On the 5th of November 2020 England entered a 2nd lockdown after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new measures in order to slow and prevent the spread of coronavirus. The government’s strategy is to ease the pressure on the NHS and care organisations. The hope is this action will be enough to make sure that the public sector resources can cope, when the inevitable winter pressure on services is added onto the need to look after many people who also need treatment after contracting Covid-19.
Only mixing with people from your own household is possible apart from a few exceptions which include meeting one other person outside in a park for example. The lockdown is set to last until December 2nd which will be a four week restriction across England. Nearly all activities apart from work, exercise, childcare and education are now strictly limited. This time some organisations such as schools, garden centres and essential shops will stay open and cafes and restaurants are able to sell take away drinks, snacks and meals.
This all means the experience of going to the Opticians and shopping for glasses in 2020 has changed significantly compared to last year. There are new procedures in order to enable the process of having your eyes tested by an optician, viewing the sample frames on display and gaining advice from a glasses or contact lense fitting optical assistant.
Manufacturing custom frames and checking the fit of your glasses or lenses all takes slightly more time, as measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 are put in place across the whole industry.
Although in normal times it would be fine to just pop in to the opticians on your lunch break, it is now necessary to book an appointment in advance, to view the samples of glasses. This also applies to being tested by an ophthalmic doctor to obtain fresh prescription. Regular sight check ups are essential to obtain the best vision for driving and to optimise your overall eye health. An adult eye examination is recommended at least every two years.
The showrooms are all limiting the amount of customers in the building at any one time to keep everyone correctly socially distanced. All the eyewear which is tried on by clients are collected on trays. Then the selected frames are carefully disinfected by the sales assistants, using an alcohol based solution in between every client. Furniture, shelving and computer equipment is all very frequently wiped over to limit any germs passing from person to person through the touching of surfaces.
Hand sanitiser is available for all visitors at the entrances to each area and face masks are worn by staff and customers whenever possible. One advantage is that your opticians is likely to be a lot cleaner and less crowded than ever before. The flip side is that opticians are limiting the amount of people allowed into their premises at any one time. This results in some neat but occasionally rather lengthy queues of safe distanced households spread along the street. This is fine in dry weather but can be a little frustrating on inclement days. Everyone knows that the queues are for a good reason. All the health care professionals are doing their very best to help everyone keep safe and get served to a very high standard. Restricting numbers means social distancing inside the building is easier for the optical team to manage.
Boots is the biggest chain with over 600 stores nationwide. The British company prides itself on both a high standard of service and stocking some trendy budget friendly products too.
“On a budget? We have a great selection of Boots own branded frames starting from only £40 without compromising on quality….choose any two pairs from our Boots £40 range and pay just £60 for them both. ” advertises their website this week. (1)
The traditional beauty and healthcare provider is the oldest on the high street and was founded in 1849 by John Boot. However the companies nostalgic website doesn’t really give an accurately up to date picture of this now internationally owned organisation. (2)
In 2012 American chain Walgreens aquired a 45% stake in Alliance Boots. (2) In an article for The Guardian in 2016 entitled ‘How Boots went rogue’ Aditya Chakrabortty outlines how the Alliance Boots owners have based the well known pharmacy business in the Cayman Islands, Switzerland and more recently Dellaware in the USA. (3)
Boots has a reputation for customer service and quality and their slogan is “your health is at the heart of everything we do”. Currently they have an offer of half price on all additional pairs of frames. Plus this month there is a 25% reduction in the price of glasses and sunglasses for the over 60s age group. Their designer labels include Ray-Ban, Longchamp, Calvin Klein, Ted Baker and Jigsaw. They are open as usual throughout the second lockdown and have appointments available this week. (1)
Vision Express is one of the biggest players in ophthalmic and dispensing opticians sector. The company has been trading since 1988 and is owned by a French parent company Grand Vision according to Wikepedia. (4) They can be found in some of the best high street locations such as overlooking the general marketplace in the main square in Cambridge. Vision Express have a clinically neat showroom of covetable frames and the team at this well respected opticians also offer initial appointments for laser eye surgery. (5)
“Last month Vision Express shocked the industry after announcing it will acquire Tesco Opticians…As a result, a further 209 stores across the UK and Republic of Ireland will be brought under its leadership by the end of the year, bringing the total number of Vision Express outlets to 599, placing the new entity just behind Boots for store count.” stated the Optician newspaper in the summer of 2017. This Optician publication is an excellent article all about the major players in the market in Great Britain, Scotland and Northern Ireland. (6)
Large windows allow lots of natural light into the Vision express showroom in Cambridge and make for a pleasant browsing experience. There are some top of the range brands to choose from. These include RayBan, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein,Ted Baker, Lacoste and Mulberry and who knew David Beckham has his own line in celebrity endorsed eyewear!
