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Recovery, Coast to Coast

How are ECPs in different regions across the country coping with the Covid-19 crisis? EB’s exclusive 2020 Annual Regional Report pinpoints key trends defined by U.S. Census Region.

Each July, Eyecare Business magazine takes the pulse of practices across the country to reveal trends in eyecare and eyewear sales.

This year, our exclusive Eyecare Business Annual Regional Report takes a timely turn to check in with ECPs from coast to coast via five distinct waves deployed of EB’s Covid-19 + ECPs Focus Group Study from March to May to see how they’re coping—and recovering—during the Covid-19 crisis.

And, it turns out, during a recession, too. Just like many people didn’t know they had Covid-19, many do not realize the U.S. has now officially been in a recession since February.

“[Our] biggest concern is how to survive on 50-75% of income when most costs will remain the same.”

—Covid-19 + ECPs survey respondent

How is this impacting optical?

The regional statistics presented in this exclusive report address everything from unemployment rates and financial impact to reopening strategies and even stress. And, to bring those numbers to life, we also feature in-the-moment responses from individual ECPs in each region.

Who participated in this important research study?

More than three-quarters of respondents (76%) from the end-of-May study were O.D.s and 18% were opticians—with a full 72% of them the owners of their practice.

What is the financial toll of the Covid-19 crisis on ECPs across the country?

It’s little surprise that 75% of respondents in the May study said they were expecting the pandemic to have a “significant financial impact” on their business. Still, this number is tempering—in April, 85% of respondents said they expected a “significant financial impact.”

Additionally, 52% of practices across the country surveyed in late May had temporarily laid off staff members due to Covid-19, and another 6% had permanently let staff go. Nearly 40% had kept their entire staff intact.

Good news: Just 1% of respondents said they were forced to close their business for good due to the crisis. The remaining 99% are reopening and recovering.

The study results paint a picture of concern and uncertainty, with a hint of optimism.

For example, one O.D. from the West told EB, “I feel like I’m starting all over again after being in practice for 52 years.”

One Midwest ECP pinpointed their current biggest concerns as, “New protocols and routines. Vision plan reimbursement is the same, but the cost of providing care went way up.”

TOP 10 FRAME BRANDS NATIONWIDE (Q1 2020)

  1. Ray-Ban (Luxottica)
  2. Oakley (Luxottica)
  3. Nike (Marchon)
  4. Marchon NYC (Marchon)
  5. Kate Spade (Safilo)
  6. Enhance (New York Eye)
  7. Coach (Luxottica)
  8. Flexon (Marchon)
  9. Calvin Klein (Marchon)
  10. Silhouette (Silhouette)

Source: GPN

ECONOMY + EMPLOYMENT

Among other things, that the U.S. is now in a recession closes the books on the longest-ever period of economic expansion in the nation, ushering in the biggest drop in the economy since Q4 2008.

Actually, that book wasn’t just closed. It was slammed shut. And though official figures aren’t in yet, Q2 doesn’t look a lot better in many areas. Due to the free fall in consumer consumption, the annualized GDP rate is expected to plunge by nearly 40%.

How bad is it? While 2.5 million jobs were added in May, unemployment is currently officially pegged at 13.3%.

“We are washing our hands every time we leave the room and return or anytime we touch a patient before touching anything else.”

—Covid-19 + ECPs survey respondent

75%
PERCENTAGE OF SURVEY RESPONDENTS WHO EXPECT A “SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL IMPACT” ON THEIR BUSINESS FROM THE COVID-19 CRISIS.

THE NORTHEAST

Coping with the crisis on the East Coast

Though the Northeast’s 11 states take up just 5% of the country’s land mass, they’re home to 20% of its population—one of the reasons that the region has seen such a ferocious spread of Covid-19.

While New York City was the epicenter of the virus early on, new cases in most Northeastern states have been slowing. As Gov. Andrew Cuomo says, “New York has its mojo back.” That’s in stark contrast to both the South and parts of the West, at least currently, where hot spots continue to flare.

Looking at optical, thanks in part to some tougher state and local regulations, a whopping 86% of practices in the Northeast told EB at the end of May that they were still under stay-at-home orders. That’s 20 more percentage points than the national average at the time.

While fewer Northeast practices permanently let staff go due to Covid-19, 62% (more than any other region) report temporary staff layoffs.

UNEMPLOYMENT

The latest numbers peg the Northeast at an overall jobless rate of 14.1% as of May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here, we share the states in the region with the highest and lowest unemployment rates.

