First of all sorry for another pandemic related article, as if everyone is not sick and tired of the pandemic already.
However, in my defence I am going to bring something positive to you all with this article and perhaps it will give us a glimpse of what life may be like for us over in Europe and US moving forward. As some of you maybe aware, I am a columnist for an optical magazine based in New Zealand, NZOptics. Very often I will have a chat with my editor about what is going on over there. Personally, I find it fascinating that we are all in this global pandemic together and yet New Zealand seems to be doing a fantastic job and people’s lives have not been massively impacted. Therefore, has it impacted their optical industry?
I have a very good friend who lives in New Zealand too and when I see photos of him and his family living a life that I once remember, such as going to a packed restaurant, going to a bar for a friend’s birthday and going to a wedding. I am always amazed by how different our lives are over in Europe and how I find it weird they are able to do that because I haven’t been able to for so long. Staying in and going nowhere is unfortunately the norm for me now.
In terms of the optical industry, what has been going on down under? From my understanding New Zealand went into a national lockdown back in March 2020 for a month and ever since, they have different levels of covid 19 alerts. I think many countries have watched with amazement and admiration as to how well it has been managed. So, in the beginning when lockdown was enforced, the entire optical sector was at a standstill, as expected. It was a very uncertain time for everyone. Once things were settled and lockdown restrictions were lifting slowly, consumers felt more confident to go out and get their eyes tested again because getting your eyes tested, it just isn’t something that can be done over a phone consultation or virtually.
It even got to a point where life was so normal that front-end staff didn’t have to wear facemasks to greet customers. Every patient needed to answer a few simple covid related questions prior to the appointment and that was about it. Every practice learned to communicate their hygiene methods to their customers in a good and effective manor and New Zealanders were all very cooperative and good at sticking to the rules. My editor said everyone over in New Zealand took it very seriously as none of them want another lockdown because everyone did not enjoy the uncertainly covid have caused the community so everyone were willing to work together and stick to it.
Another interesting thing that came up was that New Zealanders are not allowed to leave the country (until very recently where they have open up to Australia). The borders were shut and only citizens were allowed back in. This created a situation where the economy is doing fine and if people want to go on holiday they can only travel within New Zealand. Therefore, it costs less and for the first time, consumers have more disposable income to spend on that perfect pair of glasses. They may never dream of spending that much normally but for the first time they can. This factor alone also created a boom in sales.
What does it all mean and what do I think? I think consumers have learned that some things like sight tests and buying new frames just cannot be done remotely or done over the phone. The optical industry is actually quite a robust sector because it is offering something that is a necessity. I think consumers do want that nice expensive frame but normally due to external reasons that is not possible. The pandemic may change the way we shop and how we value the things we buy. Overall, brighter days are coming and the optical industry will be just fine and it will bounce back.
Photo credit: David Travis via Unsplash.
Check out NZ Optics right here.