daysoft®'s Affordable Contact Lenses: Healthy On The Eye, Easy To Buy
In 1961, the first soft contact lenses were invented by a Czech scientist, Otto Wichterle. It was a breakthrough from previously hard, uncomfortable lenses. Their commercial potential was, however, unfortunately constrained by low water content (poor oxygen permeability), low yields (high costs) and ragged edges (poor comfort).
And although improvements were made, these problems resulted in vision-threatening risks which, in turn, resulted in expensive after-care support from opticians. Indeed, the Which? Report of September 1991 showed that prices were extremely high at $85 (UK £54) per lens. Additional cleaning solutions and protein removal tablets added a further $190+ (US £120+) per year.
A Back-Garden-Business Was Birthed!
For 30 years, regulations (primarily dictated by the US Food and Drug Administration), restricted any experimentation to create safer, more convenient and more comfortable contact lenses.
However, driven by the belief that a daily contact lens is the more hygienic way to wear lenses, we installed a molding machine in our back garden! There began the design of a new production process for daily contact lenses. Our tiny business, AWARD, discovered how to produce very low-cost and very high-quality soft lenses. The world’s first daily-wear/daily-disposable (dw/dd) soft contact lenses. Healthier and easier on the eye.
The World’s First Full-Scale Daily Disposable Contact Lens Factory
In 1992, following presentations to the University of Manchester (UMIST) and BOOTS Opticians, AWARD secured healthcare and commercial endorsement letters. We were now able to obtain capital to launch this revolutionary contact lens modality. And in under a year, scale-up of production was completed in the world’s first full-scale factory dedicated to daily disposables.
Multimillion Dollar Sale to Bausch & Lomb
Considering my invention work was done, I, Ron, bowed out of the AWARD business in 1996. I had successfully managed to:
- lead the sale to Bausch & Lomb (B&L), the world’s biggest eye care company, for $33 million with another $15 million for patent purchase and
- lay the foundations for a multi-million lens manufacturing expansion with a local B&L workforce of over 1,000.
The regulatory approval environment in the UK and Europe facilitated the development, marketing and sales growth for our low-risk daily disposables. AWARD lenses could be profitably retailed at just $0.80 (UK £0.50) per lens in stark contrast to the prevailing $85 (UK £54) price per lens. Three other major manufacturers soon also entered the daily wear/daily disposable contact lens market, thus spurring competition.
No Time To Retire - The Birth of daysoft®!
Convinced that emerging internet technology could now revolutionise how contact lenses were sold, my wife, Moya, and I began researching ‘the net’ by visiting the US. And in 2001, a new internet-based company was launched (coinciding with the end of my 5-year non-compete agreement with B&L). daysoft® was born as a B2B (business-to-business) venture, supplying directly to opticians.
Unfortunately, we soon discovered that there was no incentive for opticians to alter their retail sale and supply model even for lower-cost daysoft® lenses. It was simpler for opticians to just take much-improved profit margins - daysoft® was seen as just another lens producer. Retail prices for daily disposable lenses remained unnecessarily high to match or exceed the retail prices of traditional reusable and extended wear lenses. And this was despite these lenses having higher vision-loss risks.
Would daysoft® Die? Or Was There Another Way?
In 2005, changes to the UK Opticians Act were announced, removing the retail monopoly historically enjoyed by opticians. This meant that online businesses could sell direct-to-consumer. After months of trying unsuccessfully to create an internet-based Optician-daysoft® partnership plan, we decided to go for direct sale and supply to consumers unilaterally. We couldn’t bear to see daysoft® suffocate and die.
Putting Our Case Forward - Would We Win?
We invited the editor of the Optician Journal to visit us to explain first-hand why daysoft® was ‘going direct’ with a ‘brand substitution’ model. Our initiative was featured in the Optician editorial of 21st April 2006. This rock, thrown in the pool of retail optics, still causes ripples around global optical establishments today. We were disrupting the halcyon days when money was made from eye tests, lens sales, aftercare and even lens insurance plans!
daysoft®’s business model clearly demonstrated universal acceptance by wearers. Convenience, lower prices and reduced lens-wear risks. We had won the internet argument!
And Now? 1 Billion Lenses Sold Worldwide
daysoft® now sells tens of millions of daily-disposable contact lenses every year to hundreds of thousands of returning customers. From just £0.20 (US $0.25) per lens with free standard delivery, lens-wearers around the globe can order with ease from www.us.daysoft.com.
However, by far the most significant benefit of the daysoft® business model is its real-time database covering one billion lenses sold. That’s 1 billion lenses manufactured and supplied direct to wearers, optical chains and individual optometrists worldwide.
Optimal Hygiene, Low Costs and Reduced Plastic Use
Our unique INPAC® manufacturing process means that daysoft® contact lenses are never handled or folded in the pod. We guarantee the correct presentation of our lenses for easy, predictable handling. Costs are kept low, damage is eliminated and our plastic packaging usage is 50% lower than conventional packaging used by other manufacturers. Even the amount of plastic used in our manufacturing process has been reduced by 35%.
And, as the first and only ‘design, make and supply’ contact lens company in the world, we make contact lens correction the safest and most affordable for all.
An Eye On The Future Of Contact Lenses
The daysoft® team, led by CEO Alan Ralph, has recently completed the re-engineering of daysoft’s manufacturing and commercial processes. We want to ensure daysoft® contact lenses continue to remain healthiest for the eye, easiest to buy and kindest to the planet.
We hope you enjoyed reading a little snapshot of our incredible journey… so far.
Ron and Moya Hamilton, daysoft® Founders and Alan Ralph, CEO.
©2022 RS Hamilton Ref: 05/22 daysoft® is a Registered Trade Mark of Daysoft Limited.
On 12th July 2012 Ron Hamilton was awarded a CBE by the Queen ‘in recognition of services to the contact lens industry’. You can read more about Ron at www.RonHamilton.co.uk