NORTHEAST STATES WITH HIGHEST UNEMPLOYMENT

Rhode Island (16.3%)

Massachusetts (16.3%)

Delaware (15.8%)

New Jersey (15.2%)

New York (14.5%)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics for period ending June 19, 2020

NORTHEAST STATES WITH LOWEST UNEMPLOYMENT

District of Columbia (8.9%)

Maine (9.3%)

Connecticut (9.4%)

Maryland (9.9%)

Vermont (12.7%)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics for period ending June 19, 2020

THE BIG PICTURE IN OPTICAL

What about eyecare professionals in the Northeast region? Here’s a glance at four key ECP indicators in the Northeast.

In the Mix. While a third of ECPs have no plans to change their frame mix, and 38% say it’s too early to decide, just over one-quarter (26%) will be looking to add in additional lower-priced product.

Frame Purchasing. Right in line with nationwide trends, 56% of practices report plans to reduce frame purchases for the rest of the year. The one difference? More ECPs in the Northeast plan to cut back on purchases by 75% or more than do those in other regions.

Other Purchasing. Though 48% of respondents say that it’s too early to tell, more than a quarter (26%) report no plans to reduce spectacle lens purchases. As for contact lenses, 31% say they plan to cut back, while another 36% have no plans to do so. When it comes to equipment, however, 40% of respondents (more than any other region) report they’ll be reducing purchases by 75% or more for the remainder of 2020.

Communications. More than 1 out of 5 practices (21%) say they haven’t sent any messaging at all to patients during or about the Covid-19 pandemic. More than half (52%) did, however, update their website during this period.

“I’m cautious about purchasing until year-end, so we’re using consignment heavily.”

—Northeast Region Respondent

6.1
HOW NORTHEAST REGION ECPS RATE THEIR BUSINESS-RELATED STRESS LEVEL DUE TO THE COVID-19 CRISIS, ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10.

TOP 10 FRAME BRANDS NORTHEAST REGION (Q1 2020)

  1. Ray-Ban (Luxottica)
  2. Oakley (Luxottica)
  3. Kate Spade (Safilo)
  4. Nike (Marchon)
  5. Enhance (New York Eye)
  6. Marchon NYC (Marchon)
  7. Safilo (Safilo)
  8. Flexon (Marchon)
  9. Coach (Luxottica)
  10. Silhouette (Silhouette)

Source: GPN

“I’ve cut down patient capacity by 75% so we can allocate the time to disinfect and cut down staff by half to reduce interaction. I don’t know how much longer I can afford to do this.”

—Northeast Region Respondent

THE SOUTH

With an aggressive stance on Covid-19 reopenings, several Southern states opened up much earlier than most.

72%
PERCENTAGE OF SOUTH REGION SURVEY RESPONDENTS WHO EXPECT A “SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL IMPACT” ON THEIR BUSINESS FROM THE COVID-19 CRISIS.

Though federal health officials have recommended states record a downward trajectory of cases for two weeks before opening, the South has definitely been more aggressive in reopening than other regions across the U.S.

Nationwide, 66% of ECPs reported their community was under a stay-at-home order at the end of May, compared with only 45% of Southern ECPs. As a result, 68% of Southern practices reported starting to schedule all patient visits at that time, compared with just 54% nationally.

On the other hand, the region’s ECPs temporarily laid off or let go fewer staff members than other areas: 45% in the South compared with 58% countrywide.

UNEMPLOYMENT

The latest numbers show the South region with an overall jobless rate of 12.1% as of May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here, we share the states in the region with the highest and lowest unemployment rates.

SOUTH STATES WITH HIGHEST UNEMPLOYMENT

Florida (14.5%)

Louisiana (13.3%)

West Virginia (12.9%)

North Carolina (12.9%)

South Carolina (12.5%)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics for period ending June 19, 2020

SOUTH STATES WITH LOWEST UNEMPLOYMENT

Virginia (9.4%)

Arkansas (9.5%)

Georgia (9.7%)

Alabama (9.9%)

Mississippi (10.6%)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics for period ending June 19, 2020

“We go to the car to get the patient. Check-in, checkout, and the exams are completed in the exam room.”

—South Region Respondent

THE BIG PICTURE IN OPTICAL

What about eyecare professionals in the Southern region? Here’s a look at four key ECP indicators in the South.

In the Mix. More than half the ECPs in the South say it’s too early to decide how they will adjust their inventory in terms of price points. Nearly one-fifth (19%) have, however, already decided to bring in additional lower-priced options, while 10% (more than any other region) will be adding more Medicaid-qualifying frames to meet the needs of the growing number of unemployed patients.

