By Cathy Ciccolella: Senior Contributing Editor
NEW YORK—Despite the ongoing global recession, which impacted the eyewear/eyecare business throughout 2009, the nation’s 50 largest optical retailers achieved record sales of nearly $7.3 billion last year: an estimated $7,288.8 million, to be exact. In many cases, those key players also managed to increase their store counts during 2009, according to VM’s exclusive Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers listing.
That healthy 2009 sales total helped these 50 retailers’ aggregate share of the overall U.S. vision care business edge up to 28.7 percent of last year’s $25,389 million total U.S. market for vision care products and services sold at optical retail locations, as estimated by VisionWatch, a joint venture of Jobson Optical Group and The Vision Council.
By comparison, in calendar 2008 the VM Top 50 Optical Retailers’ sales of $7,163.7 million represented 27.5 percent of that year’s $26,019 million U.S. vision care market. (It’s important to note that the portion of the VM Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers list published in this issue that shows 2008 sales and store counts for this year’s Top 50 players is not directly comparable to the Top 50 list published in the May 2009 edition of VM, since the 50 retailers included in the Top 50 vary from year to year due to industry consolidation and other factors.)
This newest VM Top 50 list also reflects a growth in combined store count for these key eyewear/eyecare players, who operated an estimated 9,798 units as of Dec. 31, 2009. Of the 45 retailers on this year’s list which were also part of last year’s VM Top 50, 18—including seven of the Top 10—saw their optical store counts increase during 2009.
Along with the Top 50 retailers’ slightly larger share in calendar 2009 of the total U.S. market for vision care products and services sold at optical retail locations, the 10 largest optical retailers on this year’s VM’s list have continued to gain market share, both among the Top 50’s aggregate sales and in the total eyewear/eyecare market.
On this year’s VM Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers list, the Top 10 retailers have an estimated combined volume of $6,379.3 million, representing a whopping 87.5 percent of the Top 50 retailers’ overall sales. That Top 10 share for 2009 is up from the Top 10 optical retailers’ 86.2 percent share of the VM Top 50’s combined volume in calendar 2008, as shown on last year‘s list.
In the overall U.S. optical marketplace, last year those Top 10 optical retailers generated 25.1 percent of 2009’s nearly $25.4 billion U.S. market for vision care products and services sold at optical retail locations.
The seven general retailers that are the largest optical players in the mass merchant/warehouse club category also continue to gain share among the nation’s 50 largest optical retailers. In 2009, those mass merchants and clubs’ optical sales represented just over 31 percent of the VM top 50’s total eyewear/eyecare sales; by comparison, in 2008 those same seven retail chains accounted for 30 percent of the VM Top 50’s combined volume for that year.