Like it or not, more and more people are turning to the Internet to purchase their prescription eyewear.

One estimate says up to 12% of people with single-vision lenses now buy their glasses online. And these numbers are rising, which has resulted in a worrisome loss of revenue for independent Canadian eyewear professionals.

“ECPs in this country are losing out on a ton of business,” says Paul Faibish, president of Plastic Plus, Canada’s largest independent lens manufacturer.

To combat the problem, the Toronto-based company has developed a new online eyewear retail site, which is set to launch this September.

VerifEyewear is intended to not only give participating ECPs a share of online sales revenue but also drive more traffic to their offices, earn additional revenue and compete with international online retailers, Faibish said.

Online sales, as an additional revenue stream, will soon be the “new reality” for ECPs, he said.

“In a perfect world, I wish that online never started. It’s hurting everybody’s business. Whatever the true percentage is of single-vision wearers buying online today, it’s greater today than it was last year and next year it’s going to be higher and the year after that it’s going to be higher as well. And unless all of us tap into these other streams, our businesses are going to keep on going down,” Faibish said.

VerifEyewear, a venture supported by the Opticians Association of Canada, will be different from other existing eyewear websites. ECPs will be involved throughout each transaction.

Prescriptions will be verified by an optician before the glasses are created.

Once a consumer has selected their frames, they will be asked to enter their postal code which will bring up a list of participating, licenced ECP offices within a 100-kilometre radius.

Finished pairs will then be sent to the office selected by the consumer; they will not be delivered directly to the person’s home.

The ECP will then check the frame and lenses with the patient. Only glasses approved by the optician will be dispensed.

“What we hope to do is for those consumers who wish to purchase a pair of glasses online, provide them with a quality product that is verified by the ECP and allow the independent ECPs to share in the profits,” Faibish said.

Opticians will receive 20% of the net selling price for prescriptions purchased online and dispensed at their office.

Because of the partnership with VerifEyewear, OAC members will receive an even larger share, at 25% of the overall selling price.

On top of that, all revenue from additional in-store sales and as a result of referrals will remain with that office.

“Companies spend huge amounts of money in marketing and advertising to bring traffic to their stores. We’re forcing traffic to the ECP’s offices and now is the chance to turn these consumers into patients and to increase their business.”

Faibish said web development for VerifEyewear, which can be found at, has been underway since March.

Several hundred ECP offices have already signed up to the program.

Any licenced optician in the country can participate, once approved by VerifEyewear.

VerifEyewear will sell both designer and non-branded eyewear. When it launches, brands like Guess, Carrera, Kenneth Cole, Swarovski, Timberland and Diesel will be available for sale.

The brands on offer will change and increase, he said, as dictated by demand and trends.

Faibish said he is very excited about VerifEyewear’s launch.

“It’s breaking ground. It’s a new aspect to our business. We’re excited to be working with a whole new group of opticians in the country and help bring them more business and basically help the independent optician compete against the big guys,” he said.

Robert Dalton, executive director of the Opticians Association of Canada, said there is no cost for OAC members to partner with the VerifEyewear delivery system.

“Many online retailers have chosen to bypass the services of eye care professionals.

The OAC feels this is a way to harness the conveniences of online purchases while still maintaining a standard of care,” Dalton said.

He added the optician delivering the eyewear is then responsible for ensuring the patient is fitted appropriately and that their vision care needs are addressed.

“The OAC feels this is an excellent way for opticians to leverage the online eyewear market by driving traffic to their office,” he said.

Dalton believes the OAC’s partnership with VerifEyewear is a win-win for its membership, which ranges from 3,700 and 5,000 opticians at any given time.

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