By Delia Paunescu
Assistant Editor

NEW YORK—For the last month of 2011, the outlook of independent ECPs towards their overall business saw a significant improvement, according to the latest edition of Jobson Optical Research’s Optical Business Barometer (OBB). The Barometer rose 0.3 from November’s index of 3.5, to reach 3.8 in December; its highest reading since March 2011 when the rating was 3.9.

Earlier this year, July and August held steady, both having an index of 3.7, a rise from June 2011’s reading of 3.6. Then in Sept., the index declined to 3.5

In contrast, the index rating for December 2010 was 3.6. “The highest rating achieved in any 2010 month for overall optical business was 3.7,” the report said.

A monthly survey of a representative sample of independent optical retailers (single locations and groups of no more than three locations), the OBB is designed to gauge the optical business trends of eyecare professionals at independent optical locations. Conducted online by Jobson Optical Research, the OBB is designed to measure attitudes of independent eyecare professionals about the current business climate and outlook. The OBB is based on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is “very negative”, 3 is “neutral” and 5 is “very positive.”

“A comparison of the 2011 to 2010 ratings indicates that this year performed better in terms of meeting or exceeding expectations and was probably a ‘better’ year for business among independent optical retailers,” the report stated.

According to the Barometer, the average of the monthly ratings for overall optical business for 2011 was 3.6, while for 2010, it was 3.5, making the ratings for September through December of 2011 each higher by .2 than the previous year month for overall optical business. “This indicates that 2011finished stronger than did 2010. This is arguably the most significant point of comparative difference between the two years,” the OBB said.

The report added that future ratings (upcoming 6 months) for overall optical in November and December of 2011 “showed strong increases indicating optimism going into 2012.”

The National Federation of Independent Business’ (NFIB), Index of Small Business Optimism for Dec. 2011 increased to 93.8, up 1.8 points (same increase as last month) from Nov.’s score of 92.0. This is the fourth consecutive increase for the NFIB’s Index, following six months of consecutive decline.

The findings of the OBB are also compared to those in the Consumer Confidence Index from the Conference Board. For Dec., the index rose to 64.5, up 9.3 points from a revised score of 55.2 in Nov.

“It seems worthy of note that the Consumer Confidence Index stood at 40.5 in October. The final two months of 2011 showed quite unusual increases as confidence among consumers buoyed,” the OBB said.

For more detailed information featured in the complete report, contact Jennifer Zupnick of Jobson Optical Research at (212) 274-7164.