CooperVision announced the expansion of manufacturing facilities located in North America and Europe due to growing demand for its contact lenses. It also believes that the Covid-19 pandemic will force eye care professionals (ECP) to review their long-term business practices.

The Gilbert site, situated in suburban Phoenix and currently producing Paragon CRT contact lenses and materials, will be expanded to more than 45,000 square feet (4,180 square meters) by 2025, with a refurbished shipping and warehouse center, and a substantially larger specialty lens manufacturing floor.

The Sherbrooke facility, located southeast of Montreal, which manufactures mainly Blanchard Onefit and Onefit MED scleral contact lenses, will benefit from several upgrades such as expanded advanced lathing technologies and renovated laboratory space to accommodate increased volume demands from the Americas and other markets.

The company is also undertaking a refurbishment and production expansion of its facility in the Netherlands to meet growing demand in Europe and China for its range of lenses.

“Extending our partnerships with the eye care community also insists that we regularly invest in our infrastructure, especially given upward demand,” said Juan Carlos Aragón, president in charge of specialty eye care at CooperVision.

The company noted that throughout 2020, the contact lens category has shown resilience and that contact lens wearing has now roughly returned to pre-Covid levels when it comes to use frequency.

It pointed out that it is still too early to claim ‘business as usual’ but reasons for reduced lens wear, such as not going to work or socializing less, will diminish as 2021 progresses and more people return to their usual activities.

Contact lenses have been a positive contributor to the optical industry during pandemic-related lockdowns, providing a consistent source of income for practices and accounting for a greater share of practice turnover than before the outbreak, it claims.

But, the pandemic has also changed the expectations of clients regarding the services provided by ECP.

According to CooperVision, a recent survey identified that 68 percent of patients think that their practice should provide a home delivery service for their contact lenses, whilst 74 percent think they should have the option to purchase their contact lenses online through their practice.

Over half of patients (57 percent) think their ECP should provide the option for remote appointments, either by telephone or video call, for their routine contact lens appointments and 51 percent feel a remote contact lens consultation would be as good as seeing an optician in person.

It stressed that there is “still an appetite” for patients to visit practices in-person once it is safe to do so. It noted that 18 percent of contact lens wearers have delayed a contact lens check-up due to the pandemic. However, 88 percent of those who visited their local practice following a lockdown are likely to visit again.

Marcella McParland, professional affairs senior director for the EMEA region, believes that “2021 will see practices really hone how they manage their practice – we’re likely to see the introduction of new online booking methods, in addition to an improved focus on appointments and streamlined services to allow for easy payments. Aftercare is also likely to be offered more regularly on telephone and video platforms, along with teaching new patients’ tutorial-style on how to handle their contact lenses.”

The company added that the use of face masks during the pandemic is an opportunity to convince spectacle users to switch to contact lenses. Contact lenses offer a solution to the issue of glasses fogging up when wearing a mask, and 62 percent of spectacle wearers would consider contact lenses when wearing a mask, it said.

“Contact lenses provide an effective solution in these circumstances, it’s a chance for people who’ve never worn them to try them out or even as a conversation starter to discuss their options when it comes to contact lenses,” according to McParland.

The company claims that the Covid-19 pandemic has also increased awareness among consumers about sustainability. It said that in a survey, 72 percent of consumers indicated that sustainable business behavior was more important to them due to the pandemic, while 70 percent of respondents said that reducing their own impact on the environment was more important because of the outbreak.

CooperVision, pledged to continue focusing on sustainable practices across its manufacturing and distribution operations.