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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?

Key points included

  • Online selling is building momentum
  • New wave of opticians with personality and a DTC model
  • What is the relevance of supermarkets in optics?

Covered in this report

In recent years we have seen the opticians market concentrate into the hands of fewer but larger businesses. Three major chains dominate the market, Specsavers, Vision Express and Boots Opticians. Market leader Specsavers has continued to add to its already high store numbers in the UK and opened its 900th outlet in 2019, Vision Express took a leap forward when it bought Tesco Opticians at the end of 2017 and Boots Opticians continues to benefit from its strong heritage brand. But competition remains fierce, as online sellers build momentum, particularly in the contact lens sector. In retailing new entrants promise to deliver their own stylish designs at prices that undercut the brands.


In 2019 the market for optical goods and services grew by 3% to reach £3,339 million, helped by growth in the population, the ageing population and the ability of opticians to add value to sales with products such as varifocal spectacle lenses. The market for contact lenses, within this total, benefited from innovation including varifocal lenses and healthier, more comfortable materials.

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.

This is a highly concentrated sector, dominated by three major retail brands. Specsavers has been mopping up independent retailers and has now reached 900 UK outlets, raising the question of how much more growth is realistic for this highly successful business. Vision Express took a leap forward with the acquisition of Tesco Opticians in 2017, bringing its store numbers up to almost 600, and Boots Opticians continues to benefit from the heritage strength of its parent company brand Jane Westgarth
Senior Retail Analyst

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What's included

What's included

Table of contents

Table of contents

  1. Overview

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

            • The market
              • Steady market growth
                • Figure 1: Consumer spend on optical goods and services, 2014-24
              • Sunglasses are a fashion item
                • Spectacles account for more than 60% of spend
                  • Figure 2: Consumer spend on optical goods and services, by category, 2019 (est)
                • Companies and brands
                  • Big three opticians capture 71% of spend
                    • Figure 3: Opticians retailers, market share, 2019 (est)
                  • Specsavers has opened its 900th store
                    • Tesco acquisition boosts Vision Express’ store numbers
                      • Hakim has doubled store numbers in two years
                        • Other opticians with ambition for growth
                          • Virtual try-on will boost internet sales
                            • New look for Boots Opticians
                              • Photochromic contact lenses
                                • Future product developments
                                  • Specsavers and Boots brands enjoy high levels of trust
                                    • Figure 4: Attitudes towards and usage of selected brands, December 2019
                                  • The consumer
                                    • 71% had eye tests in the last two years
                                      • Figure 5: Eye tests, contact lens appointments and hearing tests in the last two years, December 2019
                                    • 9% have had laser eyesight correction
                                      • 35% wear, or have ever worn, contact lenses
                                        • Figure 6: Experience of wearing contact lenses, December 2019
                                      • Discomfort is the key reason for opting out of contact lenses
                                        • Figure 7: Reasons for stopping wearing contact lenses, December 2019
                                      • High level of purchasing activity
                                        • Figure 8: Eyewear and hearing aids purchased in the last two years, December 2019
                                      • Specsavers is the most used optician
                                        • Independents appeal to over-55s
                                          • Figure 9: Retailers used for glasses and prescription sunglasses bought in the last two years, December 2019
                                        • Specsavers captures 39% of contact lens shoppers
                                          • Internet specialists popular for contact lenses
                                            • Figure 10: Retailers used for contact lenses bought in the last two years, December 2019
                                          • Multi-layered choice process
                                            • Over-65s aware of healthcare
                                              • Figure 11: Factors influencing choice of opticians, December 2019
                                            • Healthcare plays an important role
                                              • Personal service is a key feature
                                                • Internet savings can be a draw
                                                  • Figure 12: Attitudes towards opticians, December 2019
                                                • What we think
                                                • Issues and Insights

                                                  • Online selling is building momentum
                                                    • The facts
                                                      • The implications
                                                        • New wave of opticians with personality and a DTC model
                                                          • The facts
                                                            • The implications
                                                              • What is the relevance of supermarkets in optics?
                                                                • The facts
                                                                  • The implications
                                                                  • The Market – What You Need to Know

                                                                    • Ageing population fuels market growth
                                                                      • 12% growth forecast for sunglasses between 2019 and 2024
                                                                        • Glasses account for 61% of spend
                                                                          • Innovation has added value
                                                                            • Three major chains dominate the UK opticians sector
                                                                              • Internet specialists growing
                                                                                • Population growth and healthy finances
                                                                                  • 2019 not as sunny as the previous year
                                                                                  • Market Size and Forecast

                                                                                    • Steady growth for optical goods and services
                                                                                      • Figure 13: Consumer spending on optical goods and services, 2014-24
                                                                                    • 12% growth forecast for sunglasses between 2019 and 2024
                                                                                      • Figure 14: Consumer spending on non-prescription sunglasses, 2014-24
                                                                                    • Forecast methodology
                                                                                    • Market Segmentation

