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Fashion versus Function Study

Fashion versus Function Study

The Vision Council investigates whether the “fashion” or “medical-function” aspect of eyewear is more valuable to eyewear users.

The Vision Council conducted a survey about whether eyewear users and buyers value the “fashion” aspect of eyewear or the “medical-function” of eyewear. This survey was developed to gauge how consumers value the different fashion aspects of eyewear (principally Rx eyeglasses and sunglasses) in conjunction with the different medical or functional aspects of eyewear.

During the 12 month period ending December 2014 there were 71.5 million pairs of Rx eyeglasses sold in the US at the retail level. Most of the consumers who purchased and regularly wear Rx eyeglasses (84.6 percent) see them as a medical necessity only. A smaller portion of wearers (12.6 percent) view eyeglasses as being both a medical necessity and a fashion item. Finally, a very small percentage of wearers (2.8 percent) view eyeglasses as primarily a fashion accessory.

While every group or type of consumer considers eyeglasses as primarily a medical necessity, there are some groups and demographics that are relatively more likely to view eyeglasses as fashionable. In particular, younger Americans, and people who had a recent eye exam at a mass merchant or conventional chain were more likely than other eyeglass wearers to wear eyeglasses because they are a fashion accessory in addition to just being a medical necessity. Moreover, people who are planning to purchase a pair of eyeglasses at some point in the near future, as well as people who work part-time, were more likely to wear eyeglasses because they are fashionable.

More than three-quarters of the 1,343 surveyed respondents that purchased Rx eyeglasses over the past six months (74.9 percent) were more concerned with the ability of the eyeglasses to provide the best vision possible. The remaining one-quarter of surveyed respondents were more concerned with the look/style/fashion of the specific eyeglasses they purchased. Men were more concerned with the ability of the eyeglasses purchased to provide the best vision possible, while women were much more likely to consider the look/style/fashion of the eyeglasses. In addition, younger Americans were also far more likely to be concerned with the look/style/fashion of the eyeglasses they recently purchased when compared to older Americans. Also of note, recent eyeglass buyers from higher income households and recent eyeglass buyers who also wear contact lenses were relatively more likely than other eyeglass buyers to be more concerned with the look/style/fashion of the glasses they purchased as opposed to the ability of the eyeglasses to provide the best possible vision.

When asked to consider and rank five different aspects of the eyeglasses they recently purchased, most recent eyeglass buyers thought that the durability of the frames was the most important factor when settling on the frame they purchased (determined by a ranked system on a five-point scale). In fact, 26.2 percent of recent eyeglass buyers ranked “durability of frame” as the top factor, and only 5.0 percent ranked the fit of the frame as last on the list of factors presented. The durability of the frame was an especially important purchase factor among women, those who work part-time, and those between the ages of 35 to 44.

The second most important factor considered when purchasing eyeglasses was the style/appearance of the frames that were bought. Over one-sixth of all recent eyeglass buyers (18.6 percent) rated the style/appearance of the frame as the most important factor in the decision to purchase the specific frames they bought. The appearance of the frame was a relatively more important factor among women, adults with children living at home and people who wear contact lenses.

The “fit of frames on your face” was ranked as the third most common factor when making an eyeglass purchase by 21.1 percent of recent buyers. There were some differences demographically among recent eyeglass buyers regarding the style or appearance of the frame as a purchase decision factor. In particular, younger eyeglass buyers and those who had a recent eye exam at a conventional chain tended to value “fit of frames” slightly more than other eyeglass buyers.

After the durability of the frame, the style of the frame, and the fit of the frame, consumers are likely to consider the material of the frame when making an eyeglass purchase. About 29 percent of recent eyeglass buyers rated the material of the frame as the most important factor when recently making an eyeglass purchase. On the other side of the spectrum, 8.4 percent of recent eyeglass buyers considered frame material as the least important purchase factor. Frame material was more important amongst men, older eyeglass buyers and those who do not possess MVC.

In aggregate, among the five factors surveyed, the designer name of the eyeglass frame purchased was universally ranked as the least important decision factor considered when consumers recently purchased their eyeglasses. While 73.5 percent of recent buyers considered the designer name of the frame as the least important purchase decision factor, there were some consumers that considered the designer name of the frame when making their last purchase. In fact, approximately six percent of recent eyeglass buyers actually ranked the brand name of the eyeglass frame as the most important purchase decision factor. Typically men, younger eyeglass buyers and consumers who had a recent eye exam at a mass merchant tended to place relatively higher importance on the designer name of the frame when making their last eyeglass purchase.

Data in this article was compiled from The Vision Council 2015 Fashion versus Function Report, which is part of the overall large-scale consumer VisionWatch research program. For additional information, please contact Brin Miller at 703-740-2251 or bmiller@thevisioncouncil.org.

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