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UK Optical Goods Retailing market report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Optical Goods Retailing market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Covered in this report

This report covers core goods and services sold through opticians including:

  • Eye tests
  • Prescription sunglasses
  • Contact lenses (including aftercare)
  • Contact lens solutions through opticians, chemists and other outlets
  • Spectacle frames and lenses (we use the terms glasses and spectacles interchangeably)

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.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Jane Westgarth, a leading analyst in the Retail sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The takeover of Tesco Opticians by Vision Express at the end of 2017 marks a major change, injecting a ‘big 3’ opticians’ brand into more than 200 supermarket sites. In 2019 Asda’s own opticians’ operation is likely to gain from the proposed merger of Asda with Sainsbury’s creating stiff competition for opticians outlets in conventional shopping locations. Jane Westgarth
Senior Retail Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Products covered in this Report
        • Excluded
        • Executive Summary

            • The market
              • Optical goods and eyecare spending up 3.4% in 2018
                • Figure 1: Market for optical goods and eyecare, 2013-23
                • Figure 2: Consumer spending on optical goods and services, by category, 2018 (est)
              • Innovation has helped to add value
                • The ageing population is helping to create growth in demand
                  • Sunglasses market up 3.4% in 2018
                    • Figure 3: Market for non-prescription sunglasses, 2013-23
                  • Companies and brands
                    • Market share gains for Specsavers and Vision Express
                      • Figure 4: Distribution of optical goods and services, by retailer, 2017 and 2018 (est)
                    • Other growth retailers
                      • Frame styling and virtual try-on
                        • Online pureplays capture around 10% of contact lenses but less than 5% of prescription glasses
                          • The consumer
                            • Specsavers has high levels of trust and usage
                              • Figure 5: Attitudes towards and usage of selected brands, December 2018
                            • Almost half of adults had an eye test in 2018
                              • Figure 6: Usage of eye and hearing services in the last 12 months, November 2017 and December 2018
                            • Hearing tests show a bias towards over-65s
                              • Glasses are the most popular type of eyewear
                                • Figure 7: Wearers of prescription glasses, contact lenses and sunglasses, December 2018
                              • A third of glasses wearers bought in the last year
                                • Figure 8: Purchases of eyewear and hearing aids in the last 12 months, December 2018
                              • Specsavers captures 45% of purchasers
                                • Figure 9: Retailers used for prescription eyewear, December 2018
                              • Clothing retailers popular for fashion sunglasses
                                • Figure 10: Retailers used for fashion eyewear, December 2018
                              • Low prices and special offers capture attention
                                • Figure 11: Factors influencing choice of optician, December 2018
                              • Awareness of healthcare will keep people returning to opticians
                                • Figure 12: Attitudes regarding opticians and eyewear, December 2018
                              • Self-testing for eyes appeals to younger adults
                                • 54% don’t think contact lenses are suitable for everyone
                                  • Shoppers know that they could save by shopping online
                                    • Style is more important than price
                                      • What we think
                                      • Issues and Insights

                                        • What are the implications of opticians moving into supermarkets?
                                          • The facts
                                            • The implications
                                              • Is falling footfall in town centres affecting opticians?
                                                • The facts
                                                  • The implications
                                                    • Is online taking a greater market share of optical goods?
                                                      • The facts
                                                        • The implications
                                                        • The Market – What You Need to Know

                                                          • Consumers spend £3,242 million on optical goods and eyecare
                                                            • Population growth will increase demand
                                                              • Market for sunglasses shows steady growth
                                                                • Innovation has helped to add value
                                                                  • The ageing population is helping to create growth in demand
                                                                    • The sun shone in 2018
                                                                      • Consumer confidence fell towards the end of 2018
                                                                        • Market share gains for Specsavers and Vision Express in 2018
                                                                        • Market Size and Forecast

                                                                          • Steady growth for optical goods and services
                                                                            • Figure 13: Consumer spending on optical goods and services, 2013-23
                                                                          • Contact lenses market grew faster than spectacles over 2013-18
                                                                            • 16% growth forecast for sunglasses between 2018 and 2023
                                                                              • Figure 14: Consumer spending on non-prescription sunglasses, 2013-23
                                                                            • Forecast methodology
                                                                            • Market Segmentation

