The 2011 drop followed an unsatisfactory fourth quarter in 2010. Last year's sales decline was disappointing for most companies, as a year ago everybody was expecting to benefit from the generally positive consumer sentiment in Germany.

The German ophthalmic optics industry's total sales rose by 2.3 percent in 2010 to €4.92 billion, according to the very detailed annual report of Spectaris published a few months ago. While domestic sales increased slightly by 2.5 percent to €1.99 billion, the industry's foreign turnover rose by 9 percent to €1.91 billion. Exports made up 49 percent of the total, with 62.1 percent of exports going to other EU countries.

The top ten importers of German ophthalmic optic products were in 2010 Great Britain with an export share of 10.12 percent of the total export value, followed by France and Italy (8.7 percent respectively), Switzerland (7.9 percent), Austria (6 percent), the Netherlands (4.8 percent), the US (3.9 percent), the Czech Republic (3.91 percent), Sweden (3.2 percent) and Denmark (2.9 percent).

The biggest exporter of ophthalmic optics goods to Germany remained China in 2010. Altogether, 53.2 percent of Germany's imports came from Asia, 27.2 percent from other EU countries, 3.3 percent from other non-EU European countries, 7.3 percent from North America and 9.1 percent from the rest of the world. With regard to the total import value, the top sources in Germany were China with an import share of 23.45 percent, Italy with 9.1 percent, Thailand with 8.4 percent, and Japan with 6.7 percent.

The average turnover per store of the ten biggest German retailers was about €824,000 in 2010. The remaining businesses achieved an average turnover of €337,000, whereas more than half of these companies had to cope with an average turnover below €250,000. The number of eyeglasses sold to consumers decreased from 11.2 million in 2009 to 11 million in 2010. The opticians' total revenues increased, however, thanks to consumer demand for high-value eyeglasses and contact lenses.

The biggest ophthalmic optics retailer in Germany was by far Fielmann with total sales of €788.6 million in 2010, followed by Apollo Optik with sales of €392.6 million. Other retailers like Pro Optik, Optiker Bode, Binder Optik, Optik Matt and others reached total sales of between €40 and €80 million each.

In Germany, 11,960 specialist optical retailers were in operation at the end of 2010, as compared to 11,900 in 2009. The number of employees in the industry increased from 48,800 in 2009 to 48,900 in 2010. About 6,617 trainees were active in the ophthalmic optics sector in Germany in 2010, up from 6,470 in 2009.

According to Spectaris' latest figures, 40.1 million adults in Germany are wearing glasses and 2.8 million are wearing contact lenses - up from 39.2 million and 2.7 million in 2010, respectively, but there is room for further progress. Important aims for the industry in 2012 should be to get customers to replace their eyewear more often, to encourage customers to wear both glasses and contact lenses, and make them aware of options for office-specific glasses, sports eyewear and polarized lenses.

Additionally, about 13.2 million people in Germany do not wear sunglasses.

Spectaris and the ZVA both underline the need to encourage the population to have eyesight tests, focusing on those who don't wear glasses yet. While in 2008, 48 percent of people not wearing glasses stated that they had an eye exam during the last three years, only 38 percent stated the same in 2011. Furthermore, one-fourth of drivers wearing glasses or contact lenses have stated that their optician would not be pleased with their present corrective lenses.