We have seen some fantastic progress in the British independent optical sector in the last few years.

Beautiful new stores have opened up in Hove and in Lytham, in Birmingham and in London but we are just scratching the surface.

100% Optical has made it easier for opticians to see interesting frames without venturing too far from home but now is the time to consolidate this growth and develop our domestic industry into something that competes on the world stage.

There are too many practices that are resting on their laurels and not moving forward. This needs to change – our industry is developing at a phenomenal pace and if you don’t keep up, you will soon feel the heat.

You will forgive me if I am direct…….I cannot see the point in being delicate here. We all share the same goals; to develop our own businesses and to see our industry flourish.

With few exceptions, the vast majority of frames on offer to the public at independent optical stores are, well, crap. There you go, I said it.

Opticians are relying on reps coming to their door and peddling the same old rubbish with a different name on the side. Wait – there is a difference – manufacturers are looking for the cheapest way to produce so the frames are going down in quality.

Do you think that your consumer is stupid?

They can buy cheap frames online or at their trusted multiple – why on earth would they come to you for that?

And if you are making a decent living offering that level of product right now, believe me, it is not going to last.

I would not presume to tell you how to run your clinical side and I assume, like your patients assume, that you offer a high level of medical professionalism. They probably assume that of all opticians though.

So how do you differentiate yourselves? 

Well there are many ways but product is the most visible and the most appealing to your audience. Give them a reason to visit your store and nobody else’s.

You are not going to do that by sitting at home and waiting for reps to tell you why their [branded] product is so much better than the guy sitting in his estate car outside waiting to come in with the next [branded] product.

You should be going to all of the major international trade shows to look for interesting product to differentiate you from your competitors. Yes, it costs money but it is a great……no, essential………investment.

100% Optical is your first port of call. It is easy to access and frankly I cannot imagine why any optician who cares about their business would not be there.

Go to Silmo. Paris is not very far and you will see a hundred collections that your neighbours do not carry and that are not sold cheaper online.

If you are worried about your ability to select frames, take someone with you from your team who has an eye for style. You can even employ someone freelance to help you find the right collections for your audience and to train your team to sell them effectively.

Now is the time, British opticians, to take great strides forward. 

If I sound passionate about this, it is because I am. My grandfather, Sidney Kirk, was instrumental in building the British optical industry and, as the third generation in this optical family, I am committed to seeing our industry progress.

Kirk & Kirk will be exhibiting at 100% Optical but we help opticians with these kind of issues every day. Please contact us if we can be of help to your business.


Taylor-West & Sloan

Spectacle Emporium