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Saturday / April 13.
HomeminewsThe Online Optical Retail Landscape

The Online Optical Retail Landscape

If you think the optical retail space is getting crowded, jump on the computer and have a look at how crowded the online retail space for eyewear is getting in Australia. Whilst most corporate optical retailers provide online solutions in addition to their shopfront offerings, there are many companies claiming to distribute “quality products” which many claim “can save up to 40 to 50 per cent off all leading contact lens brands and eyewear”.

The Big Guys Come to Town

The most recent entry into the Australian online retail space of contact lenses and eyewear is the Canadian based online retailer, Clearly Contacts, which chose a clever guerrilla marketing campaign targeting the Australian Open to introduce its brand to locals in January.

Clearly Contacts sent representatives to the tennis gland slam to hand out information packs to make people aware that eyeglasses can be “purchased online for half the price of traditional optical stores”, the company said.

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“For proper information and advice about your contact lenses please see your eyecare practitioner.”

Steve Wallace, Clearly Contacts Vice President of Sales said: “There is a large opportunity for people to save money on eyeglasses and we want consumers to be aware that it’s a choice.

“The plain truth is that glasses do not cost AUD$300 to make. That price includes large mark-ups by optical retail shops and there is an alternative,” said Wallace.

Guerrilla marketing campaigns appeal to companies because they are a cost effective alternative to traditional advertising campaigns. Typically, guerrilla marketing campaigns are unexpected and unconventional; usually consumer-interactive and targeted in unexpected places.

“Guerilla marketing is the best way of getting the message across as we can start a conversation with consumers who would normally disregard huge price differences as too good to be true,” said Wallace.

The Clearly Contacts website boasts “over 100 million contacts delivered” and presents an all- Australian front with the use of an Australian flag planted above the logo. However, the information provided in the company profile proves otherwise. There is no local Australian address. Clearly Contacts is a subsidiary of Coastal Contacts Inc, which claims to be “the world’s largest optical store” and trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange using the COA symbol.

mivision contacted Clearly Contacts for comment, however, after a time delay, the young customer service girl said “a representative was unavailable for comment as it is 4pm Sunday in Vancouver, could you call back tomorrow?” It was 11am Monday AEST.

The Singapore based www.quicklens.com. au goes one better than Clearly Contacts with its claim that it has “over 150 million contact lenses delivered”. Quick Lens also goes one better in the flag stakes with two Australian flags and a New Zealand flag in its banner.

Unfortunately, customers aren’t able to contact Quicklens by phone. Next to the phone number in the ‘About Us’ section it says: “We can not answer your inquiry at this No. Please contact us via email.”

More Contact Lenses Online

Trawling through the online landscape you will come across websites for coloured contacts including www.colouredcontacts.com.au operated by Online Retail Pty Ltd, a company based in Victoria which operates a number of online retail stores including a florist and… a lingerie store.

However, there are a number of local companies offering consumers contact lenses and eyewear including a few based in Queensland:

• www.eyecontacts.com.au which claims to be “Australia’s preferred online contact lens shop”;

• the family run www.contactlens.com.au from the Sunshine Coast which offers a 1300 number and tells us we can “save on every order”;

• “Australia’s Number One Source for Contact Lenses and Vision Care Products”, www. contactsonline.com.au, which offers customers a mobile phone number to call for enquires, and

• www.eyesonline.com.au which says it’s the “Premiere (sic) Online Supplier of Disposable Contact Lenses in Australia”. This company hails from Beenleigh and tells its customers to: “Please do not ring the Beenleigh practice if you are a webb (sic) patient.”

The recently launched www.mylens.com.au can justifiably claim it is “Proudly Australian” as it is based in Artarmon, Sydney, as can www.contactconnection.com.au owned by Eyedeal Pty Ltd, who offer a North Sydney PO Box but no phone contact and claim: “We are a 100% Australian owned and operated private company which was first founded in 2007”.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of online contact lens and eyewear offerings. There are no doubt many others lurking in the shadows waiting to carve out a niche for themselves.

Whilst most absolve responsibility for faulty products, they do dovetail their offerings with the following disclaimer: “For proper information and advice about your contact lenses please see your eyecare practitioner. Make sure you always have your eyes examined regularly. If you feel any pain or discomfort with your contact lenses please remove them immediately and see your eyecare practitioner.”