NEW YORK—The mass merchant and wholesale clubs sector of the U.S. optical retail market felt the impact of COVID-19 in 2020, albeit not quite as significantly as the overall optical market in the U.S., but more sharply than the collective group of firms in the VM Top 50 Optical Retailers group.

Here’s how the numbers unfolded in 2020: the mass merchant group overall (which this year do not include the former Shopko Stores optical business) finished calendar year 2020 with aggregate sales of $3.34 billion, according to VM’s estimates and reports from the individual companies. This was roughly a 10 percent decline compared with 2019’s aggregate total of $3.72 billion. (The overall optical market in 2020 was estimated at $31.2 billion by The Vision Council’s VisionWatch report, and declined 17 percent.)

VM’s Top 50 Optical Retailers saw an overall sales decline of 5 percent last year, according to estimates and company reports.

In the mass merchant and wholesale club optical sector, each of the seven companies in VM’s tracked universe saw a sales decline in 2020, except for the Target Optical departments, which turned in an “even” year, per VM’s estimates, after a few years of strong sales growth.

Even in a difficult year, however, the mass merchant group managed to raise the aggregate total of optical departments they operated, perhaps reflecting a larger trend for bigger retailer groups to gain market share in the optical space. In 2020, mass merchants finished the year with a total of 4,959 optical departments. This marks a “location” increase of 25 locations for the group—impressive in a year when many retailers pruned under-performing stores.

Still, mass merchants and clubs with optical de­partments continued to hold over 10 percent of the total U.S. optical retail market. And, according to VM’s estimates, their share increased slightly last year.