Overall Eyecare Market Economics
By all economic measures, the eyecare industry is healthy and growing. Globally, the market is valued at $170 billion, and the US market makes up $76 billion, or about 45% of the global market. More indicative of the health of our industry are projections for growth that forecast that, by 2029, the market will approach $300 billion worldwide, and the US market will be more than $120 billion. These numbers only consider eye exams, frames, lenses, contact lenses, sunglasses, and readers. When you start to consider medical eye care, it is easy to see why companies are investing in our profession.
The Value of Presbyopes in Our Practices
Let’s take a quick review of the numbers and value of presbyopes in our practices.
We know that, of the 331 million people in the United States, more than 150 million are older than 40 or presbyopes. Straight line math would indicate that the overall US market value of presbyopes is around $35 billion. Presbyopes make up more than half of the total $76 billion spent on eye care when we consider average dollars spent. These patients will also have more stickiness in our practices since they will tend to come to our offices more frequently.
Solutions for Our Presbyopia Patients
We have more solutions today than ever for our patients with presbyopia. Glasses, multifocal contacts, multifocal intraocular lenses, drops, and surgical procedures are all options, and more are being researched and developed. This increased investment is likely to continue, and it is imperative that we offer all options to our patients. This month we will take a closer look at glasses as the primary option to treating presbyopia.
Glasses for Presbyopia
Glass lenses were first developed in the 13th century, and none other than Benjamin Franklin developed the first bifocals in the 18th century. Franklin’s original multifocal lenses would be like the executive bifocals that we still have today. But the innovation and evolution of lenses have certainly continued. We had the addition of a third section called the trifocal and many exotic designs, such as the double D for specific occupational uses. Today, when we think about correction for presbyopia, most of us think about the progressive lens design. The first progressive lens was developed in 1959 by Bernard Maitenaz. Today, we have hundreds of progressive lens designs and manufacturers from which to choose.
The Power of “AND”
• Multiple Pair Opportunities With Presbyopes
Many of you, like me, are presbyopes. One of the great opportunities with presbyopes from a practice management and profitability standpoint is the power of “AND.” While here we are focused on glasses, the word “and” should be the recurrent theme in all optometry offices. The reality for all of us and for our patients is that it is rare that one form of correction can meet all our visual demands. We should always be thinking about the primary correction AND: contacts, sunglasses, reading glasses, driving glasses, computer glasses, and so on. For our presbyopic patients, this is especially true. In fact, 38% of patients who buy in person purchase more than one pair of glasses.
• AND Reading Glasses
More than 1 out of every 5 prescription glasses wearers also have reading glasses. Reading glasses make up 2% or $1.55 billion of the sales in the United States. Often, I hear practices say they do not sell reading glasses because they do not want their patients to have that option. They want them to buy prescription glasses. I would encourage us all to embrace an AND mentality and offer reading glasses as one of many needed options for our patients.
• AND Sunglasses
It is estimated that more than 60% of patients wear plano sunglasses, which translates to more than $6 billion in sales for the United States, making up 8% of all sales. More than half of patients have 2 or more pairs of sunglasses, and more than 60% say they will buy a new pair in the next 12 months. It should be noted that consumers are price conscious of sunglasses, with more than 70% of patients spending less than $100 on them. All the above numbers are for plano sunglasses. For our patients with presbyopia, consider the opportunity for prescription sunglasses. Living in Florida, I can tell you this is a significant opportunity and an option that should be offered to all patients.
Are Presbyopic Corrections Insulated From Online Sales?
A concern I hear from optometrists is the growth of online sales for glasses and contacts. Up to 15% of current eyewear sales now occur online. We can take comfort that more than 60% of online glasses buyers are younger than 45. The Vision Council has also collected consumer data indicating that 43% of consumers who bought glasses online switched and bought in person the following year.1 Because of the complexities of providing the right solution for patients with presbyopia, these patients will be more likely to purchase glasses in person instead of online. Research continues to show that in-person buyers tend to be older and spend more on glasses than online buyers. I personally believe that a significant portion of the online sales are the “AND” purchase discussed above. Patients go online for those second and third purchase options of sunglasses and readers that we do not proactively offer in our practices.
The Future of Glasses for Presbyopia Correction
We continue to see innovation in the treatment of presbyopia. More and more options of other modalities and procedures will inevitably come to market in the coming months and years. However, the fundamental and tried-and-true method of correction, at least for now, is still glasses. In this space, there are and will continue to be innovation and technological advances and designs. The evolution of 3D-printed progressive lenses that may allow for even more complex and customized designs is evolving, and we as practitioners must evolve and adapt to the needs of our patients to provide them with the best solutions possible. ■
Dr. Spear is an industry thought leader with experience in academics, industry, private practice, and consulting. He is a dynamic speaker who looks at the eye care business logically and offers practical and proven insights on increasing practice profitability.
- Vision Council Consumer inSights Q3 2022. https://thevisioncouncil.org/product/consumer-insights-q3-2022-report