Frame Purchasing. Right in line with the national average, 26% of Southern ECPs plan to cut back frame purchases by 50% for the remainder of 2020. Another 16% will be reducing buys by 25%.

Other Purchasing. Southern ECPs expect both spectacle and contact lens sales to drop more than do their peers in other regions. When it comes to equipment, 13% are cutting back purchases by half and 26% by 75% or more.

Communications. ECPs here have kept in better touch than their peers overall during the Covid-19 pandemic, with 68% communicating via email, 55% by text, 55% through updated websites, and 52% via social media.

6.1
HOW SOUTH REGION ECPS RATE THEIR BUSINESS-RELATED STRESS LEVEL DUE TO THE COVID-19 CRISIS, ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10. RESPONDENTS IN THE SOUTH REPORT SLIGHTLY LOWER STRESS LEVELS THAN THE ECP NATIONAL AVERAGE.

TOP 10 FRAME BRANDS SOUTH REGION (Q1 2020)

  1. Ray-Ban (Luxottica)
  2. Oakley (Luxottica)
  3. Enhance (New York Eye)
  4. Marchon NYC (Marchon)
  5. Nike (Marchon)
  6. Kate Spade (Safilo)
  7. Coach (Luxottica)
  8. Silhouette (Silhouette)
  9. Michael Kors (Luxottica)
  10. Flexon (Marchon)

Source: GPN

“Getting throughput first. I think the key is to not change the display options with a sale—i.e., don’t take from the display inventory.”

—South Region Respondent

THE MIDWEST

An inside look at how the Covid-19 crisis is impacting practices in the heartland

“[We will] buy as we sell to keep budget in line with sales. We’re proceeding with cautious optimism.”

—Midwest Region Respondent

Coronavirus cases have continued to surge in many Midwestern states, including Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The region’s health care system is feeling the strain, and ECPs are feeling the pressure, as well.

In the face of all this, how do ECPs in the middle of the country meet patient needs and stay safe simultaneously? That’s just some of what we address in this deep dive into the Midwest.

About half (53%) of Midwestern ECPs reported that their community was under stay-at-home orders at the end of May. That ranks it the second-most “open for business” region, just below the South. Six out of 10 practices are, in fact, seeing all patients, not just emergencies.

Though the region’s ECPs have permanently let go of fewer staff members than those in most other areas, 4% (double the national average) say it’s still too soon to know what staffing measures they need to take.

67%
PERCENTAGE OF MIDWEST REGION SURVEY RESPONDENTS WHO EXPECT A “SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL IMPACT” ON THEIR BUSINESS FROM THE COVID-19 CRISIS.

UNEMPLOYMENT

The latest numbers show the Midwest region with an overall jobless rate of 13.3% as of May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here, we share the states in the region with the highest and lowest unemployment rates.

MIDWEST STATES WITH HIGHEST UNEMPLOYMENT

Michigan (21.2%)

Ohio (13.7%)

Pennsylvania (13.1%)

Vermont (12.5%)

Indiana (12.3%)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics for period ending June 19, 2020

MIDWEST STATES WITH LOWEST UNEMPLOYMENT

Nebraska (5.2%)

North Dakota (9.1%)

South Dakota (9.4%)

Minnesota (9.9%)

Iowa (10%)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics for period ending June 19, 2020

THE BIG PICTURE

What about eyecare professionals in the Midwest region? Here’s a glance at several key aspects of optical in the Midwest.

In the Mix. One-fifth of ECPs in the Midwest will be looking to bring in lower-priced frames, while 38% have no plans to adjust their pre-pandemic mix. Nearly 4 out of 10 (36%) say it’s too early to decide.

Frame Purchasing. Fewer Midwestern ECPs plan to cut down on frame purchases than all other regions—49% in the Midwest versus 55% nationwide.

Other Purchasing. Nearly half (49%) of ECPs in the Midwest say it’s too soon to know about spectacle lens purchasing for the rest of the year. When it comes to contact lenses, only 4% of Midwestern ECPs plan to cut purchases by 50% or more, putting it way below any other region. As for equipment, more ECPs (20%) report no plans to reduce purchasing plans than their peers in other parts of the country.

Communications. More Midwestern ECPs have used this time to update websites and social media than their peers in the nation’s other three regions.

6.3
HOW MIDWEST REGION ECPS RATE THEIR BUSINESS-RELATED STRESS LEVEL DUE TO THE COVID-19 CRISIS, ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10. LOWER THAN ONLY THE WEST, ECPS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE COUNTRY PEG THEIR STRESS LEVEL AT 6.3.

