9 Reasons to Use Private Label Spectacle Lenses and Independent Laboratories
Private label is nothing new. It’s likely you have visited your local grocery store and bought some potato chips. That product was likely produced by Lays chips without you knowing it. For the cost difference, we’re sure the chips tasted finger-lickin’ good.
The same thing happens in the glasses industry. There are lenses with big brand names and lenses with little names. The question that must be asked though is, do your patients come to you because you sell Varilux products or do they have loyalty due to your excellent service, awesome frames, and patient care?
Let’s get down to facts:
- Lenses are just pieces of plastic and not born with a name. It’s a hunk of plastic that makes people see well. Smartypants’ vision care pros and physicists help design them.
- Lenses are like gasoline for your car, it all functions the same. No gas gets you more mileage. No lenses will make you see to the moon and back.
- When you buy branded lenses, you pay extra fees for your sales rep’s car, marketing brochures, TV commercials, corporate salaries, and more. That all factors into why your lenses cost you $300+ wholesale for the premium stuff.
- Big branded lens companies don’t have special technology or superior lenses like they claim. It’s all marketing fluff to make you loyal.
- Anti-reflective coatings between companies have minimal differences. They all buy their chemicals to produce them from nearly all the same sources.
- Patients don’t even remember what brand of lens they wear. They are just happy to see to drive and read.
Stop supporting Big Optical lens companies; they are overpriced rip-offs.
Brands like Essilor, Hoya, Zeiss, Seiko, Vision Ease, Kodak, Nikon, Varilux, VSP and more sell lenses at very expensive prices. We will refer to these as Big Optical (BO).
Let’s first quickly define what a BO operation looks like. The companies have 100s or 1000s of employees that make up their organization. This means they have a lot of overhead. You know, the same bills we pay: electric, gas, water, health insurance, CEO vacations. However, their overhead is on a tremendous scale that forces their prices of lenses to be super high.
BO is known to compete against eye care professions directly with retail locations like Lenscrafters and Visionworks. Why would we buy from a company that owns retail and competes against us?
In short, Big Optical are companies who make good lenses just like every other company but criminally overcharge for them because we as the eye care professional are many times stupid and pay for them. That’s how the market works…charge whatever somebody will pay. We as optometrists and opticians must stand up to these companies and say NO. These prices are ridiculous and we should move our business to a small independent laboratory.
1. Save money (thousands of dollars)!
You like saving money, right? If we were talking about buying juicy ribeye steaks at the grocery store, it’s obvious you get what you pay for. Flank steak is so nasty compared to a Chicago Ribeye.
If you look at the cost of a private label lens from an independent laboratory, a CR-39 premium progressive with premium anti-reflective should cost anywhere between $50-$100. If you were to buy from BO, it would cost $200-$300. The cost difference is not justified in any single way. Both lenses from both labs have the finest free-form technology and are made on the same generators with the same software. One just has a name and one doesn’t. The cost savings really comes into play when you look at your monthly lab statement.
Even if you only save $50 per job on 50 jobs per month switching to a private label lens, that’s a $2500 monthly savings. Wow!
You can save even more money by edging uncut lenses in your own in-office lab. You control nearly every single step of the production process to give your patients the best quality fast!
2. Don’t fall into the trap that more expensive lenses are better lenses.
We know a Kia car is not the same pricepoint as a Tesla and we know why. That doesn’t have to be explained. But what does have to be explained is how BO can charge for a piece of plastic $300 and another company $100 for the same exact piece of lens technology. Hmmm??
Many labs use the same lens generators and anti-reflective equipment provided by companies like Schneider, OptoTech, Satisloh, and more. If you have the money, you can buy the best lens manufacturing equipment for your lab. It’s plain and simple why BO can charge an outrageous amount for lenses. You drank the Kool-aid. If you want to pretend a more expensive lens is better, do it. But until you try a private label lens without the name, you won’t know.
3. Enjoy all 3 categories of service, speed, and fair prices when you partner with an independent lab.
Many people say you can only pick 2 of these, but we will go against the optical grain and say NO!
