The market research group Mintel has come out with a report, «Optical Goods and Eyecare,» warning the industry in the U.K. that the boom of the past few years is nearing an end. The 20 percent growth the market has seen in the past five years is likely to drop to 13 percent in the coming five years. The decline will be a result of increased discount promotions, such as buy-one-get-one-free campaigns, by the dominance of chain stores; the growing involvement of supermarkets with in-store opticians; and the growth of internet-only retailers, some run by the supermarket operators themselves.

Mintel does predict, however, that overall spending on eyewear could go up as consumers with growing resources buy designer frames, premium lenses and other higher-priced options.

The contact lens market is going to get increasingly competitive as manufacturers raise discounts to stimulate sales, while customers shop around for the cheapest deals. The prices of contact lenses, as a result, will decrease overall, although the demand is going up, driven by silicone hydrogel lenses which can be worn comfortably for a longer amount of time. While in the past the desire for convenience has spurred the sale of daily disposables, the greater comfort of the silicone hydrogel lenses has customers making the switch in that direction. At the moment there are no daily lenses with similar comfort, though Mintel notes that Johnson & Johnson is coming out with one this coming Fall.

In the frame segment, though the U.K. has about 160 different suppliers, the top four, led by Luxottica, account for 41 percent of the market. The segment has grown in the last five years, spurred mostly by high-end or big-name designer brands that have entered the market, leading to higher prices per frame set.

Population demographics, too, will greatly affect the optical market, Mintel said. Though the public is generally apathetic toward the importance of regular eye exams, as the percentage of the population over the age of 65 grows, so will exams and screenings. The 45-to-54-year-old segment will burgeon as well, driving a greater demand for bifocals and varifocals. The youth market, those from 10 to 19, will shrink, affecting the sales of children's and teenagers' frames, but there will be a boom for children under 9; and the combination could mean parents will spend more for more durable products to hold up to a child's activities.

Finally, Mintel said that the U.K.'s workforce is going to be increasingly desk-based, spending a great part of the day in front of a computer. This is likely to boost the need for eye exams and glasses or contact lenses. The research firm even suggested that some companies might expand work uniforms to include a certain type of glasses.