Why Are Prescription Glasses So Expensive?

Prescription glasses for sale
Prescription glasses are a necessity for millions of Canadians. So why are they so expensive?

If you’ve ever asked yourself “Why are my prescription glasses so expensive?” you’re not the only one. Laser eye surgery typically costs more than a pair of glasses, but it’s an operation that uses specialized medical equipment to permanently sculpt your eyes so you can see clearly. Glasses, on the other hand, are made from little bits of plastic and have been around since the 13th century. So how is it possible that they remain so pricey? With so many brands, stores, and options to choose from, shouldn’t competition alone bring the costs down? Well, not exactly. 

The Illusion Of Choice

Have you ever shopped for glasses at any of the following retailers: LensCrafters, Sunglass Hut, Pearl Vision, Sears Optical, Target Optical, or Glasses.com? Perhaps you were looking for some stylish frames from Ray-Ban, Persol, Oakley, Prada, Chanel, Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Miu Miu, Coach, Tory Burch or others? Well, all of the retailers above (with over 7,000 stores worldwide combined) are owned by a single company, EssilorLuxottica, which also happens to manufacture all of the frames by the brands mentioned.

Through years of mergers and acquisitions, EssilorLuxottica has become the largest maker of eyewear in the world. They hold around 40% of the entire market, from manufacturing to retail, and over half a billion people worldwide wear EssilorLuxottica glasses. Each year they produce more than 75 million pairs of glasses. 

Glasses Can Be Marked Up Almost 1000%

Two recent LensCrafters executives went on record saying that it costs $4-8 to create great frames and $15 is all it costs to create high-end luxury glasses. These same glasses can sell for over $800 in LensCrafters.

“It’s a complete rip-off.”

Lenscrafters executive E. Dean Butler

With such control over the industry and no competition, EssilorLuxottica control pricing. Plus, when competitors don’t play by their rules, EssilorLuxottica simply cuts them out of the market. Take Oakley for instance. In the early 2000s, Oakley was independently owned and growing in popularity. The then singularly named Luxottica demanded to pay lower wholesale prices to carry Oakley products at Sunglass Hut. After Oakley refused, Luxottica simply cut them out of their retail stores, causing Oakley’s stock prices to plummet. Then, in 2007, Luxottica bought Oakley. 

Ray-Ban used to be cheap, everyday glasses that you could purchase at gas stations. But in 1999, Luxottica bought the company, took them off shelves for about a year, and then reintroduced them. However, this time they were marketed as a luxury brand and had a hefty price tag to match. They were priced at around five times what they cost a year prior.

Oakley and Ray-Ban are two of the most popular eyewear brands in North America, and Essilor Luxottica now owns both of them. 

EssilorLuxottica manufactures 75 million pairs of glasses every year for multiple brands and sells them in their own stores. This lets them set prices and control the market.

More Than Just Frames

Essilor is a French company that has been around for centuries. They primarily manufacture lenses and have acquired over 250 companies since the 1800s. Essilor purchased Luxottica in 2017 for an estimated $24 billion. Today, as a single company, EssilorLuxottica owns the licenses to dozens of brands, the manufacturing facilities for both the frames and lenses, and the stores that the products are sold in. And did we mention they also own the second largest vision benefits company in America? It’s called Eye-Med. We’re happy we live in Canada for this one, but we thought we would mention it to show how much of a grip EssilorLuxottica has on the eyewear market.  

“Everything is worth what people are ready to pay.”

Andrea Guerra, Luxottica CEO

Laser Eye Surgery Cost

It’s tough to compare the exact cost of laser eye surgery to glasses. What it comes down to is how much you spend on glasses, and how often they need replacing. Hopefully you don’t lose or break your glasses on a regular basis, but let’s play out a quick scenario. It’s recommended that you visit your eye doctor every other year. If you need to replace your glasses at the same time and they cost $300 per pair (frames and lenses), then over the course of 30 years you would spend $4,500 on glasses. This doesn’t include the cost of visiting the optometrist, the cost of a pair of prescription sunglasses if desired, the cost of upgrading your glasses if your prescription changes, etc. 

In the long run, laser eye surgery is more affordable. At BoydVision, most of our patients have the operation once and can enjoy their lives glasses free! Our high-end excimer laser, eye testing equipment, friendly staff, and welcoming facility make our patients feel cared for and we are always honest about our pricing—no bait-and-switch tactics here! The cost of laser eye surgery at BoydVision can vary depending on the operation you have performed. You can check out the prices by visiting our vision correction procedures page. 

It’s hard to believe that glasses can cost more than a flight to the town in Italy where they were invented almost a millennia ago, but that’s the world we live in. Save yourself the frustration of dealing with EssilorLuxottica and other annoyances that come with wearing glasses. Get a free consultation with BoydVision to see if laser eye surgery is right for you.