Value-Conscious Consumer Propels Spending at Mass Merchant, Club Optical Locations

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NEW YORK—While the general merchandise consumer retail market, across many categories, felt a sting in terms of customer traffic and spending in 2016, optical category dollars spent at vision departments within mass merchants and wholesale clubs held their own.

Overall optical retail sales among seven businesses ranked by VM generated an estimated $3,371.5 million in 2016, from an estimated 5,141 locations.

That represents approximately 9.7 percent of the total U.S. optical retail market sales of $34.9 billion for 2016, a slightly more than 4.0 percent increase compared to the prior year. That increase was less, however, than the more robust (15 percent) growth seen in 2015 compared to 2014, per VM’s prior reports.

The number of vision departments within Wal-Mart Stores’ own Walmart locations (as well as those run by agreement with National Vision, Inc) remained relatively stable in terms of locations. Combining those with Wal-Mart Stores’ Sam’s Clubs with optical departments, would put Walmart’s overall total vision care revenues at an estimated $1,925 million in 2016.

Costco Wholesale opened up 16 new optical departments in 2016, keeping them at a solid number two among mass merchants, with estimated sales of $961 million.

Also noteworthy was the expansion within Target Stores, overseen by Luxottica Retail. Sales of optical at Target hit an estimated $285 million in 2016, with 86 new locations.

Shopko’s optical departments also grew in line with mass merchants’ overall growth rate for the year, a 4 percent gain over 2015 to reach an estimated $98 million.

maxelrad@jobson.com