Vision care products and services sold at U.S. optical retail locations increased 5.8% from $28,624 million in 2011 to $30,287 million in 2012, as estimated by The Vision Council’s VisionWatch report. The nation’s top 50 optical retailers, representing 1 out of 5 retail locations, account for close to 27% of the total vision market, according to Vision Monday’s 2013 Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers report and ranking.
Smaller retail chains, defined by VisionWatch as those optical retailers with 4 or more locations, accounted for 29% of the market while representing only 13% of total locations, according to the most recent NetMinder update. Independent optometrists (eye care professionals, or ECPs, with 1-3 locations) account for 2 of every 3 retail optical outlets and control the largest share of the market. In spite of their significant presence, ECPs’ market share is only 45%. Why are ECPs’ revenues per location lagging the chains? One reason may be that consumers gravitate to ECPs for the smaller, exam portion of the market, while preferring retail chains for the faster growing, more lucrative materials (frames, lenses, and contacts) segment.
What does this mean for ECPs going forward? Will they become marginalized by the big chains like so many other industries? Or will their high-touch approach preserve their market position?