For a long time, getting1.67 high index lenses glasses has been a tremendously expensive ordeal, with pairs costing in the neighborhood of $500…that’s as much as a smartphone or even a decent computer. We all know the horrible feeling of parting with our hard earned cash for a single pair of glasses that we’re forced to wear everywhere all the time. Not only do the glasses get worn out, they can break, or our prescription might still change. How can a piece of plastic with lenses in it possibly sell for the same price as a pocketable computer?!
The way the industry is organized has to do with how your glasses are priced
You can essentially think of it like this: when there are a lot of companies competing for your attention, the price of their product drops. This isn’t the case with the eyeglass industry right now. Although there are some 35,000 or so companies in the eyecare industry, a few big players control the market. We can draw a parallel to smartphones: when you are in the market for a new phone, you’ll be browsing among brands like Apple, Samsung, LG, Oneplus, Google Pixel, Motorola, and the like. You won’t be looking at LeEco, Meizu, Blackview, Doogee, or Umidigi, partly because you never heard of them or because they aren’t easily available in your region. Similarly, a few big brands effectively control the market. According to a 2015 report by investment bank Harris Williams & Co., the entire vision sector represents a $36 Billion industry, and, out of that, $10.7 Billion, or 30%, is controlled by Luxottica, National Vision, Costco, Walmart and Visionworks.
Moreover, many of these players are vertically integrated: in a typical scenario the parent company owns the factory, the brands or licenses, multiple stores and store brands, and even a vision insurer. What that means is that when you think to yourself “well I’ll just go to another eyeglass store brand”, you’re most often giving your money to the same company…or one of the big players. When things are like this, there is no incentive to compete on price.
A few small but ethical companies are refusing to make glasses so expensive.
Take for example Payne Glasses, this eyeglass maker sells premium quality men glasses, with good lenses, for $40 or less. Their about page is an indictment of the current way the eyeglass industry is working and the company’s mission is to deliver high quality glasses at an honest price. What makes Payne Glasses stand out though, is that they have special lenses. Their blue blocking and high index lenses are highly coveted. The high-index lenses are designed to offer a higher level of material quality. Whereas the industry standard is 1.67 index, these are 1.74, meaning they can be thinner and lighter than their counterparts. This is good for people with strong prescriptions that feel their current glasses are too thick and heavy. The light responsive blue-blocker lenses are an industry first. They not only darken in the presence of sunlight, but also respond to the presence of harmful HEV, or blue light.