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2 in 3 Eye Biz Owners Report Drop in Traffic Since Coronavirus Outbreak Began

But about the same proportion have decided not to change their opening hours for the time being.

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So far, at least, the negative impact of the coronavirus on America’s independent eyecare business owners has been overwhelmingly on the demand, rather than the supply side. When asked what aspect of the outbreak had had the biggest impact on their business, a tiny handful of respondents to INVISION’s Coronavirus Impact Survey mentioned logistical and inventory planning issues (a little over 3 percent and 1 percent, respectively), but 66 percent said they’d experienced a drop in customer traffic.

Appointment cancellation rates vary. Joyce Paton at Village Eye Care in Raleigh, NC, told us that the practice had seen “a few cancellations,” while Marc Ullman at Academy Vision in Pine Beach, NJ, reported that 80 percent of appointments had been canceled. (This may well reflect infection rates — according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, New Jersey had reported nearly four-and-a-half times as many cases as North Carolina as of March 18, despite having a smaller population.) But the overall trend is clear: People are worried enough that a significant number are delaying trips to opticals and eye doctors’ offices.

So far, the response from the bulk of ECP business owners has been to soldier on. Nearly 64 percent of respondents said they were sticking to their usual business hours. Roughly a quarter had opted to reduce their hours, while about 8 percent have suspended all operations. In a related finding, some 52 percent of optometrists said they felt an obligation to provide care to the community during this health crisis (compared to just 4.5 percent who said they did not — the remainder declined to venture an answer at this point).

A large number of ODs added the caveat that they felt an obligation to provide emergency treatment, but not regular services. Says Mitchell Kaufman of Marine Park Family Vision, Brooklyn, NY: “As a member of the healthcare community, I feel it is my obligation to remain open during this emergency for as long as possible. I hope my colleagues feel the same and will remain in touch with their communities.

That’s not to say that the decision to stay open at times like this can’t have a strategic component. Says Marc Ullman of Academy Vision in Pine Beach, NJ: “I am letting people know that I can see emergencies. It may help my long-term business as malls and the Walmart doctors are not seeing patients currently.”

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Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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