UWE graduate shatters glasses industry

Issue date: 19 January 2005


A graduate from the University of the West of England has had a shattering impact on the glasses manufacturing industry by offering standard reading glasses for as little as £15 undercutting all the market leaders.

Selling reading spectacles was not the career that UWE English graduate and entrepreneur James Murray Wells had envisaged but events took a surprising turn when he discovered the astronomical cost of a pair of glasses. “I needed a pair of reading glasses while I was studying for my finals and I was astounded when I was presented with a bill for £150,” said James.

James was certain that the cost to manufacture glasses could not possibly be as expensive as the £150 price tag suggested so he began to do some research. “Even though I was supposed to be revising, I became obsessed with the idea that I might be able to undercut the market leaders. It transpired that high street opticians are making as much as a 2000% profit margin. It was very difficult to get hold of the information about costs from the glazing laboratories as most were not prepared to discuss this with me but by digging I eventually found out that the actual cost of making a pair of glasses is between £3 and £7.”

Spurred on by this James further discovered that once a customer’s eyes had been tested and an accurate prescription obtained there was no further need to visit a high street optician.

And so Glasses Direct was born on 1 July 2004 from a room in his parents home. He employed two leaflet distributors to hand out flyers in central Bristol and began by taking one or two orders each day. James undercut all the high street glasses sellers with some pairs selling for as little as £15. Word spread and within two months the company had received 9,000 calls. Six months on the company has found premises in Malmesbury in Wiltshire and employs eleven people. The website has received half a million hits and the call centre has had 30,000 calls.

James said, “If someone had told me one year ago that I would be running a company selling reading glasses I would not have believed them. I have no formal business training – I just saw a gap in the market and an opportunity to provide an essential service at a good price. I had been planning to take a post graduate diploma in Law but the surprise success of this business has meant that plans have altered drastically.”

Glasses Direct continues to expand each day and James next plans to introduce a range of contact lenses and designer frames.

View http://www.glassesdirect.co.uk and see the savings that can be made.

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