FOCUS Series: Contact Lenses Are a Practice Bright Spot

By
NEW YORK—Outpacing the growth rate of the total optical market for the past several years running, contact lenses, as a category, have been one of the bright spots in dollar growth and stimulating new product options for patients and practitioners.

The category has seen compound annual growth rates of 6 percent to 8 percent, compared to relatively flat overall sales for eyeglasses and the category experienced an approximate 12 percent dollar sales gain in 2013 compared to the prior year, boosted by new designs, innovative materials and the rise of daily disposable and more frequent replacement options.

 
Many ECPs are recognizing the value of contact lenses to their overall practice as well as their contributions to both revenues and profits.

This new editorial series, a collaboration between Vision Monday and Review of Optometric Business, explores the ways that contact lenses are contributing top and bottom line to modern optical practices.

Surveys from the Management & Business Academy of optometrists reflect that contact lens patients have more frequent eye exams (every 18 months versus every 24 months for eyeglass-only patients), that contact lens exam fees are often higher than average ($96 versus $70) and that contact lens patients make more frequent purchases (often every year, compared to an average of 2 or 2.2 years among all eyewear consumers).

Further, contact lens patients are also purchasers of eyeglasses, which they wear some of the time, and they are avid purchasers of sunwear as well. Today, some 38.6 million Americans over the age of 18 wear contact lenses— an increase of 10.2 percent since 2007. Nearly 16 percent of the U.S. population is wearing contact lenses, also an increase from five years ago, when about 15.4 percent of adults wore contact lenses, according to the numbers issued by VisionWatch, the Vision Council annual survey of consumers across the country about their vision correction and eyewear-wearing habits.

 
Patients among all age groups are choosing contact lenses as a vision correction solution. Further, some 25.2 percent of 18 to 34 year-olds wear contact lenses, while 19.5 percent of 35 to 44 year-olds are also wearing CLs. A healthy 14.2 percent of 45 to 54 year-olds are wearing contact lenses as well.

Keith Wan, OD, of Scripps Poway Eyecare & Optometry in San Diego, notes that he and all five ODs in the practice, work with contact lenses and at least 30 percent of their overall practice revenues are driven by exams, fits and dispensing of contact lenses. “We engage our staff to wear new materials and designs to get them passionate and excited about the lenses.”

Wan also explained that the team uses a comprehensive lifestyle questionnaire for their patients which includes a series of questions about contacts, if they’ve worn them in the past, if there was something about their experience that they might change. “This gets the conversation going about all the new options available,” he said.

Watch for upcoming stories in this series to learn how individual doctors are tracking the valuable contributions contact lenses are making to their practices and their views on maximizing contact lens profitability today.
 
This is the second VM article in our editorial series, a collaboration between Vision Monday and Review of Optometric Business, which will explore the ways that contact lenses are contributing top and bottom line to modern optical practices. Visit VisionMonday.com to read the FOCUS series. To explore the content exclusive to Review of Optometric Business, visit www.reviewob.com and look for the Contact Lens Profitability series. ■

maxelrad@jobson.com