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Overview of the 2015 Frames Sales

According to Vision Watch, there were 74.0 million pairs of eyeglass frames sold in the U.S. during the 12 month period ending in December 2015 (January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015). This indicates that about 26.4% of the adult population purchased a pair of Rx glasses during that period of time. Women purchased a larger portion of eyeglasses than men last year, which shouldn’t be surprising since women, as a group, are still more likely than men to wear eyeglasses. The pace of eyeglass purchasing has picked up more among men more during 2015, which should be expected considering that men have been embracing eyeglass usage more over the past year when compared to women. That indicates that the eyeglass repurchase cycle (the average amount of time between the purchase of a complete new pair of eyeglasses) for both women and men now stands at 2.15 years. The repurchase cycle for both women and men dropped by about 2.5 weeks over the past year, the first noticeable decrease in the repurchase cycle in almost 4 years.

On an aggregate level, the eyeglass repurchase cycle for all consumers has remained steady, declining only slightly over the past five years and currently now stands at 2.15. For instance, during 2015, the eyeglass repurchase cycle decreased by an estimated 13 days, which is very minimal given the 25-26 month repurchase cycle. The repurchase cycle was at the lowest in 2006 and 2007 before turning up in 2008 and 2009. This indicated that eyeglass wearers were lengthening the amount of time between eyeglass purchases during the recession, which partly explains the slowdown in unit sales over the past couple years. The fact that the repurchase cycle has declined slightly over the past year means that the increase in frame buying activity we have observed in the US is a result of both increased usage and increased buying activity and increased multiple pair purchases (up by about 1.1% during 2015).

Over the past year, eyeglass frame buying activity increased most for: men (+3.9%), adults over the age of 55 (+5.4%), adults from higher income households (+5.1%), and consumers from the Southeast region of the country (+3.8%). Unfortunately, eyeglass frame sales among current contact lens users is down (-1.9%) during 2015, which is the third year in a row that metric has declined.

While age has a significant influence on the eyeglass repurchase cycle, the eyeglass repurchase cycle is also heavily influenced by income. Americans from households with annual incomes under $60,000 typically wait 2.5 years between purchasing a new pair of eyeglasses.

On the other end of the spectrum, Americans from households with annual household incomes over $60,000 only wait an average of 1.9 years between new eyeglass purchases. The re-purchase cycle gap between high-income and low income eyeglass wearers narrowed slightly during the recession, but it has increased over the past three years while remaining mostly constant during 2015 (thanks to an almost equal increase in usage and purchasing activity among Americans from higher-income households).

Americans from both higher and lower income demographics are helping to grow the frame market in the US over the past four years. From 2010 through 2013, the increase in purchasing activity among people from lower-income households was mostly attributable to a large number of FTC / non-insured customers from lower income households who entered the market and made an eyewear purchase after the recession ended when the economy started to improve. In total, frame sales among people from lower-income households are up 1.3% over the past year, but only up by 2.8% in aggregate over the past three years. Unfortunately, eyeglass usage among people from lower-income households is rising more than eyeglass purchasing activity among people from lower-income households.

Fortunately for the eyeglass frame industry, people from higher-income households are picking up the face and frequency of eyeglass purchases, thus helping to elevate the market in total. In addition to accounting for 57.8% of all frame unit purchases during 2015, adults from higher income households also account for 60.7% of all frame sales revenue during that same period of time. And while unit sales of frames among people from higher income households were up 5.1% during 2015, dollar value of frame sales were up by 7.1%, indicating that Americans from higher income households are spending more and more money for the frames they buy year after year.

It should be noted that during 2011 through the first half of 2013, purchases of eyeglass frames among adults from higher income households was not as strong as it was during 2007 through 2010. In fact, their growth in eyeglass frame sales had slowed significantly, and much of that probably involves the increase in contact lens usage and purchases we have seen among higher income adults. It could also be due to the resurgence in LASIK surgery procedures a couple years ago, most of which have occurred among adults with higher incomes. These results seem to indicate that eyeglass frame sales are clearly benefiting from the waning popularity of other vision correction alternatives among the higher-income populations, as well as the increase in managed vision care coverage among people from higher income households.  For more information contact William Bradley.  

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