The 2024 viewpoint

Five insights from the Optical Goods Market in 2024

Neil Mason, category director at Mintel, took the hot seat to answer OT ’s questions about the UK Optical Goods Retailing Market Report 2024

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Analysts at Mintel reviewed the nature of the optical goods industry and eyewear market in the UK Optical Goods Retailing Market Report 2024, exploring current and future trends in the industry.

Neil Mason, category director at Mintel, shared some stand-out findings from the report and how these can be applied in community optometry practices. Here, OT outlines key takeaways.

1 Consistent market growth

Mason shared with OT: “The optical goods market in the UK has shown consistent growth, particularly since the pandemic. The market size was estimated to be at £3.83 billion in 2023, and it is projected to break through the £4 billion barrier by 2028.”

Growth is driven by factors including the ageing population, increased screen time amongst consumers, and innovation in contact lenses.

Demand for prescription glasses and contact lenses has steadily increased, Mintel found, with almost half (47%) of British people in 2023 reporting to have purchased prescription glasses made specifically for them, up from 41% in 2021.

“Younger consumers are increasingly purchasing optical goods, with a notable rise in the purchase of prescription glasses and contact lenses among 18–24 year-olds,” he added.

2 The effect of digital lifestyles

“Overall, the ageing population and continued digitisation of consumer lifestyles are two key industry trends offering ample room for growth in the ever-consistent optical goods market,” Mason told OT.

Screens are a part of daily life, and there is a heightened awareness about the amount of time spent on digital devices. More than half (54%) of consumers are concerned about the effects of extended screen time on eye health, and are increasingly willing to look for solutions to the problem.

Mason suggested this presents opportunities to provide products and solutions, such as eye drops, but to also encourage frequent eye examinations.

“Screens will not disappear from our day-to-day lives and new technologies such as augmented and virtual reality are adding to our screen time; this will continue to drive consumers to purchase optical goods and services, either preventatively or to remediate discomfort they might already be experiencing,” Mason shared.

High Street practices could attract consumers – particularly in the younger generations – by providing education on protecting eyes when it comes to prolonged screen use, he suggested.

Overall, the ageing population and continued digitisation of consumer lifestyles are two key industry trends offering ample room for growth in the ever-consistent optical goods market

Neil Mason, category director at Mintel

3 Online is not everything

“While more than a quarter of younger consumers go online for the purchase of glasses, the importance of a physical space for optical goods cannot be ignored and will remain an incredibly important area for retailers,” Mason told OT.

He added that, regardless of the optical goods category, the importance of the in-store experience remains key for all demographics.

Advice provided in the practice setting is “paramount,” with Mason sharing that just a third of consumers feel the advice they receive online is as good as on-site.

There are opportunities to improve and broaden the range of online services, however.

4 Green continues to grow

A stand-out finding from the report was the high interest in sustainable products, Mason said.

The report identified that 43% of consumers indicate they would consider buying sustainable glasses or contact lenses. The figure is heavily weighted towards younger consumers.

“As more and more young consumers require eye care solutions, branching into sustainable products can appeal to this demographic and help encourage spending in this area,” he said.

5 Responding to market and consumer change

Mason identified three key areas that optometry practices can draw from in order to respond to market shifts and changing consumer behaviours: enhance online services, promote eye health education, and expand sustainable product ranges.

Talking to the desire for digital tools and services and the convenience this can offer, Mason suggested: “With a significant portion of consumers showing interest in online services, practices can offer appointment bookings, virtual try-on tools, and digital consultations.”

Digital try-on tools are particularly popular with younger consumers, with 68% of 18–34- year-olds having used or considered using it.

He explained: “This technology can help reduce the overwhelming choice of styles and make the shopping experience more efficient and enjoyable. Also, combining online and offline channels can provide a seamless shopping experience.”

While consumers value digital tools, 54% of consumers are worried about the effects of their own extended screen time on their eye health, and this is an area that practices can provide support, Mason suggested, particularly educational resources and products.

“They can also encourage regular eye exams and provide advice on managing eye health outside of appointments,” he shared.

Finally, interest in sustainability continues to rise, with 43% of consumers open to buying sustainable eyewear in the future.

Mason said: “Optometrists can differentiate themselves by offering eco-friendly products and highlighting their sustainability credentials.”

“Younger consumers are increasingly purchasing optical goods and are more likely to be influenced by digital and sustainable offerings. Tailoring marketing strategies and product ranges to appeal to this demographic can drive growth,” he added.

The full UK Optical Goods Retailing Market Report can be purchased on the Mintel website.