                                                                              • Spectacles are 61% of the market by value
                                                                                • Figure 15: Consumer spending on optical goods and services, by category, 2018 (est)
                                                                              • Optical goods market by category
                                                                                • Figure 16: Consumer spending on optical goods and services, 2013-18
                                                                                • Figure 17: Consumer spending on spectacle frames and lenses, estimates by category, 2013-18
                                                                              • Innovative lenses help grow the spectacles market
                                                                                • Figure 18: Spectacle lens purchases, by type, (numbers) 2018 (est)
                                                                              • Contact lens market up by 4.3% from 2017-18
                                                                                • Multifocal contact lenses grow market value
                                                                                  • Toric contact lenses have broadened the market
                                                                                    • Rise of daily-wear lenses means lower demand for solutions
                                                                                      • 25% of contact lens wearers are part-time
                                                                                        • Market dominated by soft contact lenses
                                                                                          • Eye drops growing strongly from a small base
                                                                                            • Eye examination numbers growing gradually
                                                                                              • Figure 19: Yearly change in number of NHS eye examinations, England and Wales, 2013-17
                                                                                          • Channels to Market

                                                                                            • Three major chains dominate the UK market
                                                                                              • Figure 20: Distribution of optical goods and services, by retailer, 2017 and 2018 (est)
                                                                                            • Specsavers’ market share grows to 42.1%
                                                                                              • Boots remains a major force
                                                                                                • Vision Express boosts market share through acquiring Tesco Opticians
                                                                                                  • Optical Express concentrates on laser surgery
                                                                                                    • All change for supermarket opticians
                                                                                                      • Sunglasses concessions and in-store opticians open in department stores
                                                                                                        • Key developments in online selling
                                                                                                          • Contact lenses online
                                                                                                            • Essilor takes a major position in digital selling
                                                                                                              • Some 20% of fashion sunglasses are bought online
                                                                                                                • Is Amazon a threat?
                                                                                                                • Market Drivers

                                                                                                                  • Ageing population drives growth
                                                                                                                    • Growth in the teenage market
                                                                                                                      • Figure 21: Trends in the age structure of the UK population, 2018-23
                                                                                                                    • Consumers remain confident about their finances
                                                                                                                      • Figure 22: Trends in how respondents would describe their financial situation, January 2017-November 2018
                                                                                                                    • Summer 2018 was sunnier than average
                                                                                                                      • Figure 23: Sunshine hours, by season, 2014-18
                                                                                                                    • Overseas travel helps build sunglasses sales
                                                                                                                    • Companies and Brands – What You Need to Know

                                                                                                                      • Optical goods chains are growing via acquisition
                                                                                                                        • Specsavers expands into healthcare
                                                                                                                          • Online presence for opticians serves a wide span of purposes
                                                                                                                            • Disruptive strategies from smaller players
                                                                                                                              • Specsavers reaches 800 outlets
                                                                                                                                • Other growth retailers
                                                                                                                                  • Frame styling and virtual try-on
                                                                                                                                  • Leading Specialists

                                                                                                                                    • Specsavers is by far the largest group
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 24: Leading optical goods retailers’ net revenues (excluding VAT), 2013-17
                                                                                                                                    • Tesco acquisition boosts Vision Express’ store numbers
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 25: Leading optical goods retailers’ outlet numbers, 2014-18
                                                                                                                                    • Other chains
                                                                                                                                      • Hakim has doubled store numbers in two years
                                                                                                                                        • Royston Bayfield aims for 50 outlets
                                                                                                                                          • Valli is up to 14 outlets
                                                                                                                                            • Frith drops a store
                                                                                                                                              • Cross Eyes got out of the UK
                                                                                                                                                • European retailers offering designer quality at accessible prices
                                                                                                                                                • Competitive Strategies

                                                                                                                                                  • Why growth via acquisition is the most profitable route
                                                                                                                                                    • Specsavers expands into healthcare provision
                                                                                                                                                      • Online presence for opticians serves a wide span of purposes
                                                                                                                                                        • Promotional tactics remain important
                                                                                                                                                          • How the key retailers differentiate their brands
                                                                                                                                                            • Disruptive strategies from smaller players
                                                                                                                                                            • Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                                                                                                                              • Frame styling apps
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 26: Specsavers, virtual try-on technology, 2018
                                                                                                                                                              • Ace & Tate expanding in the UK
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 27: Ace & Tate, comparing the industry with own production, 2019
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 28: Ace & Tate, local themes for store design, 2019
                                                                                                                                                              • Maison Bonnet opens upscale outlet in Mayfair
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 29: Maison Bonnet, Mayfair, 2019
                                                                                                                                                              • Maison Acuitis promises 40 UK outlets
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 30: Acuitis, UK store, 2018
                                                                                                                                                              • Selfridges revamps London eyewear department
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 31: Selfridges eyewear department, 2018
                                                                                                                                                            • Advertising and Marketing Activity

