free market” than most people realize.

While you may not have heard of a company named EssilorLuxottica, you will absolutely recognize at least a few of these frames and prescription brand names that this company owns the licensing or trademark rights to:

Ray-Ban Oakley Prada  
Chanel Transitions Crizal  
Coach Michael Kors DKNY Armani Tiffany Varilux  

EssilorLuxottica manufactures the frames and lenses for all of these brands and many, many more.  So when you browse for your new pair of glasses (or even sunglasses) and notice the range of cost from the value brand to the luxury brand, chances are good that no matter what you end up choosing, you are buying a EssilorLuxottica frame and lenses.

In addition to manufacturing the frames and lenses for a remarkably long list of brands, EssilorLuxottica also owns a few optical stores that you probably know: LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Target Optical, Sunglass Hut, to name but a few.

The second largest vision insurance company in the U.S., EyeMed, is also a EssilorLuxottica company.

In a free market, various companies and their brands compete for your business, but often in the eyewear market, perceived brand competition is a facade.  It’s a great business position for the manufacturer, of course.  For the consumer, though, not so much.

One significant reason that eyeglasses cost so much is because EssilorLuxottica can essentially set its price without the true forces of free market competition to balance the scales.

“Finally … two products which are naturally complementary – namely frames and lenses -will be designed, manufactured and distributed under the same roof,”

-Luxottica’s founder Leonardo Del Vecchio January 9, 2017

A good pair of sunglasses is very nice, and most eye doctors will tell you that you should wear good UV protection when outside.  But most people will also agree that it’s nice to not HAVE to wear prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses every waking minute.

Patients from all around Colorado and beyond seek out LASIK at 20/20 Institute to be able to enjoy freedom from a frame and prescription lenses.  If you’re a good candidate, freedom from the eyewear industry might be appealing, but not nearly as rewarding as simply being able to wake up and see without glasses!

The most important first step to have LASIK at the 20/20 Institute is to find out if you’re a good candidate or not.  To schedule a free consultation, request us to contact you or give us a call at 303.202.0669, and one of our attentive vision counselors will assist you with finding a convenient time to discover your options toward visual freedom.

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