Optometry and the eye-care industry overall are faring better than most industries because patient demand is only partially affected by the economy. Still, patients are cutting back, and that will affect your practice, according to a report by IBISWorld, which specializes in industry analysis and industry reports.

A decrease in per capita income among patients will affect how frequently they return for eye care, as well as their expenditures on other goods and services offered by optometrists, notes the report.

Eye exams. Tougher economic conditions will see some people deferring visits to the optom- etrist, the report says. Consumer sentiment is weak, and per capita disposable income is forecast to decrease in the first two quarters of 2009, which will lower demand for industry services.

What can you do? Optometrists can last out the recession by building on and using their referral networks. The report adds that by keeping in contact with patients, practitioners can maintain office visits and revenue.

Glasses and contacts sales. The report predicts a rough year, especially for smaller, independent retailers. While prescription glasses will remain relatively unaffected, demand for discretionary eyewear and accessories will fall. Price conscious consumers will try to save money by decreasing their purchases of discretionary products such as sunglasses, colored lenses and accessories in this industry, and by trading down in their non-discretionary prescription glasses from luxury to generic brands, the report says. Consumers may penny pinch by purchasing bottom-dollar contact lenses and glasses from competitors such as discount and online retailers.

The upside? People who were considering refractive surgery are instead more likely to hold on to their glasses and contact lenses. Also, Lower plastics costs with a fall in oil prices will help reduce the prices of glasses, which will aid demand, the report says.

If you make it through 2009, the outlook begins to get better over the next five years. While eye-care industry revenue is expected to falter in 2009, the effects of the recession may wane at the end of the year as per capita income begins to recover, says IBISWorld. Still, consumer spending will be weak through 2010 but then will pick up in 2011, with stronger industry growth from then onward.

So, fasten your seatbelts. Its going to be a bumpy ride.

Vol. No: 146:03Issue: 3/15/2009