The beauty of using an indie lab is they are not producing 3,000 jobs a day or more. They have a smaller number of optometrists and opticians as accounts and are able to focus on your needs. They know every business owner and optician that calls into the lab by name and tone of voice.
Small labs have much of the same automation that large labs have today. It’ nice being able to call a lab and speak to the owner if you need technical help or have an issue. Good luck doing that with a BO lab. And trust us, every lab will experience issues, but it’s the way the lab handles the issues that matter.
4. Most private label lens designs are provided by OptoTech and Indizen Optical Technologies.
These two companies have been around awhile designing lenses. In fact, they design lenses for other lens companies!!
So, just skip the middleman BO lens companies and order directly from these companies through your independent lab. These 2 companies approach the lens market in a different way. They provide labs with lens designs to manufacturer and software to process at reasonable prices. Then, labs pass these savings on to you, the eye care professional.
5. Your lab rep makes anywhere between 5%-10% commission to bring you cookies.
We’re not saying all reps are lame. However, bringing cookies to accounts 1x per month and giving the optical wave doe not warrant expensive lab bills.
Big optical has to pay these reps. They are on quotas to grow their territories. The more a rep can charge you, the more money they make.
Most reps we have seen walk into the optical and just stand there handing out brochures and regurgitating the marketing fluff they learned on their conference call the morning before. That’s not real optical training. Real optical training means forgetting all the brand name crap and teaching opticians technical and sales skills. A real rep would motivate opticians to hit that sales floor, put a smile on their face and amp them up to perform in the office! Educate patients through your knowledge and a show-and-tell experience with visual aids, not marketing.
6. They don’t have 400 price lists.
The way BO works is they give you an expensive price list and say “great, you are part of XYZ buying group, now you get 40% of your lab bill.” That’s a complete joke. Why mark something up to mark it down? Stop playing optical games BO!!
An independent lens lab has one price list for all that’s fair. You won’t have to negotiate it. If you are running a decent volume through their lab every month, you may be able to get a little cheaper pricing by asking.
7. Lens warranties are the same as BO
All the normal lab policies are the same at indie labs. You get 2-year warranties on scratched lenses and defects, they have doctor redo policies and all the usual stuff.
8. Lens rebates are a joke!
We’ve never understood why lens companies have to give rebates. It’s like they are saying “we apologize for our high pricing so we will give you a little monthly check quarterly for using our brand.”
It’s really silly a lens company will give you $5 back per pair of lenses because you ordered a certain AR. Why not just lower the prices of your lenses $5 in the first place? Stop playing games. This is business, not BINGO.
9. What about Vision Plans, do indie labs accept those jobs?
Some indie labs accept vision plans, and others don’t. Just call to check.
Our recommendation is if you have a cash job, always choose an indie lab first. You always need 2-3 labs you can rely on for different things. Some labs are great at sunglasses, some are good at drilling. Not every lab can be fantastic at everything. Many times, even with a 2nd pair discount, your indie lab will still be cheaper than your insurance lab.
We know choosing a lab is hard
The most important thing you need to know is you are not married to your lab. If you try one out for a month and don’t like them, switch! Perhaps they are slow or don’t answer their phone.
The easiest way to switch labs is just to experiment. Order 5 jobs and see what happens. Critique them on speed and service. All the lenses produced today are generally pretty good. Just like smartphones, there’s really not a bad phone today. Even the cheap ones have good service and can download all the apps.
With overnight shipping, choosing a local lab is not necessary. It’s about time eye care professionals stopped supporting Big Optical who doesn’t support the independent. The ones that say they support us also sell to Walmart or make lenses for Warby Parker.
What are you waiting for? Switch labs now. It’s never too late.
If you want to learn more about how the lab business works, listen to these 2 podcasts. They tell all the dirty secrets!
Podcast 1: CEO of a Lens Design Company Gets Technical
Podcast 2: Independent Female Lab Owner Tells the Truth about Lenses