Vision Care Market Grows 2.4 Percent in 12-Months Ending September 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Across-the-board growth—everything from eye exams to OTC readers—helped drive 2.4 percent growth in the overall vision care market in the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, 2019 according to a recent “Consumer Barometer” report issued by The Vision Council. The reported estimated the value of the vision care market at $43.39 billion in the 12-month period ended in September. The report also showed positive trends for the “independent” eyecare sector, with share gains in eye exams, prescription lenses and frame sales.

This positive momentum comes against a backdrop of increasing consolidation and private equity-backed activity across the eyecare sector.

In looking at the eyecare business on a product-level basis, Rx lenses (the largest individual category) posted growth pegged at 1.9 percent and the dollar volume of the category totaled $14.27 billion in the 12-month period ended in September. Contact lenses posted 4.5 percent growth in the period, reaching $5.46 billion, according to the Consumer Barometer report. And frames, the second-largest category, grew at a 1.3 percent rate to $9.97 billion in the 12-month period.

Exams, the third-largest category, grew faster than both prescription lenses and frames in the period, posting 3.3 percent growth to $6.39 billion.

The total vision care market includes dollars spent at all retail types and any retail location, and reflects the dollars spent only by those U.S. residents 18 and older. The Vision Council estimated that 64.2 percent of all adults were wearing prescription eyeglasses in the period ended Sept. 30. This compares with 64.5 percent in the two comparable “year-ago” periods cited in the report.

Breaking down the “frame market” by dollar share, The Vision Council report said the “independent” sector increased its market share to 49.3 percent in the 12-month period. The “chains” sector held steady with 27.4 percent market share, while mass merchants and clubs dipped a tenth of a share point to 10.5 percent.

The market share of online/internet retailers was estimated at 10.5 percent (or roughly $1 billion) in the 12-month period. The online/internet group was estimated to have captured 10.7 percent of the frame market in the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, 2017, according to the report. (The 2017 number was revised recently by The Vision Council “based on improvements to the Vision Watch program” and is not comparable to values from older reports, the association said.)

Independent ECPs also gained market share in the lens category, according to the report. Their market share rose to 50.6 percent in the most recent tracked period, which compares with 50.4 percent and 50.2 percent in the previous two reporting periods.

On an “exam” basis, independent ECPs saw their market share rise to 70.2 percent (from 70 percent in the year-ago period), while chains’ market share in eye exams dropped to 29.8 percent from 30 percent in the year-ago period.

In digging down into the eye exams data, The Vision Council estimated that 51.2 million adults over the age of 18 had an eye exam (for refraction) in the six-month period ended Sept. 30. This compared with 52.5 million exams in the six-month period ended June 30 and 51.9 million exams in the six-month period ended March 31.

The General Retail Sector Was Awash in Store Closings in 2019

NEW YORK—Two years ago, in 2017, store closings were a big thing, which led to much discussion about the prospects for retail moving forward. But in 2018 the retail sector calmed down, and much of retail seemed well again as “the number of closings fell, even if more stores were still shuttering than opening,” according to a report by

“But in 2019, U.S. store closures picked up again, spiking to their highest level in years,” the website noted, citing data from Coresight Research. As of Dec. 13, U.S. retailers had announced 9,302 store closings this year, more than the roughly 8,000 stores that closed in 2017.

Comparing the number of openings and closings, 2019 saw 4,930 more stores close than open, also representing a jump from the net closings of 2018 (1,959) and 2017 (2,970), Quartz noted.

However, much of the increase in store closings this year is the result of one retailer: shoe seller Payless, which announced early in 2019 that it would shut all 2,100 of its stores in the U.S. (Note that, among optical retailers, Shopko, Sears and Walgreens closed stores in 2019, 371, 210 and 174 locations, respectively, according to the Coresight Research.

While all retailers face their own individual challenges, those closing the most stores did share some challenges in common, Quartz noted. And “chief among them was that they didn’t adapt to ecommerce. Several of the chains remained dependent on physical stores, often in dying suburban malls, even as more consumers shopped online,” leaving them burdened with unproductive space, according to the Quartz report.

The stores didn’t change their offerings fast enough to suit shifting consumer tastes, which resulted in customers heading to competitors both new and established. In some cases, the companies also had to deal with debt from previous private equity transactions. “Even as the U.S. enjoyed a long run of economic growth, the pressure kept mounting, and finally became too much for these companies to bear in 2019,” Quartz noted.

On the flip side, though, Quartz noted that some retailers saw in 2019 “a lot of opportunity to expand. That seemed particularly true of chains serving budget-conscious consumers.” As the report noted, if a company has the word “dollar” in its name, there’s a good chance it opened stores in 2019.