From £50 to 15 pence a lens

How I changed the contact lens market … twice.  It’s hard to believe that, some 20 years ago, a soft contact lens cost £50 (Which? report September 1991) and had to be cleaned each day.  Many people took out special insurance to cover the cost of the loss or breakage of a lens and the plumber was often called if one was lost down the sink!   Football and rugby matches were sometimes disrupted while a player searched for a dislodged lens.  All that changed with my launch of the world’s first daily-disposable in 1993.  This cut the retail cost from £50 to 50 pence a lens.   Then in 2006 we cut this to 15 pence delivered to your home or office following my launch of the world’s first internet based direct-to-wearer-from-laboratory supply (April 2006) using   Over 400 million daysoft lenses have been sold via the internet and we ship 2,000 Orders each day to contact lens wearers around the world, all designed and produced in our modern laboratory in Scotland.  Yes, all made in Great Britain.  We also supply European Optical Multiples and some UK independent Opticians, so we have great cross-referencing of product acceptance between ‘traditional’ sales to our internet sales.

The story.   On 5th August 1992 I was invited to the London offices of the BBC. The full BBC interview is on this link They wanted to interview me on why I was claiming that I could cut the cost of a soft contact lens by 99%. At that time two soft contact lenses cost £50 each and required daily cleaning … an expensive, time-consuming and largely ineffective process suffered by all soft contact lens wearers. I was claiming that two lenses of at least similar quality could retail for 50 pence each and would require no cleaning solutions because, at that price, it was more hygienic and as cost effective to ‘wear for a day’ then throw them away. We had, I stated, invented daily-disposable contact lenses and we wanted to scale up to produce 10s of millions of these new lenses a year. I was very apprehensive about making this global proclamation on the BBC because, at that time, the process I and my business partner, Bill Seden, had developed and patented was still just a small-scale process operating in my back garden in Hampshire, England where the pictures(right) were taken. We had installed a moulding machine in my back-garden ‘annex’ and the picture was on my 50th birthday with Bill, his wife Marilyn and my wife Moya. A Garden Laboratory Garden Lab Moulsing mc  1700x2338.If we had got the technology wrong or my costings we inaccurate I was going to look a bit stupid. Many people in the industry were hoping we would fail; especially those making cleaning solutions! However, the interview sparked interest and before long I had secured support and interest from Professor Nathan Efron of UMIST and the BOOTS Opticians chain. With those endorsements we were able to raise some modest venture capital funding and with Regional Development Funding Award we had just enough to start our full-scale AWARD factory situated in Scotland.Garden Lab 1993 1700x2338

AWARD PackSo, in September 1993 the world’s first daily disposable lens was ready for volume sales via BOOTS and around the world. We called the company AWARD and the lens, rather pretentiously, ‘Premier’. Bill and I had left highly paid jobs and invested in a technology no other company thought possible. We had relocated family some 400 miles north and worked 24 hours a day for years. When, in early 1996 Bausch and Lomb, the world’s biggest eye care company, having failed to develop a suitable process technology themselves, asked for distribution rights we said “why not buy the company instead”. . . and they did, in February 1996. B&L went on to build a workforce of over 1,200 in Scotland but then rather unceremoniously move it all to Ireland. Billions of daily-disposable contact lenses using the process technology developed in my back garden have been sold. Bill and I went our separate ways being financially independent and promising not to compete with B&L for 5 years! But then I heard about something called the Internet.

The world’s first (and only) Internet based contact lens manufacturer

In 1998 Moya and I visited the US to learn more about this ‘new-thing’ called the internet!. Here was a new technology which I reckoned could cut the cost of lens supply, just as we had cut the cost of manufacture. Scan-002.BMPSo we took a 15 year lease on a new, empty, building (picture right) and set about building a new technical team, developing a new process technology and designing a new lens.  It was 5 year to the day, on the expiry of my non-compete,  daysoft was launched. Our first lens cost us £2 million!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOur goal was to supply daily-disposables at half the cost of any other, that is, to cut the cost for a lens from 50 pence to under 20 pence delivered anywhere in the word.Today our laboratory employs over 200 and sells millions of lenses every month and 2,000 Orders each day. If you are one of our many customers I would like to thank you for your support and for helping us make another dream come true.

16 thoughts on “From £50 to 15 pence a lens

  1. Katy Williams

    I’ve placed my first order and I’m so excited to try Daysoft! I’m from the US, I’m an animal advocate, and I came across your company while searching for cruelty-free contact lenses. I was expecting them to be more expensive, but I was pleasantly surprised! I love this story also!

    1. Dear Kate, Many thanks for writing. I do hope you like our lenses. It’s always good to get feedback and to hear that someone liked our ‘story’ about the development of the company. All our lenses are made in Scotland and we now export to over 90 countries. Have a good day … getting dark here now and a bit ‘nippy’ (cold). Kind regards Ron

  2. I have just placed my very first order with you at the grand old age of 68. I can’t wait to receive my lenses to try. I currently get them from my optician at double the cost. Thanks Sue.

  3. John

    I would like to make a personal thanks to you, Ron. I’m currently a first year undergraduate studying Biomedical Engineering and your philosophy to innovation is a real inspiration.

    As a student, money is tight and whilst I am financially responsible and independent, I simply could not afford to wear contact lenses if it wasn’t for your commitment to making biotechnology affordable for everyone. Wearing lenses makes life easier in every way, whether it’s a confidence boost whilst socialising or not having to struggle whilst wearing safety specs in the lab.

    I hope daysoft continues to grow and stick to the foundations it was built upon, I’ll continue to be a loyal customer regardless.

    1. Dear John, Many thanks for your feedback which is much appreciated. It is especially heartening to both make and supply lenses made in the UK where manufacturing needs to re-gain prominence in our economy.
      Kind regards Ron

  4. Becka Cunningham

    THANK YOU so much for creating daysoft lenses! I love them and will never buy from elsewhere. The website is user friendly and the order process is straight forward. Best of all the lenses are excellent quality and so affordable! Whenever I’ve had contact with the daysoft team they have been very helpful. I am one loyal customer for life! 🙂

  5. Ds

    Fantastic product and excellent service. Really happy with my experience of your company so far. Thanks for providing such a great service which has saved me a lot of money on otherwise costly lenses.

  6. venu

    I am really glad that you took the initiative to go online, as otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to afford daily disposable soft lenses in India (market cost ~ 15x of daysoft!!). I wear soft lenses to cushion the abrasive effect of RGP lenses to correct astigmatism and I was in shock to find that a months supply costs about 15000 INR, and was thinking of just cutting down on wearing time as an alternative, when by chance I found daysoft on the net. Now at ~1000 inr per month, I have a comfortable fit and am able to enjoy my life after work without losing visual acuity.
    Thanks to your innovative spirit.

    1. Dear Venu, I was really pleased to receive your feedback. Coming from India it demonstrates just how the internet has ‘shrunk’ communication and makes E-Commerce a very cost-effective way of doing business. Kind regards Ron

  7. Anna

    If I hadn’t have found Daysoft contact lenses, being a student I would have been unable to afford to keep wearing lenses at £30 from my opticians. I’m very happy to have found both affordable and comfortable contact lenses ( more so than the expensive brands!) My family wear them too as they are so cheap. Such an inspirational story, thank you for creating Daysoft!

    1. Dear Anna, Thank you for responding in this way. It makes getting-up in the morning really-really worth-while. I enjoy my work but get a little extra ‘kick’ when I get feedback like yours. Thank you. Ron

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