Why are eyeglasses so expensive?

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

Good vision is important so it is valuable to be able to see clearly, but have you ever wondered why eyeglasses and sunglasses can 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 hit your wallet harder than a new tablet or smart phone.

It seems that they are getting even more expensive too!  In 1986 when Top Gun came out, you could buy a pair of Ray-Ban aviators like the ones Tom Cruise wore for just under $30, but 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 could be the manufacturing and materials used to create eyeglasses. It is true that frames and lenses are manufactured better today than they were 30 years ago.  As well, when it comes to the lenses for those frames, you have a plethora of upgrade options that promise and often provide a better experience.

But is the quality really that much better?  Does this “excellent quality” justify why a pair of off-the-shelf frames with your 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 of manufacturers and distribution stores is “eyewear.”  Doesn’t eyewear sound SO much better than spectacles?!

The fashion component of the frames of eyeglasses and sunglasses is another factor of why glasses cost so much.  Simple supply and demand economics and fashion is always in demand. The more frequently the frames are worn by 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, but 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 Luxottica, you will absolutely recognize at least a few of these brand names:

Ray-Ban Oakley Prada
Chanel Dolce & Gabanna
Coach DKNY Tiffany

Luxottica manufactures the frames for all of these brands and many, many more.  So when you browse for your new pair of glasses 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 Luxottica frame.

In addition to manufacturing the frames for a remarkably long list of brands, Luxottica also owns a few optical stores that you probably know: LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Target Optical, and Sunglass Hut.  These and several others are all are owned by Luxottica.

The second largest vision insurance company in the US, EyeMed, is also a Luxottica 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 is a very good business position for the manufacturer, of course.  For the consumer though, one significant reason that eyeglasses cost so much is because Luxottica can essentially set the price.

“Everything is worth what people are ready to pay”
 – Andrea Guerra, CEO, Luxottica 60 Minutes, June 15, 2014

Luxottica does not manufacture the actual lenses in eyeglasses or sunglasses, they only manufacture the frames.  But recently, Luxottica announced a merger with Essilor, the largest manufacturer of lenses in the world.

Where will this merger take the entire eyeglasses industry?  Time will tell of course, but the good news is that there are options.

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 is nice to not HAVE to wear them 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.  If you are a good candidate, more freedom from the eyeglasses industry may also be an additional perk, but will likely not be nearly as cool as the simple ability to wake up and see without glasses!

The most important first step to have LASIK at 20/20 Institute is to find out if you are indeed 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 our attentive vision counselors will assist you with finding a convenient time for a visit.