Mintel report highlights contact lens growth

Latest report of Optical Goods Retailing is released by Mintel highlighting a year-on-year growth in consumer spending


The latest Optical Goods Retailing report by Mintel details a 3.1% year-on-year growth in consumer spending, up to £3067m. The report also highlights contact lenses as the best-performing segment, with a year-on-year growth of 4.4%, rising to £589m.

Reflecting on the positive growth, Mintel predicts a continued steady spending increase between now and 2021, which it says will be driven by the ageing population.

Looking at the market value of optical goods as a whole, Mintel detailed that spectacles currently account for 61% of the market by value, the largest of the three main elements, above contact lenses and lenses. However, the contact lens sector is growing and is up 18.8% since 2011. This, Mintel says, is a result of the growth of daily disposables, as well as the development of multifocal contact lenses.

Positively, the market research company further predicted a 16.5% growth for sunglasses over the next five-year period from 2016–2021, putting the estimated growth down to weather and foreign travel.

On the High Street

Providing insight into market share on the High Street, Mintel reports that 66% of the optical market is captured by just three opticians – Specsavers, Boots and Vision Express – adding that “no other chains are anywhere near the scale of those major players.”  

In 2016, Specsavers branches accounted for 39% of optical outlets, followed by independents (29%), Boots (15%) and Vision Express (13%).

Commenting on the strength of Specsavers, Mintel wrote: “Specsavers has a truly outstanding brand, clearly differentiated from the rest and highly trusted.”

On Boots Mintel commented: “Boots Opticians is also a trusted brand, probably linked to the healthcare credentials of its parent company, Boots the Chemists. Even though it had negative publicity in 2016, this appears not to have tarnished attitudes towards the brand.”

The consumer

Looking at the consumer, Mintel reports that 57% of UK adults have had a sight test in the last year, representing a “slight drop” between 2014–16. Furthermore, 60% of eye tests during the same period were paid for by the NHS, and 22% of people admitted to switching their opticians since their last sight test.

Exploring potential new avenues of eyewear, 9% of respondents said they were interested in smart glasses. Reflecting on this, Mintel highlighted that innovative products give retailers an opportunity to increase transaction values. It added that although smart glasses are in their infancy, research illustrates a high level of interest.

Mintel also indicated a high interest in “having glasses professionally fitted,” adding that it was a key reason for attending an opticians rather than purchasing spectacles online. However, the company stressed that developments in sight test apps could mean that people wait longer between eye exams at an opticians, and as a result encouraged opticians to “educate their customers about the importance of regular eye exams as part of a healthcare regime.”

  • Readers who wish to purchase the Mintel report in full can receive a 10% discount by referencing the code: OPT1017.