ZVA, the German association of opticians, published a report on the German ophthalmic optics market on April 27. ZVA reported that the German optical retail market increased by an estimated 3.8 percent to €6.5 billion in 2019, as compared to the previous year.

The number of spectacles sold went up by one percent to almost 13 million pairs. The number of corrective lenses went up from 39.61 million to 40.21 million units. The number of contact lenses went up from 0.57 million to 0.58 million units. The number of other items, including sunglasses, went up from 0.66 million to 0.69 million units.

The ten biggest optical retail chains had 2,230 stores in Germany at the end of last year, accounting for 48.5 percent of the total market value in 2019. Fielmann remained the biggest German eyewear retail chain with sales of €1.19 billion at 602 stores in the country.

ZVA estimates that Apollo Optik, which belongs to GrandVision, came next with total sales of €772 million at 868 stores in Germany at the end of last year. Pro Optik remained in third place with sales of €125 million at 145 stores. 

The number of brick-and-mortar retail stores decreased from 11,630 in 2018 to 11,550 in 2019, but the number of people working in the sector remained relatively stable at around 48,400.

Excluding retailers that have an online store, the market reached a turnover of €6.12 billion in 2019, representing an increase of 3.8 percent, with sales of spectacles rising by one percent to 11.67 million and sales of lenses rising from 37.1 million to 37.6 million. 

Online and multi-channel retailers saw their sales grow by 4.4 percent to €379 million, with sales of spectacles rising from 1.27 million to 1.30 million and sales of lenses rising from 2.55 million to 2.60 million, according to ZVA. The sales of online and multi-channel retailers accounted for 5.8 percent of total sales of the German optical retail market. 

More and more pure online retailers like Mister Spex are opting for a multi-channel retail strategy, working in cooperation with local opticians or opening their own physical stores. Mister Spex has partnerships with more than 500 German opticians and manages more than 20 physical stores directly. 

In its annual report, ZVA also included a study made in collaboration with Kantar, the well-known market research company, to find out more about the changes in the sales channels used by consumers. The study was conducted among 1,729 people wearing glasses and released in February 2020.

Only 1.7 percent of the 1,119 purchases they made in 2019 were conducted online, while 89.3 percent were made at brick-and-mortar stores. The remaining nine percent are allocated to the multi-channel area, meaning that some steps in the purchasing journey took place offline and some others were done online. 

In terms of numbers, this means that 12.97 million glasses sold in 2019 were bought in the physical stores and about 1.05 million glasses went through the multi-channel retailing process. Only 250,000 pairs of glasses were sold purely online.