The U.S. vision care market declined by 17.4 percent year-on-year to $36.05 billion at retail between December 2019 and December 2020, according to The Vision Council that just published its quarterly VisionWatch report for last year’s Q4. The market started to recover at the end of the year with retail sales decreasing by 8.8 percent in the last quarter of 2020, thanks partly to the progress in the vaccination roll-out in the country. However, The Vision Council estimates that roughly 15 percent of American adults are still refraining from passing eye exams or purchasing eyewear for health or budgetary concerns.

By product category and for the quarter, contact lenses and over-the-counter readers’ sales declined by 6.1 percent and 17.3 percent, respectively, as compared to Q4 2019. The association also notes that revenues generated by sales of plano sunglasses and refractive surgery both dropped by 25 percent year-on-year.

For the full year, sales of eyeglass frames online have reached to 9.1 million pairs in 2020, representing a 22 percent jump from the previous year. According to The Vision Council, the increased share of online purchases was mostly due to adults between 35 and 54 years old as well as from lower income households. Internet sales of contact lenses, plano sunglasses and over-the-counter readers grew at the same pace last year.

Looking at the overall population at the end of 2020, the report shows that there were 600,000 more vision correction users than a year before. This is proportionally less than the increase in the U.S. adult population, another indication that a signification portion of customers is delaying eyecare-related expenses.

The Vision Council further calculated that, at the end of 2020, there were a total of 41.5 million prescription eyeglass wearers that intended to purchase corrective eyewear in the next six months, or about one million less than a year before. However, it represents an increase of almost two million people when compared with the same data at the end of June 2020, a sign that the U.S. market’s recovery might accelerate in the first half of 2021.

The VisionWatch report is available on association’s website, freely for Vision Council members and at $250 for non-members.