Major supermarket chains have tripled their share of the optician retail market in the last six years, according to new research published today.
Research from independent analysts Verdict suggest that non-specialists have increased their market share of the opticians market from 1.7 per cent in 2005 to 4.7 per cent this year.
Grocers like Asda and Tesco have hugely increased the number of optical products and services they provide in recent years, threatening even the larger specialist stores such as Specsavers.
Matthew Walton, analyst at Verdict, said: “Opticians have been hit by consumers cutting back. Those who are still visiting the optician out of need have become increasingly price sensitive.”
With their bulk buying potential and ability to sell at a loss the major supermarkets have been able to undercut the specialist ever since the law was changed in 2005 to allow them to enter the market.
Physical expansion is difficult for independent retailers with new space for stores hard to come by but Walton believes that if they concentrate on increasing like-for-like sales and improving service they can still grow market share.
Mr Walton continued: “To survive and thrive, smaller independents will need to provide higher levels of service, either through offering something that competitors do not or through higher levels of customer service.
“Improvements could include offering home-based eye tests for elderly and disabled patients, or becoming a collection point for an online retailer.”
The increased competition between the independents and the supermarkets was highlighted by a court case last year between Asda and Specsavers.
Specsavers accused Asda of deliberately misleading customers through imitation when it used the advertising strap-lines ‘Be a real Spec Saver at Asda’ and ‘Spec Savings at Asda’ but the judge threw out the charges.