EYEYE is a new independent optician on Devonshire Street and they like to do things a little differently. We chatted to owner and optometrist Karl Hallam about what you can expect when you pay them a visit.
Can you tell us a little bit about why you started Eyeye and who’s on your team?
I started Eyeye because I don’t think enough eye tests that are carried out are good enough and I wanted to offer something to the people who are looking for better. I also believe that the optical industry is dominated by spurious price-led marketing and I wanted to do honest, all-inclusive pricing – Yorkshire Pricing if you will. Our team is made up of me – Karl Hallam (owner and optometrist), Alison Drake (manager and frame guru), Kate Wardle (assists Alison) and Pretti Desai (optometrist who covers for Karl).
What do you think sets Eyeye apart from other opticians?
You can walk into Eyeye and know exactly what you’ll pay within seconds and we’ll give you honest opinions about which specs suit you because we’re not trying to sell premium-priced designer label frames. There is no up-selling by any of the staff and our core range is #NoLogo.
Your independent label range has a strong ethical focus, why is this important to you and where do you source your frames from?
The ethical focus is broader than what we stock – being honest about what customers do and don’t need and not having sneaky add-ons to the price is about values. Explaining the current health of the eyes and equipping people to look after them and to keep them that way is, in our minds, essential. We are always looking for ethical product options – so we have frames made from wood, plants, recycled materials, and plastic reclaimed from the sea. We also have some frames that are designed and made in Scotland, which is incredibly rare these days. We only stock independent brands and don’t stock any from Luxottica who own almost every big frame brand (Google them to see why they are best avoided). We get our lenses cut and fitted into frames in Sheffield – it would be cheaper to get it done abroad but we don’t agree with having them flown in daily.
What is the ‘one-hour unhurried eye test’ and what is the thinking behind it?
There are people who have had 10-20 eye tests in their lifetime and don’t really know: why they need specs, how to keep their eyes healthy, the implications for relatives of their ocular issues – and that is a scandal. The main reason is that the average eye test is about 20-25 minutes long, which is not enough time to explain things, listen and understand the individual needs of the patient or enjoy looking at the pictures and videos we take. Seeing fewer people more slowly makes you less likely to get rich, but you do have time to build up great relationships with customers and that is enjoyable and fulfilling.
As well as ethical frames, you also practice ethical pricing, what can people expect from your all-inclusive pricing?
Our prices include the eye exam, frame, lenses and anti-reflection and anti-scratch finishes – these are all essential, so why not include them from the off? Lenses need to be thinner for some people and that is extra, but we have all the prices in big letters on the wall so nothing is hidden. Contact lens pricing is transparent too – only two prices.
And finally, we hear that you’re outdoorsy folks, are we right in thinking you welcome bikes and four-legged friends into Eyeye?
You’re welcome to bring your own bike (or Ofo) into the store to save the hassle of locking it up and to keep it safe. Dogs are definitely encouraged, although not in the consulting room – and dogs on bikes are even more welcome!
Interview by Felicity Jackson
Images courtesy of EYEYE