What’s The Future of The Eyecare Industry?

Over the past couple of years, it seems like there are dozens of businesses trying to disrupt the eyecare industry with cheap frames available online. While there are a lot of changes challenging the way ODs successfully turn an optometric practice into a business, you have to look on the bright side.

The future of the eyecare industry is bright (wear sunglasses, please).

Here’s the thing. If there wasn’t money to be made in the eyecare industry, disruptors and million-dollar investors wouldn’t spend their time or energy in it. As Dr. Maria Sampalis said in our latest ebook, 12 Insider Secrets from America’s Top ODs:

“The future of this industry is bright, regardless of any doom you may year.” 

The Future of the Eyecare Industry

So, just how bright is the eyecare industry? The incredible team at The Optical Vision Site found a recent study and broke it down for us in their post.

The Numbers Supporting The Eyecare Industry’s Future

VisionWatch Report Indicates Nearly $300 Million Growth for Vision Care Industry Prescription lenses; eye exams lead industry growth.

*Alexandria, VA (June, 2017)* – The Vision Council released its quarterly VisionWatch market research report for the first quarter of 2017. Results indicate that the total vision care industry has generated $40.36 billion in revenue over the last year ending Q1 2017—representing an increase of 0.7%, or nearly $282 million, over the previous year’s totals.

The Q1 VisionWatch market research report indicates that 22 million pairs of frames were sold during the first quarter of 2017—a 0.2% decline from the same period in 2016. These Q1 sales resulted in $2.89 billion in revenue. The quarterly results also indicated:

  • 7 million pairs of lenses were sold, up 4.4% from Q1 2016; These sales generated $3.71 billion in revenue—a 2.5% decrease over Q1 2016.
  • 9 million eye exams were performed—110K more exams than the same quarter in 2016.

Looking at the eyecare industry market over the past year, from March 2016 to March 2017, the report indicates that eyeglasses accounted for the largest share of the vision correction market at 55.6%, representing $22.43 billion in revenue—a decline of 0.3% over the past year. Additionally, for that time period:

  • 45 million pairs of eyeglass frames were sold–a unit decrease of 0.1% from the previous year, resulting in a corresponding 0.1% decline in revenue
  • 53 million pairs of lenses were sold—the same number of units sold in the previous year, with a revenue loss of 0.5%
  • 4 million contact lens purchases occurred, up 2%, generating an increase of 4% in contact lens sales revenue
  • 1 million pairs of sunglasses were sold—a decrease of 0.1% from the previous year with a revenue growth of 1.8%
  • 09 million pairs of OTC readers were sold—up by 2.5%, with a 2.7% increase in revenue
  • 905,000 refractive surgeries were performed—a decrease of 1.9%, resulting in a 1.5% decrease in revenue

“We’ve seen a slow-down in growth in the industry as we look at the last year, from April 2016 through March 2017. Total dollar revenue for the industry grew by 0.7%—a continuation in the slowdown of industry growth that first started in late 2015,” said Steve Kodey, The Vision Council’s Senior Director of Industry Research. “Similar to the growth observed from 2012-2015, growth in the industry for 2016 and 2017 has been stronger among independent ECPs and online retailers than the growth experienced by
conventional chain retailers or mass merchants.”

Contact lenses have proven to be the strongest optical market over the year, up 4% to $4.89 billion in revenue, followed closely by exams, which are up 1.7% to $6.05 billion. Plano sunglass sales have also seen growth, equally over the past two years, due to a balanced mix of increasing unit sales and rising prices. All other markets are currently flat or contracting slightly over the past couple years.

The independent side of the optical industry is by far the largest component of the U.S. vision care industry—generating $18.43 billion in revenue over the past year. When compared to dollar revenues from a year ago, the independent side of the industry was up by 1.1%. While eyeglass sales—both lenses and frames—make up the bulk of revenue for independent optical outlets, examinations are a close third with over $4.29 billion in

In one of the most striking figures coming from this quarter’s VisionWatch report:

  • 4% of the U.S. adult population received an eye exam in the last year—a total of over 115 million exams generating $6.05 billion in dollar revenue. Older Americans were more likely than younger Americans to have received an eye exam during this time frame, and Americans with managed vision care coverage were more than twice as likely to have had an exam as Americans without coverage.
  • 5% of those adults getting their eyes examined made an eyewear purchase as a result of that exam. That amounts to approximately 66.1 million transactions.

“Maintaining growth in exams has been a major factor driving growth in the industry, but an even bigger factor has been the willingness of consumers to go out and make a purchase after getting an exam. That 57.5% ‘purchase after exam’ ratio is down slightly from 2015 and 2016, but it is still as high as it was before the recession in 2008,” Kodey said. “Over the past year, certain groups of consumers (those from relatively lower-income households, people who have been using vision correction for less than five years and people without any form of managed vision care coverage) have all been slowing their purchases of optical products in response to uncertainty in the market. Conversely, the market has remained in positive growth territory thanks to stable and slightly rising purchases of optical products among people between the ages of 35 to 54 years old, people from relatively higher-income households and people with managed vision care coverage.”

The report indicates:

  • 5 million pairs of lenses were sold in the U.S. during the past year—29k more pairs than the same period a year ago. Similar numbers are found for frames, with 74.4 million pairs of frames sold in the U.S. during that period, generating close to $9.71 billion in sales revenue.
  • Sales of OTC Readers grew 2.5%, generating $876 million dollars with 52.09 million unit pairs sold.

As the market measurement for the optical products and services markets, The Vision Council  VisionWatch Member Analysis Report provides a quarterly insight into the market through current and historical trends, retailer shares, and information on customer traits and demographic breakdowns. VisionWatch is an ongoing study of a statistically balanced sample of 110,000+ US adult residents designed to be representative of the U.S. population 18 years of age and older.*

*Championing better vision for better lives, The Vision Council positions its members for success by promoting growth in the vision care industry through education, advocacy, research, consumer outreach, strategic relationship building and industry forums. By sharing the latest in eyewear trends, advances in technology and advice from eyewear experts, The Vision Council serves as a resource to the public looking to learn more about options in eyeglasses and sunglasses. For more information, visit www.thevisioncouncil.org

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