TOP 10 FRAME BRANDS: MIDWEST REGION (Q1 2020)

  1. Ray-Ban (Luxottica)
  2. Oakley (Luxottica)
  3. Nike (Marchon)
  4. Marchon NYC (Marchon)
  5. Kate Spade (Safilo)
  6. Coach (Luxottica)
  7. Flexon (Marchon)
  8. Scott Harris (Europa International)
  9. Ted Baker (Tura)
  10. Calvin Klein (Marchon)

Source: GPN

“[We are doing] full exam room cleaning with hypochlorous acid spray after each patient; sanitizing frames with 50/50 hydrogen peroxide/water.”

—Midwest Region Respondent

THE WEST

A revealing look at how eyecare professionals in the West are riding the Covid-19 waves

81%
PERCENTAGE OF WEST REGION SURVEY RESPONDENTS WHO EXPECT A “SIGNIFICANT FINANCIAL IMPACT” ON THEIR BUSINESS FROM THE COVID-19 CRISIS.

Washington, Oregon, and California have been working to coordinate opening efforts in two stages.

Despite some impressive planning, the region is experiencing spikes, with California leading the new-case count in the West at the time of press approval. Arizona is the only other state in the region that’s included in the not-so-envious top-10 list of states with current cases.

As for optical, just over half (53%) of ECPs in the West say they have temporarily laid off staff members, while 8% (more than any region other than the South) permanently let go of some employees. In line with national norms, 36% of practices report making no changes to staffing during the pandemic.

While 3 out of 4 practices report they were under stay-at-home orders at the end of May, and 19% of ECPs remained closed at that time, 58% were open and seeing patients. Another 11% were seeing emergencies only.

UNEMPLOYMENT

In the West region, the unemployment rate rang in at 14.5% as of May 2020, with Utah boasting the region’s lowest unemployment rate (8.5%). That’s in stark contrast to Nevada, the region’s hardest hit, with a 25.3% unemployment rate. That’s nearly double other states in the region. Here, we share the states in the region with the highest and lowest unemployment rates.

WEST STATES WITH HIGHEST UNEMPLOYMENT

Nevada (25.3%)

Hawaii (22.6%)

California (16.3%)

Washington (15.1%)

Oregon (14.2%)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics for period ending June 19, 2020

WEST STATES WITH LOWEST UNEMPLOYMENT

Utah (8.5%)

Wyoming (8.8%)

Arizona (8.9%)

Idaho (8.9%)

Montana (9%)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics for period ending June 19, 2020

“Spectacles and contact lenses are picked up via drive-up outside. Frame adjustments and/or selection are by appointment only.”

—West Region Respondent

THE BIG PICTURE IN OPTICAL

What about eyecare professionals in the West region? Here’s a look at four key ECP indicators in the West.

In the Mix. Nearly a quarter of ECPs (22%) plan to bring in more affordable frame options, while 42% have no plans to modify their mix. Another 39% say it’s too early to decide.

Frame Purchasing. While 39% of Western ECPs say they don’t know yet, 14% plan to cut frame purchases by 25%, 36% by half, and 11% by 75% or more.

Other Purchasing. When it comes to spectacle lenses, while half don’t know yet and 8% have no plans to change their assortment, 28% plan to cut back by up to 25%, 11% by half, and 3% by 75% or more. In the contact lens category, 19% of ECPs have no plans to change purchasing patterns, 22% will eliminate 25% of orders, 11% by half, and 6% by three-quarters. As for equipment, one-third plan to cut purchases by 75% or more.

Communications. While fewer Western ECPs have updated social media during the pandemic than those in other regions, they were second in the nation when it comes to communicating with patients via email and text.

7.0
HOW WEST REGION ECPS RATE THEIR BUSINESS-RELATED STRESS LEVEL DUE TO THE COVID-19 CRISIS, ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10. ECPS IN THE WEST ARE MORE STRESSED ABOUT THEIR BUSINESS THAN THOSE IN ANY OTHER REGION.

TOP 10 FRAME BRANDS: WEST REGION (Q1 2020)

  1. Ray-Ban (Luxottica)
  2. Oakley (Luxottica)
  3. Nike (Marchon)
  4. Marchon NYC (Marchon)
  5. Kate Spade (Safilo)
  6. Calvin Klein (Marchon)
  7. Flexon (Marchon)
  8. Maui Jim (Maui Jim)
  9. Coach (Luxottica)
  10. Bebe (Altair Eyewear)

Source: GPN

“[We are] changing chairs to plastic as much as we can, rearranging office, and taking away things on surfaces.”

—West Region Respondent