These days, more than ever, wearing glasses is as much about looking and feeling good as it is about caring for your eyes.
And the fashion element is something that Alexander Bain & Murray (ABM) Opticians and Hearing have wholeheartedly embraced while at the same time ensuring eye health is paramount.
The company, which has been established for more than 50 years and has practices in Dungannon, Portadown and Lurgan, is now providing its services in Armagh, having taken over the respected family firm of Gamble & Creswell Opticians.
The Russell Street shop, which is the oldest optician’s in Armagh, has been refurbished and given a fresh make-over to reflect the new ownership.
However, the dedicated and long-serving staff have not changed so patients can be assured of a familiar face, while optician Conor McErlean has joined the team with the retirement of David Creswell.
Explaining the reason he approached ABM about the sale of the business, Mr Creswell said: “Many of my patients I had treated as children and they have since grown up and brought their own children to me, so it was important to ensure I found a custodian for Gamble and Creswell Opticians to maintain the future of great customer care.”
Director of ABM Fergus Bain said ensuring a smooth and positive patient journey is at the heart of everything the practice does, from the very first phone call to collection of the glasses.
“Our staff have all been trained to help people select their glasses and to make sure the colours and fit is perfect for them, and of course our opticians are on hand to make sure everything is right medically,” he said.
The latest technology has been introduced at the practice with optical coherence tomography (OCT) examinations now available.
This is a non-invasive diagnostic test used to monitor the back of the eye which detects problems such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or diabetic retinopathy (eye disease) prior to the appearance of any symptoms and helps prevent further eyesight loss.
As for the fashion end of the business, ABM are the only Cartier stockists in Northern Ireland and one of just two stockists in Ireland, as well as selling brands such as the luxury Cutler and Gross line.
Said Fergus: “We love the technology, we love the OCT but at the end of the day if people want a pair of Tom Ford or Gucci glasses, we also like to be in a position to supply them with that.”
ABM, whose second co-director is Milo Murray, employ a total of 52 staff and have grown from a practice with two opticians to four practices with 10 opticians.
“That growth has only been possible because people keep coming back and referring friends,” added Fergus.
The practice also has a qualified audiologist working in the Armagh shop, and hearing tests are provided free of charge.
It also provides a popular wax removal service, with children and young people making up a large number of the patients which, Fergus explains, is often caused by wearing earphones which compact the wax.
Alexander Bain & Murray can also arrange for a visit from VisionCall Opticians which are based at their Lurgan branch and provide a specialist mobile eye examination service to meet the needs of house-bound patients and nursing home residents.
The company is also about to launch an awareness campaign on myopia (short-sightedness) management, and is currently in the process of training its staff.
Said Fergus: “With lockdown, myopia levels have risen. In the UK and Ireland, the figure is tipping up to 19 per cent.
“When you start to become short-sighted, the trend is to get more short-sighted. Until recently, there has been very little you can do about it, but now there are contact lenses that can slow that down by 59 per cent.
“If it’s not managed, myopia can lead to glaucoma and retinal detachment, so the earlier contact lenses are fitted the better.”
Anyone who wants to find out more about the services or eyewear on offer is welcome to call into the shop or telephone 028 3752 2683.