When I was a kid, my parents used to ride me endlessly about wasting money. After all, there are thousands of children in Africa who are starving and would have loved my Shake’N Bake pork chop and side of frozen peas. And, heaven forbid I leave a room with a lamp still lit or step outside and momentarily leave the storm door ajar: “What’s the matter with you?” my dad would bellow. “Did you grow up in a barn?”
My dad’s frugality stuck with me in many ways, and throughout this recession, I hear his voice in my head almost every day: “Don’t spend money you don’t have.” So, this year, it was with some hesitation that I decided Review should forge ahead with plans to run a high-tech product showcase in its annual Diagnostic Technology Report. Can the average O.D. really afford this cool stuff? It almost seemed mean to dangle it in front of your noses.
Fortunately, optometry wasn’t the hardest hit by the bad economy, but for most O.D.s, business isn’t exactly booming either. In last year’s news story, “Can Optometry Ride Out the Recession?” Managing Editor John Murphy reported on an IBISWorld report predicting a rough 2009 and a 2010 that didn’t look much better. The report predicted that price-conscious consumers would try to save money by decreasing their purchases of discretionary products, such as sunglasses, colored lenses and accessories, and by trading down in their non-discretionary prescription glasses from luxury to generic brands. What’s more, consumers were expected to pinch pennies by purchasing bottom-dollar contact lenses and glasses from competitors, such as discount and online retailers.
The recent VisionWatch study certainly proves that the IBISWorld forecast was on the mark. Conducted by The Vision Council, the VisionWatch Q2 Consumer Barometer indicates that the total U.S. vision care market’s revenues dipped 3% for the 12 months ending June 2010 to $31.7 billion compared to $32.7 billion in the prior year 12-month period.
What’s interesting, however, is the areas that were hardest hit compared to those that suffered no losses.
As IBISWorld expected, sunglasses’ dollar sales declined—by a whopping 6.8% for the 12-month period––according to the VisionWatch Barometer. Likewise, dollar sales of frames also decreased, dipping 3.1%. However, eye exams actually gained overall. The number of eye exams for the six months ending June 2010 was 47.4 million, an increase from the prior six-months ending December 2009 which was 46.9 million.
With this in mind, we proceeded with the Technology Report. After all, if patients are not going to walk out of your practice with the best eyewear, they better at least walk out with the best eye care.
Just make sure they close the door behind them.