This entry includes establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses for individuals. Establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of binoculars, telescopes, and opera glasses are classified in SIC 5999: Miscellaneous Retail Stores, Not Elsewhere Classified.
Ophthalmic Goods Manufacturing
Optical Goods Stores
In this industry, one-third of the companies were large national chains, such as Luxottica's Lens Crafters and Cole. The other two-thirds of the total were independent opticians, vendors of eye wear prescribed by ophthalmologists or optometrists; optometrists, graduates of optometry school who are trained to detect eye diseases, but not to treat them; and ophthalmologists, medical doctors who can treat eye diseases, prescribe medication, and perform surgery.
The eyeglasses and contact lens retailing industry has been increasingly crowded, as opticians, optometrists, and ophthalmologists compete for the same market. Ophthalmologists and optometrists examine eyes and write eyewear prescriptions. Traditionally, both ophthalmologists and optometrists have offered to fill the eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions they write. But independent opticians can also fill these prescriptions. In the late 1960s, optical stores and some small regional chains began offering eye exams along with glasses and contacts. Retail giants began to spring up, and an industry that was once considered strictly a "healthcare" field became a competitive retail market.
Two 1978 legal decisions further opened the door for retail competitors. In one decision the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruled that optometrists and ophthalmologists must give patients their prescriptions, making it possible to shop around for glasses rather than rely exclusively on the doctor who wrote the prescription. In the second decision the FTC unanimously approved a rule pre-empting state law and prohibiting states and professional organizations from banning advertisements for eyeglasses, contact lenses, and eye examinations. Four years later the FTC issued an order prohibiting the American Medical Association from placing a ban on advertising by its member physicians. In American Medical Association v FTC, the Association appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which approved enforcement of the Commission's order in 1982.