The Vision Express eye specialists are currently offering 25% off contact lens subscriptions. They are advertising a ‘buy one get one half price’ on frames promotion but which is great for simple prescriptions but if your accessories budget is limited the lenses can get very expensive and can easily head into over £500 territory.
Then laser eye surgery at around £5000 suddenly looks rather more feasible. A procedure that could mean ditching the face furniture for the rest of your life, is the same cost as ten pairs of glasses with lenses that are on the more complex and sophisticated side price wise.
Specsavers are found on most high streets and also in Sainsburys supermarkets. They are a great place for customer service, contact lenses and young and trendy styles. We have been really impressed with our enthusiastic and helpful local team and the knowledgable young opticians that go the extra mile without rushing.
At the beginning of November there were many questions about how the company will be operating this month that optical managers and their assistants did not know the answer to. This was due to head office management not having any time to communicate with their store teams as the government announced the 2nd lockdown on a Saturday evening and most operations directors and senior company leaders do not over the weekend. This confusion has been the same across the whole commercial retail and leisure industry. Many workers across the country were are shocked and worried by the announcement which has affected their jobs and incomes again.
“I don’t know if we will be open for you to be able to pick up your order of contact lenses at the end of the week. To be on the safe side we will post them to you which will cost an additional £3.50” said the optical assistant today.” She went onto explain that during the first lockdown they were only seeing emergency patients and treating eye problems so she thought that might be the case again this month. It turns out that Specsavers and other opticians are still making appointments for regular customers. Specsavers have built a friendly and cosmopolitan brand and they are very popular with the general public who enjoy the upbeat optical experience.
Asda is owned by the American giant Walmart and also provides optical services and the custom manufacture of glasses, as well as fitting contact lenses. (7)
Asda are the most competitively priced business currently promoting their ‘2 designer pairs for £180’ (or £120 depending on price band). This deal includes varifocals and ‘thin and light’ lenses too. Their basic value frames start at £45. For women Asda sells ‘Flower’ eyewear by Drew Barrymore plus a whole lot of well known names: Morgan, Baby Phat, Oasis, Goldigga, Joan Collins, Firetrap, Nine West and Warehouse. Asda even have a sparkly Swarovski crystal range.
Asda’s Menswear labels include Davidoff, Dunlop, Gola, Accessorise and Racing Green. Like the other optical stores featured here they also have a children’s selection.
This means that this month Asda are half the price of Vision Express and Specsavers for a more complicated adult prescription. We found the customer service to be professional and carefully done with an individual touch from an optical team who cared about how the glasses they were recommending would make a positive difference to their public’s lives.
So if you are looking for a budget friendly option or have a big family to purchase for choosing Asda is clearly a smart decision.
(1) ‘Great Value Glasses’ Boots Opticians, 2 November 2020 ‘Great Value Glasses’ Boots Opticians
(2) ‘Boots Heritage’ Boots website, 11 November 2020 ‘Boots Heritage’ Boots website
(3) ‘How Boots went rogue’, Aditya Chakrabortty, 31 April 2016 ‘How Boots went rogue’, Aditya Chakrabortty
(4) Vision Express, Wikipedia, 11 November 2020 Vision Express, Wikipedia
(5) ‘Book your eye test’ Vision Express, 23 October 2020 ‘Book your eye test’ Vision Express
(6) ‘The top UK optical chains 2017’ Jo Gallacher, 26 May 2017 ‘The top UK optical chains 2017’ Jo Gallacher 26 May 2017
(7) ‘New and exclusive designer range at Asda’ Asda Opticians, 1 November 2020 ‘New and exclusive designer range at Asda’ Asda Opticians