Five Things to Know About Private-Label Lenses

Published December 2013


Private-label lenses (or house brands) from your optical laboratory provide options for your practice—options that can make premium free-form lenses attainable for every patient and options that can make a dramatic impact on per-lens profit.

In the past, private-label designs were restricted to single vision and conventional PAL designs in limited materials and even fewer treatments. But with the advent of free-form lens manufacturing came a new era for private-label lenses for which the category deserves a closer look—especially when it comes to getting patients into quality free-form PALs.

one While some labs create their own lens designs and market them under their own names, many of today’s private-label designs are created by some of the industry’s leading lens companies. Free-form manufacturing allows labs to buy the software for the design and market it under their own name.

“The private-label lenses have, in many cases, the same performance as a brand-name lens,” notes Mike Fussell, sales manager at Robertson Optical Laboratories, Inc., in Georgia and South Carolina.

A caveat, however: Not all house brands are created equal. “You can find house-brand lenses that are worse, as good as, or even better than brand-name lenses,” says Bill Heffner, vice president of FEA Industries in Morton, PA. “Some labs have multiple lens designs available, giving ECPs an option to pick the best lens for their patient.”

two “In the early days, ECPs saw free-form lenses as an expensive product. But when free-form private labels starting hitting the market, it made free-form affordable for more patients,” says Fussell. “There is no reason to put a patient in a conventional progressive lens anymore. We can literally have something for everyone.”

House brands can offer patients a 100 percent backside free-form design in many styles and performance categories. Furthermore, they can augment the “good-better-best” tier offerings by providing an option that falls in with the “better” tier but can come at a more accessible pricepoint, which means a practice can offer free-form lenses at various pricepoints to serve all patients.

three Private-label lenses may not have the “big name” cache that major brand lenses have. But, remember that “big name” doesn’t necessarily translate to anyone outside the industry.

“Lens brands matter more to ECPs than to the end consumer. It’s also much easier to communicate with customers in terms they already know, such as ‘high definition,’ ‘HD,’ or ‘digital.’ Telling patients they’re getting the latest technology is easier than trying to tell customers lens brand names and terminology,” says Heffner.

People buy private label all the time in other areas of their lives. Store-brand milk, bread, or eggs are all delicious and nutritious, but can be procured at a lower pricepoint. Fussell notes: “With the Internet, some people do research and feel strongly about branded product. But others don’t.”

four Price differences between brand and private can vary wildly. By being able to offer a quality lens design at a lower pricepoint, house brands allow ECPs to pass that savings on to the patient, thereby keeping patients from going to a big box optical. Conversely, ECPs can set their retail pricing for house brands at levels that will still make a freeform lens attractive to the patient but provide a higher profit margin.

five Here are some tips for choosing the right lab and the right private-label lens line.

■ Talk to lens consultants (from labs) who know the marketplace.
■ Know for whom (lifestyle-wise) the lens is designed.
■ If one private-label lens line isn’t satisfactory, there are many others from which to choose.
■ Partnership is important.

Make sure the lab is willing to help you with pricing and design choice whenever you need it. EB

By Susan Tarrant (Eyecare Business, December 2013, page(s): 30 31)