ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Purchases of eyewear rose 24.3 percent to $45.83 billion over the 12-month period that ended in December 2021 compared with the year-ago 2020 period, according to The Vision Council’s VisionWatch market research report released this week. The 12-month total of $45 billion of eyewear purchases last year represented a 5 percent increase over the 12-month 2019 period, which was unaffected by Covid-19, according to the association’s research. “The VisionWatch Q4 2021 reports indicate that, while 2021 marked a significant rebound from a challenging 2020 for the optical industry, the fourth quarter of 2021 did not perform as well as the fourth quarter of 2020 or the third quarter of 2021,” said Steve Kodey, senior director of industry research at The Vision Council.

According to the report on 2021 purchases, the U.S. optical industry generated $9.72 billion in revenue at the retail level during the Q4 2021 period—down by 0.5 percent compared to Q4 2020 revenues, but up by 2.4 percent when compared to Q4 2019 revenues before the pandemic started. “Fourth quarter optical industry performance was strong by historical comparison, but has also reached a plateau compared to an unusually strong Q4 2020 period,” Kodey said.
Kodey added, “By the time Q4 2021 started, it seems many consumers had returned to pre-COVID spending patterns. Additionally, rising inflation combined with the emergence of the Omicron Covid-19 variant in December seems to have hindered consumer spending on optical products in the fourth quarter.”
An accelerated shift to online eyewear sales prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic continues to be evident in the VisionWatch reports.
Notable findings about online sales that occurred during the 12-month period ending December 2021 include: 
  • Online sales of all eyewear increased by 14.0 percent during the period—generating $3.86 billion in revenue during that time.

  • Online sales of eyeglass frames and lenses increased by 28.1 and 20.2 percent, respectively, during the period. This totaled $834 million in revenue for frames and $1.2 billion in revenue for lenses.
  • Online eyeglasses unit pair sales, frames and lenses combined, increased by 21.1 percent during the period.
“While online sales continue to grow, they did lose some share to brick-and-mortar purchases during Q2, Q3 and Q4 2021 as many consumers started to return to in-person shopping and buying eyewear in increasing numbers compared to 2020,” Kodey said.

Source: The Vision Council VisionWatch Consumer Barometer Q4 2021

The Q4 2021 reports will serve as the final VisionWatch reports published by The Vision Council and mark the official conclusion of the VisionWatch program. As introduced to membership during The Vision Council’s 2022 annual business meeting, The Vision Council is introducing a redesigned research program in the coming months. Powered by a modern analytics platform, the new research program will include all-new reports developed from updated consumer and market data sources and methodologies, according to The Vision Council’s announcement this week. 
More information on the rollout of the new reports will be shared soon, the announcement noted.
To access the Q4 2021 report, visit The Vision Council’s download center here. The reports are available on a complimentary basis for members of The Vision Council and are available for purchase for non-members.
The Vision Council also gauges the overall level of Managed Vision Care (MVC) coverage among the U.S. adult population to better understand the evolving MVC landscape.
MVC highlights featured in the Q4 results include:

  • 126.8 million U.S. adults, or 48.5 percent of the U.S. adult population, had some type of MVC coverage by December 2021, representing an increase of 0.8 percent or approximately 0.83 million more covered lives compared to December 2020.

  • The increase in MVC coverage among the U.S. adult population has mirrored the increase in MVC utilization for eye exam and eyewear transactions over the past year. MVC benefits were used in 76.1 percent of all adult eye exams and 60.9 percent of all frames purchases during the 12-month ending period December 2021, including full and partial MVC coverage. This represents an increase in MVC utilization for both eye exams and eyewear transactions compared with the 12-month ending period December 2020.
To access the Q4 2021 reports, visit The Vision Council’s Research download center here.