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Managed Vision Care Growth and Usage Fueling Growth in the US Eyewear Industry

The total vision care industry generated $41.41 billion in revenue during the 12ME period Dec’18—rising by 2.5% over 2017 total revenues. Unit sales totals for the industry are still on‐par with the unit total sales from 2010 levels, indicating that most of the growth we have observed in the industry over the past 3‐4 years is resulting from increasing prices, new users entering the market every year and several select groups of consumers trading up and buying higher‐quality eyewear. Unit growth for eyewear product sales in the US grew by 1.3% during the 12ME period Dec’18—a total of 316.8 million pairs of eyewear.

With a majority of eye exams and Rx eyeglass purchases involving some type of MVC coverage or vision insurance, it is important to track the number of consumers possessing vision insurance or some type of MVC coverage. MVC coverage among the US adult population during 2018 has dropped slightly from our all‐time high reading of MVC coverage in December 2016. Currently 50.0% of the US adult population report having MVC benefits in Dec’18—down from 50.7% coverage in Dec’16, and also down slightly from coverage rates reported in Sep’18. As of December 2018, we estimate that over 127.3 million American adults have some type of vision insurance benefits. Thanks to a rising adult population (+1.2M to +1.8M annually), and thanks to an improved economy and higher employment, the number of adults with MVC coverage increased for about 8 years now after declining during the recession. However, the number of covered lives increased by about 0.5%(or 693K additional adults) during the 12ME period Dec’18 alone. In fact, compared to 2007 (before the recession started), the aggregate number of adults with some form of MVC coverage is up by 15.3 million from Dec’07 to Dec’18.

Of the 75.0 million pairs of frames purchased during the 12ME period Dec’18, most (49.5 million) were purchased with some type of assistance from a managed vision care plan. The remaining 25.5 million pairs were purchased without any form of insurance assistance. During the year‐ending period Dec’18 there were 800K more frames purchased in the US with the assistance of vision insurance when compared to 2017—which is not surprising considering the increase in the number of MVC covered lives reported above. As a result of the increase in the number of MVC “covered lives” in the US, as well as the increase in buying activity among those with existing MVC benefits, the portion of frames purchased with some type of MVC assistance has actually increased for the sixth straight year (Dec‐to‐Dec) time since 2008/2009.

During the 12ME period Dec’18, MVC insurance frame purchases increased among independent ECP retailers (+3.0%), mass/club retailers (+1.1%) and conventional chain retailers (+0.3%) with MVC frame sales among department store retailers (‐6.7%) slipping from previous levels during 2017. Demographically, MVC frame purchases increased during the 12ME period Dec’18 among men, adults over the age of 45 years old, people from higher‐income households (AHI:$60K+), residents from the SE region of the US and people using a state‐sponsored government plans (Medicare, Medicaid, VA benefits, etc…), and people using a standard, stand‐alone MVC vision insurance plan (VSP, Eyemed, Davis, etc…).

rticle was compiled from VisionWatch, the large-scale continuous consumer research study conducted by The Vision Council. VisionWatch contains useful industry data on lenses, frames, sunglasses, reading glasses, LASIK, contact lenses and eye exams. For additional information, please contact William Bradley at 703-740-2251.

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