Approximately two-thirds of the UK population will need prescription eyewear, whether that be glasses or contact lenses, at some point in their lives. Most will also have noticed that the options for where and how to buy glasses and/or lenses have increased dramatically over the last decade.
Many people have now taken the plunge and bought a pair of prescription specs from an online optician for the first time. Until recently, they would not have this choice. So, should you buy from the traditional high street optician or online? We look at some pros and cons for two very different ways of buying a new pair of specs or contacts.
High Street Opticians
The traditional way of buying eyewear, the high street optician, is still preferred by many who are prepared to pay more for the personal touch you receive in-store. In the past many wearers had a favourite optician and some even had a regular optometrist who knew their eyes inside and out in the same way a family GP knows all about your personal medical history. Another plus for the high street experience is the ability to try on the frames before buying. If you haven’t bought glasses before then it is worth trying on some in a store, even if you want to purchase online later on.
It can be difficult to judge successfully which frames suit you best when trying them for size – the sample frames will not be fitted with prescription lenses which will limit your viewing distance. While most sales staff are helpful, you could be ‘talked into’ an unwise choice by an unnecessarily enthusiastic assistant. It can also take some time to complete a purchase, especially when you have had an eye examination beforehand. Another consideration is that browsing is limited to the store’s opening hours.
If budget is your main consideration then most online opticians offer substantial savings and a wider choice of styles due to their lower overheads and buying power. You can also take your time choosing a frame in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. Some online stores offer a ‘try before you buy’ service which allows you to upload a photo of your face using your webcam to virtually try on selected frames.
The main drawback with online eyewear merchants is the lack of human contact, especially if something goes wrong with your order. You will also need an up-to-date prescription before ordering new eyewear – modern technology has yet to invent a way to virtually examine your eyes so you will still have to visit a high street optician if your prescription is due.
If when the glasses arrive, you find they don’t fit properly then it can be time consuming sending them back to be exchanged or altered.
Both ways of buying eyewear have their advantages so it would make sense to use an optician that offers the best aspects of the two.