Starting your own Optical Store in Canada: Picking the Lab

 In New Business

Choosing a reliable lab to partner with, would probably be your most important decision as the optical store owner. An Optical Lab is the most important partner an optical store works with. A good lab can help you provide high-quality products in time to your customers and increase your store’s reputation, while a bad lab can do the opposite.

The pros and Cons of working with a local lab have been debated for a long time. Some think that a local lab can provide a faster turnaround time. This would only be true if you set up your own drop-off and pick-up from the lab. Although this may sound promising, in reality, it has limited benefits for you and you will be wasting your precious time travelling to and from the lab. The time that you could use focusing on your core business. My suggestion is to find the best lab which fits your needs and purpose. Most professional labs in Canada use ICS Courier Service to ship to you via their Next Day service. As well as many labs provide free return way-bills so you can ship the frames to the lab the same way (and yes, Lens Shapers offers this!).

Another decision that you will come across is, whether to have an edging & finishing lab in your store and only get Uncut lenses from the lab. This is another illusion of time and cost saving. While it may seem that you can provide faster service to your customers this way, you will either be wasting your time cutting lenses or paying a lab technician to do so. Your time as a store owner is valuable and you should spend it on the most valuable activities in your business. Hiring a lab technician is rarely cost-efficient compared to getting full service from the lab. It generally only makes sense if you own multiple stores and consolidate their work in your own finishing lab. Also, keep in mind that the lab has a much larger stock of lenses and in case of breakage can remake the job much faster than you.

When picking a lab, you will come across three types:

One-man (or couple) operations, offering rock-bottom prices. These are usually edging labs, sourcing their lenses from off-shore and cutting them for you. These operations may provide you with the best possible prices but product quality is usually not reliable. As their source changes to reflect the best possible price available to them, the product will constantly change and consistency will be hard to maintain.

Independent mid-size labs are next. These are usually family-owned operations, which have grown over the years and developed their expertise in the industry. Among them, new players will compete on price but their expertise may be questionable. Larger independent labs on the other hand have grown enormously and are primarily run by managers. They operate as large corporate labs in many ways. More on that below.

Big-name large corporate labs will also offer their direct services to you. Store owners usually complain that their orders get lost in thousands of orders, these labs are processing on a daily basis and you are just another customer number to them. It would be next to impossible to get a job rushed through the system or get a job status more than what the customer service rep can read off a screen.

Once you have settled for the kind of lab you want to work with, work to find their reputation in the market. Google rating is a good start; read their reviews and see what their customers say about them. A good lab never leaves a customer unhappy. When interviewing the lab, ask them for references of their existing customers in your area. While you may think their references may be biased, it is usually quite useful to meet their existing customers and ask for their frank feedback. Ask them about the lab’s customer service team and technicians’ expertise.

Lens Shapers is an independent optical lab in Mississauga, Ontario. We have been in business for 14 years and maintain a close relationship with our customers. We offer our services Canada-wide and our customers around the country have some great things to say about us on Google Reviews.



This post is part of our Starting Your Own Optical Store in Canada: A Comprehensive Guide to Success series.

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