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A Visionary in the Eyewear Industry

An interview with Mark Agnew

The year is 1999 and the internet has been exploding. Still, shopping online is relatively new. Yes, QVC is already more than a decade old, but it’s one thing to buy clothes and household materials by only seeing them on TV. But eyeglasses?

Mark Agnew admits he got deeply involved in understanding the vision industry from a mugging in his 20s. “I lost the vision in my right eye [so] I feel like I’ve been in the vision business for quite a while.”

Still, it wasn’t eyewear originally that was his….well, focus. He was one of the Wall St. gurus, at Lehman’s. But his writing and research helped him see certain biz openings. Bottom line: he started providing the option for folks to buy their eyewear online—

The aliens have landed

“The main challenge you have with ALL people—young or old—is that people have been trained to buy glasses one way. Which is, you go the eye doctor, he does the exam, and then he walks you out to the dispensary and sells you $500 glasses. That’s how people are trained—and that training is very difficult to get beyond,” says Agnew.

“People say, ‘What? You can buy glasses online?!’ There’s a lot of head scratching,” says Agnew. He adds, laughing, “It’s not because they can’t do it…it’s just like it’s an alien concept. It’s like, ‘What?! Aliens have landed in my town? What does that mean? What do I do?!’”

It’s not just for youngsters

When I started reporting on seniors and the ‘net early in the 21st century, maybe a fraction of one percent of them used it. Not anymore.

“It is a misconception that older people have difficulty using the Internet,” says Agnew. “I would never in my experience say, ‘Older p