Inflation and War in Ukraine Push Gas Prices to Record Levels

By Staff
Friday, July 1, 2022 10:00 AM Americans are feeling more pain at the pumps as gas prices continue to soar in the wake of inflation. Over the past year, gas prices have risen more than 60 percent for all formulations. This week gas prices hit a record $5 in parts of the country for the first time in history.

A report by the US Energy Information Administration noted that prices are particularly high in cities on the West Coast where prices have reached $6.27 in California and $6.38 in San Francisco. The lowest prices remain along the Gulf Coast in states like Florida and Texas.

The White House also took steps to release a more energy efficient fuel this summer. E15 gasoline uses 15 percent ethanol blend and is designed to save drivers up to 10 percent at the pumps.

Researchers Link Vision Loss to Mental Health Problems

By Staff
Wednesday, June 29, 2022 12:27 PM The impact of vision loss appears to extend beyond being able to see the world around you. Scientists have found there is also a direct correlation between vision loss and poor mental health. A study, led by Sightsavers, recently published in the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s International Health found that blind people over the age of 50 were four times more likely to have symptoms of anxiety and depression than those without vision impairment. 

People with severe vision impairment were three times as likely to report mental health concerns as those with moderate vision loss. 

The study also reviewed how age and gender determined the likely look of developing mental health issues in tandem with vision loss. The results found that self-reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression are more than four times higher among men with severe visual impairment or blindness and more likely as men age, compared to women with the same levels of vision loss. 

The chart above shows statistically significant gender differences between blindness and symptoms of anxiety and/or depression, which increased with age. In other words, older men who were blind were more likely to experience moderate to severe symptoms compared with blind women of a similar age.

VM's 2022 Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers Report: Recovery and Recalibration

By Marge Axelrad and Mark Tosh
Wednesday, June 29, 2022 1:00 AM NEW YORK—After the shock of the 2020 pandemic and the slow build back to some semblance of stability by the end of that year, the leading U.S. optical retailers and companies, both national and regional groups, came back in 2021 with a solid mid-to-high double digit performance overall. While the 2020 year was characterized as working past store and office closures to “craft a comeback,” as VM noted in our 2021 Top 50, the 12 months of 2021 were marked by tightening up operations, accelerating new digital technologies to power operations and to demonstrate new ideas to consumers and patients. Companies reconsidered initiatives like more online sales choices or remote eyecare.

A 2021 Sales Comeback, Combined With Acquisitions and New Entrants, Shape VM’s 2022 Top 50

By Marge Axelrad and Mark Tosh
Wednesday, June 29, 2022 12:59 AM NEW YORK—In contrast to the harrowing year that was 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic shook the world and forced many stores to close in the U.S for many weeks, the 2021 business year saw a comeback for the U.S.’s Top 50 Optical Retailers and groups, Vision Monday has learned. Based on submissions from companies as well as VM’s own estimates, the collective Top 50 Retailers’ sales for the 12 months ending 2021 ended up higher by some 21 percent from the previous year.

Key Optical Players Ranked by U.S. Sales in 2021

By Staff
Wednesday, June 29, 2022 12:57 AM

Mass Merchants and Clubs Saw a Healthy 2021 Optical Sales Performance

By Marge Axelrad and Mark Tosh
Wednesday, June 29, 2022 12:56 AM NEW YORK—Mirroring their overall companies’ sales performance in 2021, which saw the U.S.’ mass merchants and warehouse clubs reflect strong consumer buying activity and a healthy return to business after the initial pandemic year of 2020, those operations with optical departments experienced healthy gains as well. Collective revenues from this sector of the market rose some 16 percent for the year, reaching $3.86 billion in calendar year 2021, according to their reports and VM estimates.

Gartner Survey Reveals 86 Percent of B2B Customers Expect Companies to Be Well-Informed About Their Personal Information During Service Interactions

By Staff
Tuesday, June 28, 2022 11:25 AM Seventy-one percent of B2C customers and 86 percent of B2B customers expect companies to be well-informed about their personal information during a service interaction, according to a survey by Gartner, Inc. A Gartner survey of more than 5,800 customers conducted in December 2021 found that while customers want companies to be well-informed about their personal information, customers also expect their data to remain private and secure, and to be used solely for its intended purpose.

Study Shows a Strong Majority of Consumers Say Reviews of Health Care Businesses Are Important

By Staff
Monday, June 27, 2022 2:35 PM Not all business experiences are created equal: the risk in poor service from a plumber and a bartender just don’t match up. So it’s expected that people care more about, and will likely read more reviews of, certain business types than others. To explore this, BrightLocal, which provides services and tools to local marketers for their brands and clients, looked at eight key sectors where reviews play an important part, and asked how important a part reviews played in consumers’ decisions to use them.

A study from earlier this year looked at how consumers consider online peer reviews for businesses. Most of the data is for restaurants and other local business but one chart included health care. The top business types for which reviews play an “important” or “very important” part in consumers’ decisions are:

• Service businesses and tradespersons: 84 percent said reviews are “important” or “very important” in their decision

• Care services: 83 percent

• Health care: 82 percent

As expected, businesses that are infrequently required, and come with a high level of risk, face public scrutiny far more than things like restaurants and bars, where a friend’s recommendation is sometimes all that’s needed. It’s heartening to see that care services come out on top in this, given what important, and likely difficult, decisions are involved in using services in this sector.

