Optical Industry Purchasing Only Up Slightly, Per Latest VisionWatch Economic Survey

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ALEXANDRIA, Va.—While purchasing activity for general retail goods is moving up significantly from 2009 levels, purchasing activity for the optical industry is only increasing slightly in response to the continued weak improvement in the economy, according to the latest VisionWatch Economic Survey, just issued by The Vision Council in a report to its members.

The October 2010 survey of 9,599 consumers about their general and eyewear purchasing habits, the largest group since the survey was initiated in October 2008, reflects results largely the same from the VisionWatch/Vision Council April report.

There continue to be certain demographics (men, residents of the Northeast US, Americans from higher income households, and Americans with managed vision care coverage) whose eyewear purchases have been less affected by the state of the economy, the report noted. According to these highlights, prepared by Stephen Kodey, director of industry research for the of the Vision Council, “Unfortunately, the purchasing activity of the two main demographic groups that drive the eyewear industry in the U.S.—women and Americans over the age of 45—continues to lag behind other consumers as a result of the weak economic recovery.

“A majority of American consumers (62.5 percent) are concerned about both the current condition of the U.S. economy and the future prospects of the U.S. economy,” the report stated. “With regard to eyewear purchases, consumers still seem to be most concerned with “losses/declines in their personal savings, retirement accounts or stock portfolio” or “rising unemployment.” Younger Americans, and Americans from lower income households, reported that they are more concerned with rising prices and the unemployment rate when considering eyewear purchases, while older Americans and Americans from higher income homes are more concerned about declines in the stock market and losses/declines in their personal savings, retirement accounts or stock portfolio.

There are certain optical products and services that seem to be more adversely affected by current economic conditions than others. In particular, the weak state of the economy continues to hamper purchase intent for refractive surgery, while reducing purchase intent only slightly for eye exams and contact lenses. OTC readers, plano sunglasses and Rx eyeglasses continue to be a little more insulated from the current economic slowdown as of October 2010.

There are also certain strategies that consumers are still more likely to employ in response to the weak recovery with regard to purchasing optical products and services including postponing eyewear purchases, searching harder for a better value. The report pointed out, “Interestingly, while growing from a small base, there has been an increase in the number of consumers planning to utilize the Internet more in these difficult economic times to find a better value/price when purchasing eyewear (especially eyeglasses, plano sunglasses and contact lenses).

The report is available to Vision Council members through member login at thevisioncouncil.org. Additional information is available from Stephen Kodey.