Consumer Behavior Trends – Looking up for the Independent Eyecare Provider

Steve Kodey – The Vision Council

We just attended The Vision Council’s “Trends in Vision Correction” meeting in New York with a presentation from Vision Stats Guru, Steve Kodey. The data was from Vision Watch which measures consumer trends in the eyecare industry. We have reported on these stats before as they have proven to be an excellent indicator of what is going on in the optical industry.

The good news is that the indications show trends looking up for the eyecare independent more than any other distribution sector.  Here are some highlights from the presentation:

  •  75% of the population use vision correction – 4 .7 million additional consumers over the last 2 years
  • 151.4 million adults wear corrective eyewear – 3.4 million additional consumers over the last 2 years
  • Demographics are shifting with more men and younger people <45 coming into the market and more non-insured eyecare consumers
  • All sectors of the market increased, including sunglasses, contact lenses
  • Those without vision insurance and multiple forms of vision correction showed increased purchasing for the first time since the beginning of the recession. There are 1.6 million more people with vision insurance as well. Research also shows that it is important to reach out to this group for eye exams and education rather than just eyewear discounting!
  • Although the percentage of people purchasing eyewear after an eye exam is creeping back up, it is still only 55% VS 59% pre-recession
  • At 67.5% of the population, the percentage of people receiving eye exams is up year over year.  Independents have done an additional 5.6 million eye exams over the last 3 years compared to previous years.
  • Independents are seeing the most growth in general with frames up 6.7%, lenses +3.5%, Contact lenses +7%, eye exams +8.2%.
  • Mass merchandisers and chains are not showing the same growth trends.
  • More people are seeking refractive surgery with 892,000 procedures in 2011, +5% over 2010. Of the 12 million people that had lasik surgery since 1996, 45% still wear some type of vision correction.
  • Free form lenses are up significantly with 62% of optical outlets offering this type of lens, up from just 13% in 2010.
  • About half of all frames purchased are funded with insurance with an average of $150 total purchase. 25% of the consumers said that their insurance made it possible for them to select a “more expensive” frame.

Influence of Emerging Technology

The Internet:

The “Daily Deal” type of marketing has created big changes in optical consumers behavior as consumers are being conditioned to look for deals in all kinds of services and products online.

  • There was significant resistant to using the internet for eyewear purchases during the 2007 survey but we saw some big changes in 2011 survey.
  • One in six consumers now use the internet to find out information e.g. window shopping, looking for coupons etc.
  •  2.4% bought eyeglasses on line during 2011 and 9.3% said they will consider buying on line in the future
  •  16.4% bought contact lenses on line.


  • Nine million people have purchased 3D eyewear and 14 million said they would buy it in the future but the price barrier appears to be $50.

As you can see from this research, consumer behavior trends are looking up for the Independent Eyecare Provider. Overall the economic indicators are good with purchasing intent up for eyecare at the highest rate since 2007 and currently trends are a 5% increase in 2012 over 2011.

Source: The Vision Council Vision Watch Presentation by Steve Kodey – 3.23.12



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  2. Eye tests will determine not only if glasses are good for you. Sunglasses and the various tints will determine what is best for you under certain conditions. i.e Near water, polarized, in fog, yellow lenses. Not matter what, a good pair of protective sunglasses is important to not only eye health and overall health.

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