Top 50 Retailers’ Sales Reach $7 Billion Mark

VM’s exclusive look at how the nation’s largest optical chains performed in 2007


By Cathy Ciccolella

Senior Editor

NEW YORK—In 2007, for the first time, the aggregate optical sales of the nation’s 50 largest eyewear/eyecare retailers topped the $7 billion mark, reaching total revenues of $7,042.2 million, according to VM’s exclusive Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers listing.

That aggregate sales gain helped these key retail players’ combined share of the overall U.S. vision-care market increase by more than a full percentage point in 2007: last year, the VM Top 50 accounted for 27.3 percent of the $25,759 million total U.S. market for vision-care products and services sold at optical retail locations, as estimated by VisionWatch.

By comparison, in 2006 the Top 50 Optical Retailers’ sales represented 26.2 percent of that year’s $25,928 million U.S. vision care market.

The combined sales of this year’s VM Top 50 are nearly $260 million higher than the aggregate volume of the leading 50 chains in the VM Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers listing published in May 2007, which showed an estimated $6,782.4 million in combined revenues for the industry’s 50 largest players for calendar 2006. (The VM Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers list published in this issue that reports 2006 sales and store counts is not directly comparable to the Top 50 list published last year, since the 50 retailers included among the Top 50 vary from year to year due to industry consolidation and other factors.)

This latest VM Top 50 list also reflects a higher aggregate store count for these key eyewear/eyecare industry players, who operated an estimated 9,304 units as of Dec. 31, 2007. That’s up from the estimated 9,069 units published on last year’s VM Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers list for calendar 2006.

Along with the Top 50 retailers’ slightly larger share in calendar 2007 of the total U.S. market for vision-care products and services sold at optical retail locations than in the prior year, the 10 largest optical retailers on VM’s latest list have continued to gain market share both among the Top 50 and in the total market. On this year’s VM Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers list, the Top 10 retailers have an estimated combined volume of $6,046.3 million, representing 85.9 percent of the Top 50 retailers’ overall sales. That Top 10 share for 2007 is up from the Top 10 optical retailers’ 84.2 percent share of the VM Top 50’s combined volume in calendar 2006.

Looking at the overall U.S. optical marketplace, in 2007 those Top 10 optical retailers generated 23.5 percent of the $25.8 billion U.S. market for vision-care products and services sold at optical retail locations, a jump of 1.5 percentage points over the Top 10’s market share the previous year. In calendar 2006, the VM Top 10 accounted for 22 percent of that year’s estimated $25.9 billion total U.S. vision care business at optical retail locations.

Luxottica Retail again tops the 2008 VM Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers list, for the ninth consecutive year. Luxottica Retail’s 2007 U.S. optical revenues are estimated at $2,680 million, including sales by its 2,515 company-owned U.S. optical stores as well as from the 392 franchised Pearle locations and the 11 franchised D.O.C Optics stores it acquired as part of its February 207 purchase of the D.O.C chain.

Wal-Mart Stores again holds second place on the VM Top 50 list, and this year for the first time has the highest total number of U.S. optical locations. The retailing giant increased its eyewear/eyecare sales to an estimated $1,335 million in 2007 through its 2,942 company-owned Wal-Mart Vision Centers and Sam’s Club Optical locations. Including sales by the 229 Wal-Mart Vision Centers operated as leased optical departments by National Vision at year-end, VM estimates the aggregate Wal-Mart/Sam’s optical volume for 2007 at $1,476 million.

Luxottica’s acquisition of perennial VM Top 10 player D.O.C Optics made room for a new entry into the Top 10 this year, For Eyes Optical. The Florida-based chain appears in ninth position among the VM Top 10, with estimated revenues of $94 million generated by about 140 retail locations; For Eyes held the number 11 position on the Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers listing published in May 2007.

However, SEE/Selective Eyewear Elements—the all-private-label chain launched 10 years ago by the Golden family, former owners of D.O.C—appears on the VM Top 50 list this year for the first time as a separate entity (at number 33), having generated an estimated $16 million in sales through 20 retail locations during 2007.