Optometry and the cost of living crisis

OT  takes a look at the cost of living crisis and what this means for the profession

pushing trolly
Getty/Malte Mueller

Feeling the purse pinch? If you’ve been following the news coverage this week you won’t be the only one. With headlines flooding my inbox along the lines of ‘UK inflation hits new 40-year high.’ It’s difficult not to feel a pang of panic.

Popping down to my local supermarket I’ve noticed a gradual increase in my weekly shop, but it’s not only food prices — many other areas from energy to fuel have increased too.

I admit that trying to find any news coverage that provides some hope for the future isn’t easy. It is important to reflect, though, on how much news you consume on the topic and how you apply it to your own experience and situation, while keeping your health and wellbeing in mind.

Consuming news on this topic might be important in learning about how some of your patient group’s spending habits might be impacted. Thus, how your business might be impacted as a result. You might experience challenges or financial difficulties down the road, so how can the profession get through this period?

Not intending to dismiss or ignore any of the hard-hitting statistics on the state of the economy, you can read more about these in the full OT articles by clicking on the links below. This blog is simply intended to offer some light reading and some helpful tips about how you can move forwards and get through this period.

Over the past few months OT has been keeping a close eye on the developments of the cost-of-living crisis.

In an OT article earlier this year, OT’s senior reporter, Kimberley Young, reported on the findings from the PwC’s Consumer Sentiment Survey for spring 2022 with suggestions from the company about how businesses can take action.

Offering advice for how businesses can tackle the challenging situation, PwC encouraged businesses to “not only acknowledge that people are feeling the pinch, but offer ways to help them mitigate the challenges,” This approach means practices are more likely to retain the loyalty of their consumer base.

Suggestions included providing customers the opportunity to “trade down” through special offers and alternative brands, or reorienting their target markets towards consumer groups less negatively affected by the rising costs.

The organisation encouraged businesses to take action – revisiting budget expectations for their year, managing stakeholder expectations, and taking proactive measures.

In a more recent article OT spoke to Martin Ashcroft, chief financial officer at Hakim Group, about inflation and how the resilience of optometry could support practices through this period.

He told OT: “Generally, inflation is running at quite a high level. The end result of that is the operational costs will need careful scrutiny for all practices to minimise erosion of profitability.”

Ashcroft shared that, aside from the current challenges, “the good thing about optometry is that we are in quite a predictable industry.”

“The industry enjoys strong patient loyalty, especially within independents, therefore the underlying business is still reasonably predictable compared to mainstream retail,” he said.

If you’re a locum optometrist balancing the books is something you’re most likely accustomed to, but you might find the next few months particularly challenging.

In our latest Locum optometrist guide, OT’s features editor, Selina Powell, discusses how locums are navigating the rising cost of living. A group of locums shared their top tips for helping to balance the books – from negotiating a fair rate of pay to budgeting basics.

The AOP can also help you navigate the road ahead with a range of AOP member resources available for you to access.

Did you know that as an AOP member you have access to recordings of past webinars?

One webinar you may find helpful on this subject is Optometry and the post-COVID economy. In the webinar Gavin Rebello and leading economist Roger Martin-Fagg looked at the post-COVID economy and the economic outlook for independent practice owners as well as the wider optical industry.

Coming up next month, the AOP’s wellbeing webinars continue with Stabilising your happiness – learning how to value yourself and put your needs first on 27 September. If you’re interested, you can register your interest.

If you simply need a sympathetic ear or someone to talk to about your concerns the AOP’s Peer Support Line service is a free-phone confidential helpline.

Writing a blog on the cost of living, I couldn’t end without a mention of the financial guru, Martin Lewis. His Money Saving Expert website is one I regularly visit, with money saving guides, tips, tools and techniques. So, if you haven’t visited now might be the perfect time. 

Have you seen a change in spending habits as a result of cost of living pressures?

If yes, please select the option that reflects the biggest change you’ve noticed.

  • Yes - conversion rates have dropped

    55 63%
  • Yes - spectacles at a lower price point have seen an increase in sales

    5 5%
  • Yes - sales of spectacles at a mid-price point have dropped

    2 2%
  • Yes - we have had a rise in cancellation of subscription services eg contact lenses

    2 2%
  • Yes - we have seen a drop in the number of customers who purchase multiple pairs of spectacles

    9 10%
  • No

    13 14%
  • Other - please feel free to comment below

    1 1%