NEW YORK—Even as the general retail market was buffeted by disruption in 2018, the U.S. optical retail sector held its own, even managing to show growth of 2 percent to 3 percent for the calendar year. But while the sales story remained fairly constant, there was a reshaping of the business composition of many leading optical retailers, as the run of acquisitions and consolidation that began at the beginning of the decade continued apace.

Competitive pressures and consolidation were not the only hurdles for optical retailers to surmount in 2018. A fastidious and increasingly value-focused consumer, mounting challenges for mall-based retailers, and financial issues for a few big-box general merchandise stores stood among the other key 2018 challenges.

The year 2018 also was characterized by deeper penetration of new technologies into the eyecare setting, which is bringing another form of refashioning to the optical business.

The industry collage that emerges from this combination of factors is the 2018 Vision Monday annual Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers report. The exclusive 2018 report, which is being released today (Monday, May 13) mixes this stew of business drivers and industry data to produce the much-anticipated annual ranking of top optical retailers.

Notable in this year’s report, which unveils a very stable ranking among most of the Top 10 optical companies, is the debut of Warby Parker as a Top 10 member. The clicks-and-bricks company breaks into the Top 10 at the No. 9 position this year.

At the same time, Vision Source secured its hold on the No. 1 spot in the Top 50 ranking, with a year that saw the franchisor’s practices achieve growth that outpaced the overall industry.

Up and down the 11-50 rankings group, the impact of private equity-backed consolidation is more noticeable, as hundreds of smaller and mid-size independents find themselves turning over the ownership reigns to larger group practices.

On more of a macro level, and following the trend of previous year’s rankings, the 2018 VM Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers group captured a larger share of the overall market last year, accounting for 40.2 percent of the total $35.7 billion U.S. vision care market sales.

The Top 10 retailers this year similarly grabbed a significantly larger piece of the vision care marketplace, 35.2 percent for this year’s Top 10 compared with 33.2 percent for the Top 50 of a year ago.

Mass merchants’ share of the vision care market held steady at 9.8 percent, but still significantly larger than this group’s 9.4 percent share just two years ago.