Health care and service, or service-area, businesses (SABs) stack up fairly evenly, which is definitely worthwhile knowing about: your potential customers care about reviews for your business as much as they do for their doctors.

It’s also interesting to see that 6 percent of consumers consider reviews for financial and legal services to be “not important.” According to BrightLocal, could it be that years of Google Business Profile spam and fake reviews in the legal sector has taken its toll on the public perception of this industry?

Digital Audio Gains Larger Share of U.S. Digital Media Time, Research Firm Says

By Staff
Friday, June 24, 2022 3:52 PM NEW YORK—Digital audio has been taking up more than an hour per day of U.S. adults’ time since 2016, and 2022 will be another year of solid growth. U.S. adults will consume an additional 3 minutes per day of digital audio this year, to reach 1 hour and 40 minutes. Among active digital audio listeners, the daily figure will be a robust 2 hours and 17 minutes.

Indeed, digital audio will account for 12.7 percent of overall media time among U.S. adults. Within digital media time, audio’s share will be 20.3 percent—a high figure compared with many alternative digital options, according to the eMarketer analysis.

Adults will spend more time each day listening to digital audio (1:40) than they will watching sub OTT services (1:27), using social networks (1:15), using tablets (1:09), or watching videos on their smartphones (0:40), according to the eMarketer report. 

Listening to digital audio is also more popular than listening to the radio, although radio retains a significant share of audio time spent. This year, nearly 55 percent of total audio time will be spent on digital platforms (1:40), while the remaining 45 percent (1:23) will be spent with traditional radio. Digital first exceeded radio in 2020 and has only grown its share since. 

Radio will still account for 10.5 percent of all media time among U.S. adults in 2022—"not a small figure,” according to eMarketer.

Economists Predict Drop in GDP as Stagflation Takes Hold, Job Rate to Remain Steady

By Staff
Thursday, June 23, 2022 4:47 PM Economists believe stagflation is here to stay and will drive employment and GDP numbers down as the U.S. economy continues to shrink, according to a report presented at the SIFMA Economic Advisory Roundtable, which brings together chief U.S. economists of 27 global and regional financial institutions. 

Their predictions are in line with a recent Bank of America global fund manager survey in which the fears of stagflation are at their highest levels since June of 2008. This has triggered the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and is sending warning signs of an even greater unemployment issue with figures expected to rise to 3.6 percent

Analysts are predicting this downward trend for employment numbers with rates expected to reach 3.8 percent by 2023.

Forecasters predict the next decade will see a period of economic stagnation. Between 2022 and 2031, the forecasters predict headline consumer price index (CPI) inflation will average 2.80 percent at an annual rate. The corresponding estimate for 10-year annual-average personal consumption expenditure (PCE) inflation is 2.40 percent, higher than original estimates.

Money, Not COVID, Is the Biggest Travel Hurdle This Summer

By Staff
Wednesday, June 22, 2022 2:39 PM After two years of COVID-related restrictions and inhibitions, travelers are ready to hit the beaches in masses this summer—that is if they can still afford it. With everyday purchases like food, gas and utilities having become much more expensive over the past few months, many families are forced to reconsider their holiday plans, if not to scrap them altogether, according to a recent feature from Statista.com

According to an international survey conducted by Ipsos for Europ Assistance’s 2022 Holiday Barometer, money is by far the biggest hurdle for potential holiday goers this summer. About 45 percent of Americans who have no summer travel plans this year said that they couldn’t afford it, while 33 percent said they’ll refrain from traveling to save money. Meanwhile just 15 percent of U.S. non-travelers said that COVID-19 was the reason for them staying at home this summer.

The trend is similar across Europe where travel enthusiasm is generally higher this year. Just 29 percent of European respondents have no travel plans for the summer, with 41 percent of them not being able to afford it and 26 percent trying to save money.

New Survey Reveals Younger Americans’ Attitudes About Weekends

By Staff
Tuesday, June 21, 2022 12:21 PM For many Americans, Friday, June 3, marked the first of a series of "Summer Fridays"—hours-adjusted workdays designed to encourage work-life balance in a season known for warmer weather, physically active lifestyles, social events and travel. A recent survey of full-time employed Americans ages 18-42 sponsored by Optimum Nutrition, maker of AMIN.O. Energy Sparkling drink, found that 86 percent of respondents take advantage of Summer Fridays, even if they have a lot of work on their plate.

Retail Sales Slow as Inflations Fears Rise

By Staff
Monday, June 20, 2022 2:09 PM The National Retail Federation (NRF) is reporting a significant slowdown in retail sales this past May due to growing inflation fears. According to the US Census Bureau, sales in May were down by 0.3 percent from April, but remained up 8.1 percent year over year. A recent review of figures by the NRF, however, found that May sales were unchanged seasonally, but rose slightly by 6.7 percent year over year, while April sales were up 5.5 percent year over year. 

The NRF found May sales to be higher in eight out of nine categories, with building materials, stores, online sales and groceries seeing the most sales.  

“There’s been little relief from inflation, and we expected some cooling off in sales in reaction to prices, NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “There have been swings across sectors that reflect the impact of both higher prices and supply chain disturbances, and higher interest rates are expected to curb spending going forward. As inflation continues, consumers are looking for ways to stretch their dollars by saving less, tapping into savings accumulated during the pandemic and increasing their use of credit.”