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Overview of 2015 Rx Lens Sales

According to Vision Watch, there were 82.9 million pairs of lenses sold in the U.S. in the 12 month period ending in December 2015 (January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015). This is about 3.7% more than the number of lenses sold one year ago, and about 6.1% more than what was sold two years ago. It is also up by about 8.5 million pairs when compared to what was sold in the 12 month period ending in June 2008, which was right before the recession set in and slowed sales through the entire optical industry.  As always the change in the type of lenses sold in the U.S market continues to evolve.

Over the past 24 months sales of progressive lenses (PALs) have rebounded nicely. They have easily surpassed where they were before the recession, and should continue to grow faster over the coming years with increasing popularity and the functionality of free-form digitally surfaced PALs. In 2015 PAL sales increased among women, Americans over the age of 55, buyers from higher income households, buyers with managed vision care coverage, and buyers from the Mountain Pacific region of the U.S. Unit sales of PALs in these demographics were all up by 5% or more during the period.

Even larger than the 5.7% year over year growth of PAL sales was the 6% increase in single vision lenses in 2015. During 2015 more than 43.5 million pairs of single vision lenses were sold, which represents a net increase of 2.5 million pairs when compared to the sales metrics from 2014.  This is mostly attributable to increased single vision purchases by men, Americans over the age of 45, Americans from higher income households, Americans buying from independent eye care professional retailers, and Americans in the South East and Midwest regions.

The multifocal lens market saw a brief period of increasing sales and popularity during the recession, but it has since seen sales decline for the past 5 years. There were 14.3 million pairs of multifocal lenses sold during 2015, which was down by 900 thousand pairs from 2014 (about 5.8%). Sales of multifocal lenses have been falling most among men, Americans under the age of 55, adults from higher income households, people using managed vision care when making Rx lens purchases, and residents of the southeast region of the U.S.

Managed vision care benefits and coverage play a very important role in the Rx Lens business. During 2015 approximately 53.1 million pairs of Rx lenses were sold to consumers using some type of insurance benefits (MVC or otherwise). This is about 64.1% of all Rx lenses were purchased with the assistance of some type of insurance benefit. The number of pairs sold with insurance coverage increased 5.4% during 2015, and conversely the number of lenses sold without insurance coverage totaled 29.8 million pairs (up by 0.7% over the past year).

Adults using MVC to buy their Rx lenses are different demographically from those without insurance. They are more likely to be male, under the age of 45, reside in higher-income households, and more likely to purchase lenses from an independent ECP. Most of these demographics have been driving the recent growth in total Rx lens sales.

MVC and it’s increased role in the optical industry remains a controversial topic. The benefits and detriments of MVC among suppliers and retailers has been debated for years, but there is no debating it’s influence among consumers and eyewear buyers. Among approximately one-half of recent eyewear buyers with MVC coverage (particularly women and those purchasing from an independent ECP), the benefits and options of their particular plan dictated both the timing and location of their eyeglass purchase. In most cases, consumers with MVC coverage bought eyeglass sooner than they were planning to because of their MVC coverage / benefits. Moreover, 30% of all recent eyeglass buyers who used MVC (especially younger buyers and people from lower-income homes) would not have been able to buy eyeglass without MVC coverage.

Earlier the millennium, one of the consistently strongest Rx lens markets in the US had been photochromic lenses. The market rebounded nicely in 2010 and has continued to grow ever since, although growth has slowed recently. There were 13.0 million pairs of photochromic lenses sold in the US during 2015. These photochromic lenses had a value of approximately $2.65 billion at the retail level and a value of $592 million at the wholesale level.

Photochromic unit sales have risen by 3.5% over the past year and are now well above pre-recession sales levels for both units and dollars. The dollar value of the photochromic market increased significantly over the past 12 months (+7.1%) due to increases in price at the retail level. Average retail selling prices for photochromic lenses are also up because the mix of lens styles is changing over the past 12 and 24 months, with increasingly higher priced PAL photochromic lenses, more AR photochromic lenses sold and high-index photochromic lenses being sold.

The Anti-reflective lens market is another market that sagged during the recession, and like photochromics, we have seen a solid rebound in this market that started in late 2010 and continued through the fall and winter months of 2015. Sales activity has returned to pre-recession levels and has grown well beyond 2007 and 2008 figures. During the 2010, 21.3 million pairs of A-R lenses were sold, representing 28.7% off all lenses sold domestically in the U.S.

Data in this article was compiled from VisionWatch, the large scale continuous 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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