Brick or Click: Just How Much Eyewear
Is Being Sold Online?

By John Sailer: Senior Editor

Read Vision Monday’s complete report on Brick & Click: Eyewear Industry Grapples With E-Tailers’ Impact

NEW YORK—While online eyewear sales are still a relatively small percentage of the total amount being sold, statistics show that this method of distribution continues to grow. According to the 2011 Vision Council Internet Influence Report, the percentage of all categories of eyewear products sold online increased from 2010 to 2011. This fact is clearly illustrated by the following charts that compare the amount of Rx eyeglasses, plano sunglasses, over-the-counter readers and contact lenses directly purchased online with the total amount of those same products purchased through all outlets.

According to the report, after declining slightly in 2010, the number of consumers utilizing the Internet when shopping for eyewear increased in 2011 and returned to the trend observed from 2007 to 2009. This increase was consistent across all optical products and demographics but was strongest among men, Americans between the ages of 35 to 54 and among Rx eyeglass buyers. This increase in usage was attributable to the heightened use of the Internet for various “window shopping functions”; particularly searching for different brands / styles of eyewear and comparing / benchmarking different prices for eyewear. In short, consumers' use of the internet in some way to prepare, research or facilitate their purchase of eyewear in any location is also on the upswing.

It is important to note that actual direct purchasing of optical products also increased during the 12-month period ending December 2011. In fact, about one-third of people using the internet to assist in their last purchase of eyewear actually made that purchase directly online. Specifically, about 2.4 percent of recent eyeglass buyers on the Vision Council survey panel used the internet to directly purchase eyeglasses (1.6 million pairs in 2011). About 3 percent of recent OTC readers buyers on the panel used the internet to directly purchase readers (1.3 million pairs in 2011), and 4.3 percent of recent plano sunglass buyers used the internet to directly purchase sunglasses (4 million pairs in 2011). In terms of contact lens buyers, about 16.4 percent purchased their lenses online directly over the internet (generating about $604 million in sales revenue in 2011). Dollar sales of eyewear purchased online are not yet tracked by the Vision Council.




Data in this article was compiled from the 2011 Vision Council Internet Influence Report. This report examines the role of the Internet on current and future eyewear buying habits and activities. For additional information, contact Ashley Danchuk at (703) 740-2251.