Anecdotally, we hear that many optometrists are reluctant to encourage their patients to try contact lenses. As with any skill, confidence wanes if it is not utilised. But nonetheless, contact lens sales have been growing.
The latest Optical Goods Retailing report by Mintel highlights contact lenses as the best performing segment, with a year-on-year growth of 4.4%. The daily disposable lens market, as well as the development of multifocal contact lenses, has been contributory factors, but contact lenses are still minor in market terms compared with the sale of spectacles.
The report shows that spectacles account 61% of the market by value. The ageing population helps to expand the market for glasses, as well as creating increased demand for eye examinations and monitoring. Attractive frames and sunglasses, along with celebrity endorsement, have all contributed to the standout growth in spectacle sales, and innovative marketing is required to ensure that contact lenses keep pace.
Wearable technology is emerging fast, which will continue to attract the spectacle wearer but, as the Foresight Project noted, spectacles won’t have it all their own way. Contact lenses have been developed for presbyopia, and there will be drug-eluting contact lenses in the future to augment the massive convenience factor that already exists for a contact lens wearer.
For many practices, having a contact lens business creates the opportunity to build patient loyalty with regular aftercare checks and purchasing of contact lenses through the practice.
However, in the transactional world we live in, this can be hard to achieve when contact lenses are advertised and readily available, invariably at a lower price, from the internet. And regulation of contact lens selling proves to be one of the hardest nuts to crack, despite carrying the greatest risk to patients, with internet suppliers from outside the UK being able to circumvent UK legislation.
Public awareness of contact lenses is essential, both for safety and to assist practitioners to have conversations on usage.
"We will be piloting CET events with Johnson and Johnson Vision Care, designed specifically with locums in mind"
Help where it’s needed
The AOP has developed a selection of new resources on contact lens wear and care to support members. These resources include patient leaflets on soft and rigid lenses, advice through video and social media and new images illustrating contact lens use in the image library. We provide at least one piece of contact lens-related CET through OT in every issue, plus events such as 100% Optical provide extra CET opportunities.
We will also be piloting CET events with Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, designed specifically with locums in mind, as part of our on going plans to segment membership categories and deliver to specific needs.
As a committed contact lens wearer of many years, I find the reluctance of both the consumer to demand them and the optometrist to promote them baffling. At the AOP we will continue to support members with information and advice so that they can promote contact lenses to patients with ever-growing confidence.