The Year of Uncertainty


Mary Kane: Executive Editor

Six months into 2009 seems as good a time as any to look back at the year before trying to catch a glimpse of what’s ahead, but one thing is certain: uncertainty will continue to prevail.

The recession of 2009 is longer and is cutting deeper than any other economic downturn in recent memory. Most economic experts, are hedging their bets about when we might begin to see signs of a recovery, which begs the question: how is all of this affecting consumer buying patterns?

According to an April Vision Watch survey, more consumers were worried about rising unemployment levels and losses or declines in their savings, retirement and stock portfolios. Apparently, people are digging in, preparing as if a long hard winter was coming instead of the carefree days of summer. It’s hard to make sense of it all but Vision Monday has been keeping its finger on the optical industry’s economic pulse for almost a year now with our exclusive series of online surveys conducted by Jobson Optical Research and the latest VisionWatch Economic Situation Survey. Results from both surveys are painting a brighter picture for optical eyewear and eyecare trends in comparison to other U.S. business segments.

While nearly 90 percent of ECPs and retailers surveyed said they felt consumers’ buying patterns were being affected by the economy, nearly 42 percent predicted their sales would be up for 2009 compared to 2008. That’s good news. Major retailers and ECPs have told VM that the recession has forced them to implement unprecedented business strategies including reducing staff hours, controlling operating costs and making prudent inventory buying decisions.

It seems that everyone, from consumers to shopkeepers have gotten creative about their finances, both saving and spending their dollars wisely. The best advice seems to be to stay the course and hold on for another six months when most fiscal gurus agree the recession will weaken and the economy will begin gaining strength. ■