Vision Markets See Continued Growth in 2017, VisionWatch Says

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Total revenue generated by the vision care industry during the 2017 calendar year grew to $40.38 billion—an increase of 0.1 percent compared to 2016 industry revenues, according to VisionWatch, the large scale continuous research study conducted by The Vision Council.

The number of adults using vision correction also continued to grow in 2017, rising to 192.4 million, an increase of more than 2.5 million adult users over 2016. Due to the continued increase in the American adult population, as well as a movement back to vision correction usage among key demographics, there has been absolute increases in usage rates for most types of eyewear in the U.S., the survey said.

Eyeglasses accounted for the largest share of the vision correction market (55.4 percent) representing $22.39 billion, growing by 0.6 percent over the past 2 years. During the 12 month-ending period of December 2017, Rx eyeglass usage increased significantly, up 2.2 percent or 3.5 million adult users, thanks in part to the decrease in people needing vision correction and not doing anything about it (down by 3.1 percent to 12.6 million).

The recent increase in eyeglass usage can be traced to this decline in the “squinter” population, as well as an increase in people with managed vision care benefits, improvements in the U.S. economy and the decline in Lasik/refractive surgery procedures recently.

During the 24 month-ending period of December 2017, the strongest optical markets were OTC readers, up 3.4 percent to $895 million, and contact lenses, up 7.5 percent to $5.01 billion. Contact lens sales increased most among all major markets mostly due to an increase in contact lens usage among the U.S. adult population, which saw an increase of 1.1 million new additional users.

All other markets are currently growing at a moderate rate over the past few years, except for Lasik surgery which was down 9.2 percent over the 24 month-ending period December 2017.

The independent side of the optical industry is by far the largest component of the U.S. vision care industry—generating $18.44 billion in revenues during the 12 month-ending period December 2017. When compared to dollar revenues from two years ago, the independent side of the industry was up by 2.4 percent in total; with growth over the past year tapering off slightly from the previous year.

During the past year the independents have seen just a slight increase in aggregate revenue (about $171 million to be exact—0.9 percent growth in sales) with ophthalmic frame, contact lenses and OTC reading glasses revenue increasing the most over the past year.

During the 12 month-ending period of December 2017, sales of optical products (eyeglasses, readers, sunglasses and contact lenses) generated $32.49 billion in sales at the retail level through all outlets and channels. Some $1.97 billion of those sales originated from the internet through direct online purchase activity.

VisionWatch estimates that 2017 was the sixth calendar year for which more than $1 billion worth of optical products were bought over the internet. The dollar totals from online optical sales for the 12 month-ending period of December 2017 were up 5.1 percent over last year’s online sales revenues and up by 100 percent over 2011’s online sales revenues.

While prices for online products have increased slightly over the past two years (1 percent to 2 percent) most of the increase in revenue was driven by an increase in volume unit sales and an increase in the number of online purchase transactions.

The survey said 39.8 percent of the revenue from online optical sales comes from the sales of contact lenses. Contact lenses is the most established online optical market in the U.S. It should be noted, though the number of online contact lens sales transactions and the amount of online contact lens dollar revenue increases by 8 percent to 10 percent per year, online sales of contact lenses are not growing as fast as online sales of plano sunglasses, ophthalmic frames, Rx lenses or even OTC reading glasses.

About 4.4 percent (or 3.29 million pairs) of all eyeglass lenses and frames purchased in the U.S. during the 12 month-ending period of December 2017 were purchased online over the internet.

Sales of online plano sunglasses have also grown steadily over the past few years. During the 24-month period of December 2017, online plano sunglass sales have increased by 12 percent in units and by 12.5 percent in dollar value—faster and stronger than total plano sunglass sales in the U.S.

Currently, about 7.2 million pairs of plano sunglasses were sold directly online over the internet during the 12 month-ending period of December 2017—about 6.9 percent of all plano sunglass sales during the period. As for the smallest online optical market, OTC readers, 4.5 million pairs of readers worth almost 70.5 million were sold online during the 12 month-ending period December 2017.


Data in this article was compiled from VisionWatch, the large scale continuous research study conducted by The Vision Council. VisionWatch contains useful industry data on lenses, frames, sunglasses, reading glasses, contact lenses, eye exams and refractive surgery. For additional information, please contact Steve Kodey at (703) 740-1095.