Study indicates consumers prefer store-bought glasses

Thirty-three participants requiring vision correction were directed to purchase spectacles from both a random sample of five of the most easily accessed online spectacle retailers and five high-street practices of their choice. A total of 309 pairs of spectacles were assessed: 154 from online suppliers and 155 from practices.The participants wore each pair of glasses they purchased for at least two hours over a two- to three-day period before completing a questionnaire on vision, comfort, fit, and how acceptable and safe the spectacles felt.All of the participants and spectacles were then assessed at the University of Bradford eye clinic in the UK for clarity of vision, ocular muscle balance, and fit and quality of the spectacle frames and lenses.The results showed participants ranked physical store-bought spectacles dispensed by practice staff significantly higher overall than those bought online, particularly for more complex prescriptions.In addition, a higher rate of spectacles purchased online were classed as unacceptable or unsafe due to incorrect measurents of pupillary distances. Of all the spectacles assessed, 6% were classified as unsafe, with online-supplied spectacles accounting for 78% of these. For 50% of these spectacles, the issue was due to the fit of the frame rather than the accuracy of the lens prescription.Even though the average cost of the online spectacles studied was significantly lower than their high-street counterparts, 79% of participants said they would purchase their next pair of spectacles from a high-street practice.The raining 21% that indicated they would purchase their next pair online cited convenience, clarity in pricing, significantly lower prices and the lack of pressure to purchase amongst their reasoning.The UK study was commissioned by The College of Optometrists, and director of research Mr Mike Bowen claimed it was the first of its kind. He also noted that the research was important due to the rise of online retailing. Customers need to understand that it’s not just the prescription that’s important in selecting a pair of spectacles but that a specialist such as an optometrist or dispensing optician can also guide you on the shape, fit and appropriateness of a certain pair of spectacles over another, Mr Bowen explained. Patients need to understand the possible adverse effects if spectacles are not supplied correctly. The study was recently published online ahead of print in Optometry and Vision Science’s October issue.

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