                                                                                                                                                              • Gradual reduction in above-the-line advertising
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 32: Total above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on opticians, 2014-18
                                                                                                                                                              • Specsavers and Boots upped spending in 2018
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 33: Boots, television advert, 2019
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 34: Breakdown of top five optical goods advertisers’ above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure, 2014-18
                                                                                                                                                              • Television accounts for 33% of spending
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 35: Advertising spend by opticians, by media, 2018
                                                                                                                                                              • Nielsen Ad Intel coverage
                                                                                                                                                              • Brand Research

                                                                                                                                                                  • Brand map
                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 36: Attitudes towards and usage of selected brands, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                  • Key brand metrics
                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 37: Key metrics for selected brands, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                  • Clulow commands a premium
                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 38: Attitudes, by brand, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                  • Specsavers stands out as a fun brand
                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 39: Brand personality – Macro image, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                  • Specsavers is authoritative
                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 40: Brand personality – Micro image, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                  • Brand analysis
                                                                                                                                                                    • Specsavers is an outstanding brand, with broad appeal
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 41: User profile of Specsavers, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                    • Boots has a strong overall image
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 42: User profile of Boots Opticians, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                    • Asda Opticians captures a broad range of customers
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 43: User profile of Asda Opticians, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                    • Vision Express appeals to affluent customers
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 44: User profile of Vision Express, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                    • David Clulow appeals to wealthy young adults
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 45: User profile of David Clulow, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                  • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                                                                                                                    • 48% had an eye test in the last year
                                                                                                                                                                      • Six in 10 wear glasses
                                                                                                                                                                        • Specsavers captures 45% of purchasers
                                                                                                                                                                          • Independents popular with over-65s while online shoppers are young
                                                                                                                                                                            • Fashion retailers popular for sunglasses
                                                                                                                                                                              • Variety of factors influence choice of optician
                                                                                                                                                                                • Online services are important
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Awareness of healthcare will keep people returning to opticians
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Potential to encourage people to try contact lenses
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Attitudes towards buying glasses online
                                                                                                                                                                                        • 16-34s will pay extra for brands
                                                                                                                                                                                          • People don’t feel bad about shopping around
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Eye Tests and Hearing Tests

                                                                                                                                                                                            • Almost half of adults had an eye test in 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 46: Usage of eye and hearing services in the last 12 months, November 2017 and December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Hearing tests show a bias towards over-65s
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Higher percentage have eye tests over age 45
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 47: Eye tests, hearing tests and laser eye surgery, by age, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Those with the healthiest finances more likely to have eye examinations
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 48: Eye tests in the last 12 months, by financial situation, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Wearers of Glasses, Contact Lenses and Sunglasses

                                                                                                                                                                                              • Glasses are the most popular type of eyewear
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 49: Wearers of prescription glasses, contact lenses and sunglasses, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                              • More than two thirds of over-45s use prescription eyewear
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 50: Wearers of any prescription eyewear, by age, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                              • 42% wear one type of eyewear
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Purchases in the Last 12 Months

                                                                                                                                                                                                • A third of glasses wearers bought in the last year
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 51: Purchases of eyewear and hearing aids in the last 12 months, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 52: Purchases of prescription eyewear, by age, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Retailers Used for Prescription Eyewear

                                                                                                                                                                                                • Specsavers captures 45% of purchasers
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Independents attract older shoppers
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Internet shoppers are younger and wealthier
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 53: Retailers used for prescription eyewear, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Retailers Used for Fashion Eyewear

                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Clothing retailers popular for fashion eyewear
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 54: Retailers used for fashion eyewear, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Factors Influencing Choice of Opticians

                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Low prices and special offers capture attention
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Well-equipped test rooms
                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Reminders are a call to action
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Online services are important
                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Designer brands attract younger shoppers
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Styling technology
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 55: Factors influencing choice of opticians, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Attitudes Regarding Opticians and Eyewear

                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Attitudes towards eye tests
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Self-testing for eyes appeals to younger adults
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Strong health associations
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 56: Attitudes regarding opticians and eyewear, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Attitudes regarding contact lenses and laser surgery
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • 54% don’t think contact lenses are suitable for everyone
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • 16-34s show an interest in laser
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Contact lenses have a ‘fiddly’ image
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 57: Attitudes regarding opticians and eyewear, contact lenses, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Attitudes towards buying glasses online
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Younger shoppers most likely to rate glasses bought online
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • 25-34s understand that online shopping could save money
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • 80% feel it is important to have glasses fitted professionally
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 58: Attitudes regarding opticians and eyewear, online shopping for glasses, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Attitudes towards brands, style and shopping around
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Younger shoppers will pay more for brands
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Style matters more than price
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • It is OK to shop around
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 59: Attitudes regarding opticians and eyewear, price, brand and shopping around, December 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Appendix – Data Sources, Abbreviations and Supporting Information

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Abbreviations
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Consumer research methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Appendix – Market Size and Forecast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Forecast methodology