                                                                                      • Spectacles are the main element of the optical goods market
                                                                                        • Figure 15: Consumer spending on optical goods and services, by category, 2019 (est)
                                                                                      • Optical goods market by category
                                                                                        • Figure 16: Consumer spending on optical goods and services, 2014-19
                                                                                      • Innovative lenses help grow the spectacles market
                                                                                        • Figure 17: Spectacle lens purchases, by type, (numbers) 2019 (est)
                                                                                      • Contact lens market up by 20.5% from 2014-19
                                                                                        • 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 18: Yearly change in number of NHS eye examinations, England and Wales, 2014-18
                                                                                                  • Channels to Market

                                                                                                    • Three major chains dominate the UK market
                                                                                                      • Figure 19: Distribution of optical goods and services, by retailer, 2018 and 2019 (est)
                                                                                                  • Market Drivers

                                                                                                    • Ageing population drives growth
                                                                                                      • Growth in the teenage market
                                                                                                        • Figure 20: Trends in the age structure of the UK population, 2019-24
                                                                                                      • Consumers remain confident about their finances
                                                                                                        • Figure 21: Trends in how respondents would describe their financial situation, January 2018-December 2019
                                                                                                      • Sunshine helps to sell sunglasses
                                                                                                        • Figure 22: Sunshine hours, by season, 2014-19
                                                                                                      • Overseas travel helps build sunglasses sales
                                                                                                      • Companies and Brands – What You Need to Know

                                                                                                        • Specsavers has opened its 900th store
                                                                                                          • Overseas owners
                                                                                                            • Tesco acquisition boosts Vision Express’ store numbers
                                                                                                              • Hakim has doubled store numbers in two years
                                                                                                                • Other opticians with ambition for growth
                                                                                                                  • Virtual try-on will boost internet sales
                                                                                                                    • New look for Boots Opticians
                                                                                                                      • Photochromic contact lenses
                                                                                                                        • Future product developments
                                                                                                                          • Specsavers and Boots brands enjoy high levels of trust
                                                                                                                          • Companies and Brands

                                                                                                                            • Specsavers is by far the largest group
                                                                                                                              • Figure 23: Leading optical goods retailers’ net revenues (excluding VAT), 2014-18
                                                                                                                            • Tesco acquisition boosts Vision Express’ store numbers
                                                                                                                              • Figure 24: Leading optical goods retailers’ outlet numbers, 2015-19
                                                                                                                            • Other chains
                                                                                                                              • Hakim has doubled store numbers in two years
                                                                                                                                • Royston Bayfield aims for 50 outlets
                                                                                                                                  • Other small chains
                                                                                                                                    • Opticians with ‘fair pricing’
                                                                                                                                      • Key developments in online selling
                                                                                                                                        • Contact lenses online
                                                                                                                                          • Daysoft develops a DTC model
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 25: Daysoft, 2020
                                                                                                                                          • Essilor takes a major position in digital selling
                                                                                                                                            • Several online sellers of glasses
                                                                                                                                              • Some 20% of fashion sunglasses are bought online
                                                                                                                                                • Amazon is selling online in Germany
                                                                                                                                                • Competitive Strategies

                                                                                                                                                  • Slowdown in acquisition activity as the market concentrates
                                                                                                                                                    • Why be inside a supermarket?
                                                                                                                                                      • Specsavers expands into healthcare provision
                                                                                                                                                        • Online presence for opticians serves a wide span of purposes
                                                                                                                                                          • How the key retailers differentiate their brands
                                                                                                                                                            • Disruptive strategies from smaller players
                                                                                                                                                            • Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                                                                                                                              • Virtual try-on for spectacles and sunglasses
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 26: Specsavers, Frame Styler, 2020
                                                                                                                                                              • Bespoke eyewear will grow in popularity
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 27: Tom Davies, Bespoke glasses, 2020
                                                                                                                                                              • Boots develops a new look
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 28: Boots Opticians, revamped Covent Garden store, 2019
                                                                                                                                                              • Three examples of opticians ‘re-inventing’ opticians
                                                                                                                                                                • Ace & Tate opening its ninth store
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 29: Ace & Tate, Comparing the industry with own production, 2020
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 30: Ace & Tate, Glasgow store interior, 2020
                                                                                                                                                                • Ollie Quinn offers ‘fair prices’
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 31: Ollie Quinn, Brighton, 2020
                                                                                                                                                                • Bailey Nelson now has two UK stores
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 32: Bailey Nelson, Old Spitalfields Market, 2020
                                                                                                                                                                • A photochromic contact lens
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 33: Johnson & Johnson, photochromic contact lens, 2020
                                                                                                                                                                • More examples of contact lens innovation
                                                                                                                                                                  • Delivering medication to the eye
                                                                                                                                                                    • Glucose monitoring without a finger prick
                                                                                                                                                                      • Print contact lenses at home or in-store
                                                                                                                                                                        • Zoom in with contact lenses
                                                                                                                                                                          • Heads-up displays on your contact lenses
                                                                                                                                                                            • More examples of spectacle innovation
                                                                                                                                                                              • Glasses that adjust focus automatically
                                                                                                                                                                                • We are yet to see commercial smart glasses
                                                                                                                                                                                • Advertising and Marketing Activity

