If the roof is about to cave in on the contact lens supply business why do so many people seem so relaxed about it?News last week of the entry into the contact lens supply market by Tesco (see page 5) and the expected entry of Asda, Boots, and some leading pharmacy chains, sent shock waves through some sections of the business. Other business parts seem to have been caught completely flat-footed or appear not to care.
It seems incredible at this late stage in the game that the ramifications of the Section 60 changes were not more widely predicted. Indeed one wonders if in some quarters they have been noticed at all.
It seems some retail optical businesses are happy to turn their back on contact lens sales and let the multiples and the supermarkets slug it out. Perhaps the quality independents feel their clients' loyalty will win the day, or are there a lot of practitioners so focused on the day job that they have failed to notice the 600lb gorilla that has snuck into the consulting room?
Whichever of these scenarios is closest to the mark, it seems inevitable that the relationship between some of the smaller practices and their suppliers is being put to the test by the changes taking place and the close relationship the manufacturers will have with the supermarkets and the pharmacies.
Then there is the question of competitive forces. No one expects loyalty from the supermarkets, but what about inter-professional respect? As a leading member of the profession recently put it, in a yet-to-be-published optician article: 'The pharmacist is no better qualified than the butcher to advise on eye care. The distribution system confuses and gives false comfort to the customer.'
It is interesting that the supermarkets are using their pharmacy outlets to champion contact lenses. And perhaps disappointing that fellow professionals seem happy to provide advice regardless of whether they are educated to do so.