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2019’s 10 MEGA MARKET TRENDS

EB’s proprietary and wide-ranging ECP-focused research conducted throughout 2018 pinpoints both new product directions + key competitive categories. Get the 10 top trends here.

What’s trending in optical? And what does it mean to you?

To answer these critical questions, we kept our finger on the pulse of the industry throughout 2018 by conducting reader research on every key product category and business area—and, we also invited you to share with us the main business challenges you are facing.

We’ve distilled all of this insider intel to create a prescient profile of what’s happening now in the industry, including the implications for your business.

Read on for the big reveal of the 10 major market trends in store—literally and figuratively—for 2019. >>>

1 THE BIG DISRUPTOR

ECPs agree that online competition continues to be the biggest threat to their frame business. And, 92% of those surveyed say that online sales of contact lenses have affected their business at some level, with 20% reporting it has impacted them “a lot.”

Totally bucking national retail trends, only 14% of ECPs now sell products online—down from 28% in 2016. Revenue from online sales is also down—to 1% from 2.5% a year earlier.

Looking ahead, however, 35% of ECPs who don’t sell online now say they plan to do so within the next two years.

2 A NEW PRACTICE PROFILE

More than two-thirds (67%) of ECPs report annual sales of over $500,000. As for who’s bringing in those sales, ECPs say nearly as many Gen Xers now come through their doors as Boomers (27% Gen X and 28% Boomers). That’s a notable shift from just 12 months earlier, when Boomers represented 30% of patients and Gen X just 25%.

The tide is definitely turning, and so are buying habits. More than half (56%) of ECPs report increased multiple-pair sales over the past year, and 39% report higher-priced sunwear sales soaring year over year.

3 SOCIAL… THE NEW ‘MUST-DO’

A total of 69% of ECPs use social media to aid their business. At 73%, Facebook is overwhelmingly the outlet of choice. Regardless of which channels they prefer, the highest percentage of ECPs (26%) post only a few times a month, with another 24% posting a few times a week, and 13% weekly. Only 9% post every day.

4 SIZZLING SUNWEAR

With Rx sunwear the fastest-growing specialty category, nearly 20% (18%) of total dispensary sales are attributed to sunwear, with 6 out of 10 ECPs reporting an increase in sunwear sales since 2016. The biggest growth, according to 78% of ECPs, is in the sale of polarized lenses. To encourage those sales, Rx sunwear takes up the most frame board space (20%) of any specialty category.

FROM 2016 TO 2018: HOW SUN LENS SALES HAVE CHANGED

% ECPs CATEGORY
▲78%/▼5% Polarized lenses
▲66%/▼11% Photochromic lenses
▲24%/▼13% Polarized photochromics
▲10%/▼19% Interchangeable sports lenses

5 THE BIG BLUE…LIGHT, THAT IS

57% of respondents believe that blue light is not just hype, evidenced in part by the fact that 59% of those surveyed discuss digital eye strain with every patient. That’s up from 38% in 2016.

Plus, 4 out of 10 ECPs also report they discuss blue light protection above and apart from conversations about computer and digital device usage.

6 TECH SELLS…IN LENSES + EQUIPMENT

On a scale of 1 to 10, ECPs give the importance of having advanced technology in lens processing equipment a 7. That technology is just one reason in-house edging is up, as the average number of jobs edged in-house each week is now 47 (compared with 39 in 2017).

Environmental concerns are becoming more of an issue, too, as 85% of ECPs say running eco-friendly equipment is “somewhat” to “very” important. That’s up from 74% two years ago.

High-tech lens designs and materials are also more important than before. In fact, 86% of ECPs surveyed recommend AR to all patients, and 70% of patients buy it. There’s little surprise, then, that 87% of ECPs consider AR their top-selling lens treatment (up from 63% in 2015).

Advanced technology is also a major selling point with progressive lenses. Today, the majority of ECPs (60%) are presenting and selling premium-priced over lower-end PALs. That’s up from 49% in 2016.

7 FRAMES…FASHION VS. FINANCE

More than half of practices (54%) put the majority of eyewear buying dollars into midrange-priced product, with 40% of inventory dollars invested in women’s styles and 27% in men’s. Most practices buy those products from a total of 10 companies in order to create their optimal mix of plastic (48%), metal (38%), and mixed material (17%) frames.

And, what about the role of brand names? Especially at the luxury level, they are “very important,” according to 42% of ECPs who do business at the high end.

8 REGIONAL TRENDING

What’s trendy on one part of the map may be tepid in another. Here are a few examples of what’s hot…and not…in regions around the country.

WHAT + WHERE

HIGH END: Eyecare practitioners in the Northeast continue to display the most high-end products.

PALs: As a percent of PAL sales, ECPs in the Midwest sell the most free-form designs (77% vs. 67% nationwide).

ONLINE SALES: 26% of Southern practices currently sell online—that’s more than any other region and represents the biggest 12-month increase in the nation.

BLUE LIGHT: In the West, eyewear for digital/blue light devices has now surpassed sunwear sales.

PLAY TIME: Sales of both kids and sports eyewear are highest in the Northeast.

SOCIAL MEDIA: A whopping 38% of Western region ECPs report they don’t use social media for business…at all.

9 MAKING CONTACT(S)…MIXED MESSAGES

Monthly disposables rank No. 1 (43%) among soft lens modalities worn by patients. Though contact lens wearers currently represent 35% of business for ECPs surveyed, that’s down from 43% in 2015.

The good news? Nearly 8 in 10 respondents (78%) have seen an upward tick in overall contact lens sales in the last six to 12 months. And, looking ahead, 58% of them are expecting those sales to increase anywhere from 1%-9% within the next six to 12 months.

10 WHAT’S NEXT?

Technology will be ruling the roost like never before. In the lens arena, ECPs predict progressives, free-form, and blue-light-filtering lenses will increase the most over the next two years.

As for contact lenses, 69% of ECPs believe sales will rise over the next year, with multifocal contacts expected to show the greatest growth in the soft lens category. Looking further ahead, 40% of ECPs believe more patients will be wearing daily disposables than monthlies within two years.

Among ECPs looking to purchase equipment over the next three years, most plan to purchase an edger, with a slightly smaller number planning to buy a lensometer. More than half (56%) say they have no plans to purchase equipment in the next three years.