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Rx Lens Mid-Year Overview

There were 82.1 million pairs of lenses sold in the US during the 12ME December 2014—more than the number of lenses sold one year ago (about 4.6% more) and up by 7.0% when compared to what was sold two years ago, and up by about 6.8M pairs when compared to what was sold in the 12ME period December 2007 before the recession set in and slowed sales through the entire optical industry. As always, the change in types of lenses sold in the US market continues to evolve.

Over the past 12 months, sales of progressives have grown nicely. Sales have easily surpassed where they were before the recession, and should continue to grow faster over the coming years with the increasing popularity and functionality of free-form digitally surfaced progressives. Even though progressive sales saw the largest year-over-year growth in June, single vision lenses saw similar growth in sales over the past year (+6.2%). During the 12ME period June 2015, more than 42.6 million pairs of single vision lenses were sold; representing a “net increase” of 2.4 million pairs when compared to sales metrics from the 12ME period Jun 2014. This is mostly attributable to increased single vision purchases by men, Americans over the age of 55, Americans from higher income households, Americans from the Southeast region of the country, Americans with MVC coverage & benefits and Americans buying lenses from independent eye care professionals and online/internet retailers.

In regard to multifocal lenses, the multifocal market saw sales decline during the past five years. There were 14.7 million pairs of multifocal lenses sold during the 12ME period June 2015, which is down by 500K pairs over the number of multifocals sold during the 12ME June 2014 period (down by 3.1%). Sales of multifocal lenses have been falling over the past year most among women, Americans under the age of 55, adults from lower-income households (up to $60K), residents of the Midwest region of the U.S. and people using MVC benefits when making an Rx lens purchase. In terms of distribution channels, multifocal lens sales were down the most among conventional chain retailers and independent eye care professional retailers during the 12ME period Jun 2015 (-3.6% and -3.5% respectively).

Earlier in 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 the recession, although growth has slowed recently relative to Rx sun lens sales. There were 12.9 million pairs of photochromic lenses sold in the U.S. during the 12ME period June 2015. These photochromic lenses had a value of approximately $2.58 billion at the retail level and a value of $625 million at the wholesale level.

In addition to the continued rebound of photochromic lens sales, Rx sun lens sales also saw sales increases over the past year—helping them grow well beyond the high-water mark of unit sales that was set before the Great Recession occurred in 2008. There has been modest growth (+6.8%) in unit sales during the 12ME period June 2015, with most of that growth occurring among independent eye care professional retailers (+7.9%) and mass merchant/wholesale club retailers over the past year (+5.6%). When looking at demographics of Rx sun lens buyers most of the growth during the 12ME period June 2015 occurred among sales to women, Americans over the age of 45, Americans from higher-income households, Americans without MVC coverage/benefits, and Americans from the Southeast region of the country.

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 throughout mid-2015. Sales activity has returned to pre-recession levels and has grown well beyond 2007/2008 figures. During the year-ending period June 2009, 21.3 million pairs of anti-reflective lenses were sold, representing 28.5% off all lenses sold domestically in the US.

The number of anti-reflective lens pairs sold in the U.S. stood at 24.6 million pairs, representing 30.0% of all lenses sold for the 12ME period June 2015. During the 12ME period June 2015, anti-reflective unit sales grew by 6.2% (an absolute increase of 1.44M additional lenses). Much of this increase is the result of increased purchasing activity by men, eyeglass wearers over the age of 55, and Americans residing in the Southeast region of the country. There has also been increased purchases of anti-reflective lenses by people from higher income households (AHI of $60K+) and people with some type of MVC benefits or insurance coverage.

With consumers willing to pay significant dollars for anti-reflective lenses ($60-$80+ per pair more on average), the anti-reflective lens market is estimated to have generated over $5.4 billion dollars during the year-ending period June 2015 (up by 11.1% from year-ago dollar volumes).

Over the past year, we have seen the most growth in anti-reflective lens unit sales (+7.1%) among independent eye care professionals. Anti-reflective sales among mass merchant/wholesale club retailers and conventional chain retailers are also up over the past year (6.3% and 5.3% respectively), while sales of anti-reflective lenses through department store channel are essentially flat (+0.5%) during the 12ME period June 2015. In terms of lens styles, most of the growth in anti-reflective lens sales has been localized among single vision and progressive lenses, with single vision, anti-reflective unit sales up by 7.3% and unit sales of progressive, anti-reflective lenses up 7.2% during the 12ME period June 2015—sales of multifocal, anti-reflective lenses were also up over the past year but only slightly (+0.4%).

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 Brin Miller at 703-740-2251.

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