Bringing somewhat cheer to the battered retail industry, the TN Government has allowed Opticians and Spectacle retailers to open their retail stores with no more than 50% customers allowed inside at any given time.
There are an estimated 35,000 opticians across India and the Industry is more than 95% semi- or unorganised. Most of the stores are run in the mom & pop style with the owner and his immediate family members taking care. Based on prescriptions from Eye Doctors and Surgeons, the retailer gets the lens made from certified factories while the rims and frames, most of which are imported are sold alongside.
Other than regionally strong players such as Specsmakers and Lenskart among others, Titan Eyeplus (from the Tata) and Reliance Vision Express is the only national level retain store chain with 100s of stores, especially in Tier 2 cities. Most of these stores are managed by 1 or 2 employees (or owners as the case may be) and they have severely been impacted due to lockdowns.
“Since Eye testing requires close proximity with another human being and the equipments not being fully sanitised after every check-up, we have lost over 50% of patients since March 2020“, said an employee of a leading Eye Clinic in Chennai who requested not to be quoted for fear of losing his job. And this had a cascading effect on eyewear retailers too.
“Earlier, about 15% of our sales came from non-prescription based business such as Sunglasses and Accessories. Now, with the middle class working people hardly stepping out or travelling on vacations, we hardly had much footfalls or brisk business even before the second wave. Now, whatever little we had, has been wiped out” quipped a retailer who’s sole business earning was from his only shop in town. With stores opening up, there is some hope left out.