ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The Vision Council has released its quarterly VisionWatch market research reports for Q4 of 2020, indicating a 17.4 percent decline in the vision care market from December 2019 to December 2020 and $36.05 billion in retail revenues during the same period. Designed exclusively for the vision care industry, the VisionWatch research reports are released on a quarterly basis and survey trends in consumer behavior regarding eye exams and eyewear, analyze developments in the U.S. eye care market, and provide key market and product category statistics.

To download the Q4 2020 reports, visit The Vision Council’s Research Download Center, here.

“The results of the Q4 reports indicate that, while the industry has faced many challenges over the past year, the vision care markets continue to recover and build momentum as Americans are adjusting to COVID-19 and starting to get vaccinated. While 2020 aggregated industry revenues were down 17.4 percent, for example, sales revenue for Q4 2020 was only down 8.8 percent versus Q4 2019,” said Steve Kodey, senior director of industry research at The Vision Council.

“Although the reports indicate that there is a sizable portion of the U.S. adult population, about 15 percent, curbing their eye exam and eyewear buying activity for economic and health reasons, most adults and eyewear users are returning to pre-pandemic habits when it comes to getting an eye exam and acquiring eyewear. With options like ocular telemedicine, managed vision care benefits and online retailers helping to limit human interaction and minimize out-of-pocket costs, the vision care industry is minimizing losses from the pandemic.”

According to the Q4 reports, revenues associated with contact lens sales decreased 6.1 percent year-over-year and over the counter readers sales decreased 17.3 year-over-year, faring better than other markets. Revenues associated with plano sunglasses decreased 24 percent year-over-year and refractive surgery decreased 24 percent year-over-year, faring worse than other optical markets.

Despite an increase of more than 600,000 vision correction users during the 12-month ending period December 2020, the Q4 results indicate that the growth in vision correction usage has not kept pace with increases in the U.S. adult population. Increases in vision correction usage during 2020 was strongest for prescription sunglasses and over the counter readers and weakest for contact lenses and plano sunglasses.

At the end of 2020 there were 41.5 million prescription eyeglass users that were likely to buy prescription eyeglasses during the first six months of 2021. While that number represents a decrease of one million when compared to the number of likely buyers at the end of 2019, it is up by almost two million from the number of potential buyers in June 2020, when purchase intent was weakest in the US.

Notable online sales findings that occurred during the 12-month period ending December 2020 include:
• During 2020, approximately 9.1 million pairs of eyeglass frames were sold online to U.S .customers. This reflects an increase of 22 percent from the previous year, largely due to increased online buying activity from men, adults between the ages of 35 to 54 years old, people from relatively lower income households and consumers with managed vision care benefits.

• Similar increases in 2020 online buying behavior were observed for contact lenses, plano sunglasses and over the counter readers.

The Vision Council also gauges the overall level of Managed Vision Care (MVC) coverage among the U.S. adult population to better understand the evolving MVC landscape. MVC highlights featured in the Q4 results are as follows:

• The number of adults with MVC coverage dropped by about 4 percent since December 2019, which is a net loss of roughly 5.3 million adult covered lives.

• The strongest usage/utilization of MVC benefits to buy eyewear over the past year occurred among women, adults between the ages of 35 to 54 years old, adults with higher annual household incomes (over $60,000 per year), and people from the Southeastern region of the country. 

The ongoing VisionWatch study provides The Vision Council’s members with exclusive insights into the optical marketplace’s current and historical trends, retailer shares, consumer traits and demographic breakdowns. The Vision Council issues other topical research reports throughout the year that are available for purchase.

For more information on The Vision Council’s VisionWatch reports, and for member access to the Q4 2020 reports, visit The Vision Council’s Research Download Center, here.