Optical Goods Retailing - UK - February 2015
“The market for optical goods in the UK is concentrating into the hands of three major companies: Specsavers, Boots Opticians and Vision Express. Although Specsavers is reaching saturation in terms of store numbers we have seen Boots on an expansion trail, while Vision Express has been expanding by buying up established businesses. Meanwhile, small-to-medium sized chains have been under intense pressure and many established names have been subsumed into the larger groups. Established opticians are also facing new challenges as Tesco and Asda’s in-store chains reach maturity. In these tough market conditions we see continued efforts to persuade consumers to switch retailers, as well as companies aiming to expand their services by adding other revenue streams including hearing care and domiciliary services.”
– Jane Westgarth, Senior Market Analyst
This report answers the following questions:
- How much are discounts influencing demand?
- Do people who use screen-based technology want special eyewear?
- Will supermarkets come to dominate optics?
In the last ten years we have seen the opticians market concentrate into the hands of fewer but larger businesses, leaving three major chains and fewer smaller competitors. Market leader, Specsavers, has continued to add to its already high store numbers in the UK; Boots has absorbed Dollond & Aitchison and Vision Express has expanded by buying several regional chains. Meanwhile a smaller multiple, Optical Express, resorted to rationalisation of store numbers and corporate refinancing in order to remain afloat.
Although this knocks out several established retailers, competition remains fierce, especially as the supermarket chains have all expanded their in-store opticians presence. Tesco (run by Galaxy), Asda and Sainsbury’s (via an arrangement with Mee) have all added to their in-store opticians chains, with Tesco and Asda focussing on low prices.
In 2014 the market grew to reach over £2 billion. Growth was helped by a stronger performance in contact lenses, some price increases and a tendency for opticians to prescribe more added-value spectacle lenses such as varifocals.
This report takes a look at optical goods and sunglasses. It examines consumer spending, looks at what consumers are buying and where. It takes a look at the uptake of special offers in the marketplace, as well as people’s attitudes to buying lenses specially designed for using with screen-based technology such as mobile phones and computers.
This report covers core goods and services sold through opticians including:
- Eye tests
- Prescription sunglasses
- Spectacle frames and lenses (we use the term glasses and spectacles interchangeably)
- Contact lenses (including aftercare)
- Contact lens solutions through opticians, chemists and other outlets.
In addition, this report includes eyecare solutions, such as Optrex, eye baths and eye masks, which are used for the treatment of sore and tired eyes.
The report also looks at the market for non-prescription sunglasses including those sold by outlets other than opticians.
For the purposes of this report, retail opticians shops and optical practices refer to shops staffed by qualified opticians. There are three types of practitioner:
Optometrists or Ophthalmic Opticians (often abbreviated to OOs) are registered with the General Optical Council and specialise in sight testing and the prescribing and dispensing of spectacles and optical appliances. They are trained to recognise eye diseases and abnormalities which may require further medical intervention.
Ophthalmic Medical Practitioners (OMPs) are fully qualified doctors with a speciality in eyes and eyecare. They are registered with the General Medical Council and can test sight and prescribe spectacles and other appliances. They are also trained in the detection and treatment of eye diseases and abnormalities.
Dispensing Opticians (DOs) are qualified to dispense, fit and supply spectacles, but they require an additional certificate to fit contact lenses. Dispensing opticians with additional qualifications can become contact lens opticians. Contact lenses may also be fitted by qualified OMPs and Optometrists.
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