Like for most other business sectors, 2020 turned to be a difficult year for the ophthalmic optics market, as shown by the latest figures published by the Zentralverband der Augenoptiker und Optometristen (ZVA), the German association of opticians and optometrists. Overall, the German eyewear sector faced a 7.4 percent drop across all sales channels for 2020, with total sales of €6.0 billion including VAT. However, the German VAT rate having been lowered from 19 to 16 percent from June 2020, we estimate that the drop in the market’s net value must have been close to 9 percent last year.

Earlier this year, the research company GFK estimated that the German optical fell by 6.9 percent in 2020, VAT included, while the German industry association Spectaris reported a 7.3 percent drop in domestic sales of German optical suppliers for the same period.

In volume, ZVA reports that sales of eyeglasses fell by 8.7 percent to 11.8 million units, which is more than 1.1 million less than in 2019, while sales of prescription lenses declined by 9.1 percent in volume to 36.5 million pieces. In value, sales of corrective eyewear dropped by a lower rate of 6.7 percent to €4,875 million including VAT. Sales of contact lenses declined by 10.3 percent to €520 million sold, which the association attributes to a reduced practice of sports and outdoor activities.

Sales of other products, which mainly consist of plano sunglasses, were also largely impacted by the pandemic situation. Like in most other European countries, the pandemic situation made vacationing almost impossible for Germans, leading to fewer purchases of sunglasses. Overall, annual revenues in the Other Products’ category dropped by 10.4 percent to €619 million including VAT last year.

The number of optical shops in the country dropped for the fourth consecutive year, this time by 180 doors to the current total of 11,370 at the end of 2020. The market consolidated further last year, with the ten biggest brick-and-mortar retailers increasing their total retail footprint by about 100 units to a total of 2,322 shops. With about one fifth of the German optical stores, the market share of these ten companies passed the 50 percent mark for the first time. Their aggregated annual revenues actually went down by 3.7 percent to €2,400 million excluding VAT, but still outperformed the overall market.

Perhaps more surprisingly, ZVA’s annual report also indicates that smaller to medium-sized optical stores also performed better than the average optician in the context of the Covid-19 crisis, as they were generally less crowded and offered personal appointments to their customers. According to a ZVA survey among 300 smaller stores, they reported a turnover decline of only 3 percent, compared to the overall sales drop of 7.4 percent in the sector.

Another ZVA statistic from February 2021 also showed that the proportion of companies that have introduced part-time work or plan to do so depended on the size of the business. While 70 percent of shops with less than €250,000 in annual revenues did not reduce their working time, over 47 percent of stores with annual sales over €750,000 have been working shorter hours.

The 2020 ranking of the big players in the industry reveals no big changes for its three top positions. Fielmann remains by far the biggest German eyewear retail chain with 605 stores and sales of €1,124 million in the country, representing a 5.5 percent decline. GrandVision’s Apollo Optik comes second with annual revenues of €736 million, down by 4.7 percent, with a total of 880 retail locations. Pro Optik remained almost stable in the third place with sales of €125 million at 144 stores.

Super Vista, the company behind the Brillen.de brand, is not listed in the chart as its business model relies on optician partners to which it reroutes customers ordering on the brillen.de website. With annual revenues of €91 million in 2020, representing a 4.6 percent hike from 2019, Super Vista has become a prominent retail player in the German market. Mister Spex and Brille 24/4 care, two important players as well, are also not appearing in the ranking as they did not share their revenue information with ZVA.

The association’s report also includes a ranking of the ten most important buying groups in the country, which served a total of 5,465 members last year, down by 1.3 percent from 2019. Brillen-Profi-Contact tops this ranking with 1,888 members followed by Optic Society with 832 members and IGA Optik with 618 members, the latter being the only one that managed to increase significantly the number of members.

Unlike other sectors, the vast majority of eyewear purchases, 89.3 percent, are still made in brick-and-mortar stores. Nine percent of eyewear purchases are multichannel, with a mixture of online and offline process steps during the transaction. Only 1.7 percent of eyewear sales were made entirely online. The ZVA calculated that omnichannel and pure online sales of eyeglasses reached 1.31 million pieces in 2020, or only 0.8 percent more than in 2019. This surprising stability in online revenues, in particular for the omnichannel part, might be explained by the fact that ZVA’s statistics are based on information provided directly by the members. Also, as mentioned above, Mister Spex and Brille 24/4 care, with about 500 and 300 retail partners respectively, are not included in the calculations. 

The full 40-page report in German can be downloaded for free on the association’s website.

Photo: ZVA