A report published by the Association of Contact Lens Manufacturers and Euromcontact last month found that the UK’s contact lens market grew by 4% to £292m in 2018, making it the biggest in Europe.
OT spoke to past president of Euromcontact, Helmer Schweizer, to find out why the UK leads the market in Europe and what lies ahead.
What were the main findings of the latest report?
There has been continued overall market growth. This growth is mainly driven by daily disposables and, to a lesser degree, the weekly/bi-weekly and monthly lens market, while conventional lenses declined by more than 90% over the same period. Starting from a smaller base, multifocal and toric lenses are growing stronger than the spherical ones. In some countries, silicone hydrogels are already close to, or even above, 90% among the weekly/bi-weekly and monthly lens market, and is also growing strong among the daily disposables.
What data did the report set out to collect?
We collect data from participating companies by asking them to submit their sales, units and value for each collected category every three months. We wanted to find out how the markets developed in each category compared to the previous period and the prior year. We publish parts of the data only once a year for the full prior year. This data collection started in 2003.
Why does the UK lead the contact lens market in Europe?
It has to do with practitioners and big chains such as Specsavers and Boots Opticians. They consider contact lenses an important part of their business and see them as an opportunity rather than a separate business from glasses. UK practitioners have improved the message around patients’ ability to wear contact lenses as well as glasses. UK practitioners have signed a large number of their patients onto subscription schemes, which makes it easier to react to drop outs and makes customers more loyal. While the penetration rate is already good, it is still only a bit more than half of that in the Nordic countries, while much higher than that in Germany. A good penetration rate combined with a large population has made the UK the biggest market.
“There is a great amount of innovation in regard to materials and great improvements in the quality and stability of toric and multifocal lenses”
Do you anticipate further growth in the contact lens market across Europe?
Yes, I am very confident about that. Even in the high penetration countries in the Nordics, there are still non-wearers who are interested to try and possibly wear contact lenses.
In many low penetration countries, we have not yet crossed the chasm, meaning it is not yet a self-propelling thought to ask for or having contact lenses been offered. The education and knowledge level of eye care professionals advances in many of the East European countries, making them more confident and eager to suggest contact lenses to patients. We will also see innovations that will support the future growth.
How is the contact lens market innovating?
There is a great amount of innovation in regard to materials and great improvements in the quality and stability of toric and multifocal lenses. There is another level of innovation coming with chromatic lenses, computer connected lenses, drug delivery ones, new ways to address presbyopia, and not to forget myopia progression management.