                                                                                                                                                                                  • Steady spending on advertising over 2018-19
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 34: Total above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on opticians, 2015-19
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Specsavers dominates the advertising landscape
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 35: Optical goods advertisers’ above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure, 2019*
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Specsavers consistently spends more than competitors
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 36: Top five optical goods advertisers, above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure, 2015-19
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Television and direct mail dominate spending
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 37: Advertising spend by opticians, by media, 2019*
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Nielsen Ad Intel coverage
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Brand Research

                                                                                                                                                                                      • Brand map
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 38: Attitudes towards and usage of selected brands, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Key brand metrics
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 39: Key metrics for selected brands, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Brand attitudes: Asda Opticians value differentiates the brand
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 40: Attitudes, by brand, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Brand personality: Specsavers is fun
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 41: Brand personality – macro image, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Specsavers is reliable and welcoming
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 42: Brand personality – micro image, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Brand analysis
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Specsavers is a true mass-market brand
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 43: User profile of Specsavers, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Vision Express captures higher earners
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 44: User profile of Vision Express, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                        • David Clulow’s customers are wealthy and young
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 45: User profile of David Clulow, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Boots Opticians appeals to an upscale audience
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 46: User profile of Boots Opticians, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Asda Opticians is regarded as basic
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 47: User profile of Asda Opticians, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                      • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                                                                                                                                        • 71% had an eye test in the last two years
                                                                                                                                                                                          • 13% are regular contact lens wearers
                                                                                                                                                                                            • High level of purchasing activity
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Specsavers is a dominant force for glasses
                                                                                                                                                                                                • 22% of contact lens shoppers bought through online specialists
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Price, quality and convenience influence choice of optician
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • People recognise the importance of check-ups
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Opticians have an opportunity to expand the contact lens market
                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Spectacles influenced by style and brands
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Loyalty is fragile
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Eye Tests, Contact Lens Appointments and Hearing Tests

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • 71% had eye tests in the last two years
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 48: Eye tests, contact lens appointments and hearing tests in the last two years, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Laser Vision Correction

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • 9% have had laser eyesight correction
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 49: Ever had laser surgery to correct vision, by age, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Contact Lens Wear

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • 35% wear, or have ever worn, contact lenses
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 50: Experience of wearing contact lenses, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Discomfort is the key reason for opting out of contact lenses
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 51: Reasons for stopping wearing contact lenses, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Purchases of Eyewear and Hearing Aids

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • High level of purchasing activity
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 52: Eyewear and hearing aids purchased in the last two years, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Older bias towards spectacles shoppers
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 53: Prescription glasses purchased in the last two years, by age, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Younger bias towards contact lens shoppers
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 54: Prescription contact lenses purchased in the last two years, by age, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Retailers Used for Glasses and Prescription Sunglasses

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Specsavers is the most used optician
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Independents appeal to over-55s
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 55: Retailers used for glasses and prescription sunglasses bought in the last two years, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Retailers Used for Contact Lenses

                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Specsavers captures 39% of contact lens shoppers
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Internet specialists popular for contact lenses
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 56: Retailers used for contact lenses bought in the last two years, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Factors Influencing Choice of Opticians

                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Multi-layered choice process
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Convenience is key
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Over-65s aware of healthcare
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 57: Factors influencing choice of opticians, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Attitudes towards Opticians

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • People recognise the importance of check-ups
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Opticians have an opportunity to expand the contact lens market
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Brands carry a premium
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 58: Attitudes towards opticians, contact lenses, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Style adds value in the market for spectacles
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Brands matter more to male shoppers
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 59: Attitudes towards opticians, glasses style and brand, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • The value of personal fitting
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Independents have a strong image for healthcare
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 60: Attitudes towards opticians, fitting and independents, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Loyalty is a thing of the past
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Competing with internet sellers
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Young adults like the idea of self-testing eyes
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 61: Attitudes towards opticians, internet retailing, December 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Appendix – Data Sources, Abbreviations and Supporting Information

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

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Forecast methodology

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      About the report

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This report will give you a complete 360-degree view of your market. Not only is it rooted in robust proprietary and high-quality third-party data, but our industry experts put that data into context and you’ll quickly understand:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • The Consumer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        What They Want. Why They Want It.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • The Competitors

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Who’s Winning. How To Stay Ahead.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • The Market

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Size, Segments, Shares And Forecasts: How It All Adds Up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • The Innovations

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        New Ideas. New Products. New Potential.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • The Opportunities

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Where The White Space Is. How To Make It Yours.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • The Trends

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        What’s Shaping Demand – Today And Tomorrow.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Please Note: This is a sample report. All of the figures, graphs, and tables have been redacted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Description