The ownership of ophthalmic optical products rose last year in the U.S. in all the categories, according to GfK ‘s latest OMO Optical Monitor, but it remained higher in the main Western European countries. It increased in most of the categories in China, and it declined somewhat in Russia and Japan.

In the U.S., the ownership of optical glasses rose to 46 percent of the population from 45 percent a year earlier, according to the survey. The ownership of sunglasses rose to 61 percent from 57 percent, with fashion becoming more of a purchase driver. For reading glasses, it grew to 36 percent from 27 percent thanks to cheaper prices and the availability of more purchase channels. Contact lens ownership increased to 23 percent from 18 percent, lifted by a wider use of daily and weekly lenses.

Comparatively, in Germany, France, the U.K., Italy and Spain combined, the ownership of optical glasses dropped to 67 percent from 69 percent of the population, while sunglass possession was unchanged at 74 percent. Ready readers rose to 28 percent from 26 percent of the population, and contact lenses inched up to 20 percent from 19 percent.

In China, the ownership ratio for optical glasses rose to 55 percent from 54 percent, but the ratio for sunglasses dropped to 46 percent from 49 percent, while reading glasses were unchanged at 17 percent of the population and contact lenses fell to 31 percent from 33 percent. Contact lens penetration remains high in the country due to the widespread use of cosmetic contact lenses.

In Russia, the possession of optical glasses was stable at 45 percent at the population. Sunglasses were also steady at 66 percent, but reading glasses slipped to 44 percent from 46 percent and contact lenses fell to 17 percent from 21 percent.

In Japan, optical glass ownership dropped to 61 percent from 63 percent, and sunglasses were down to 30 percent from 31 percent. Ready readers remained flat at 24 percent and contact lenses were unchanged at 20 percent.

While the average purchase frequency for optical glasses remained steady in the five European countries in the past year at an average of 3.2 years, it increased in the U.S. to 2.6 years from 2.8. It remained very low in Japan, but it improved there to 4.4 years from 4.7. The lifecycle in China is very short, but it stretched there to 2.2 years from 2.1 year. It also advanced in Russia to 3.4 years from 3.1.

In the top five European countries, the purchasing frequency for sunglass increased to 2.9 years from 3.1 years on average. The frequency accelerated in the U.S. to 2.4 years from 2.6, and the cycle was even shorter in China, down to 1.9 years from 2.0. It remained unchanged at 2.6 years in Russia, but it stretched in Japan to 4.7 years from 4.5.

The outlook is particularly positive in the U.S., where 73 percent of the respondents to GfK's survey indicated that they were planning to buy a new pair of glasses in the next 12 months, with an average budget of €151.

The latest OMO survey indicates that many customers would like to buy tailor-made products, with shares at 87 percent in China, 79 percent in the U.S., 58 percent in Russia and 40 percent in Japan.

Asked what were they using their eyewear for, the scores were similar in the use of optical glasses for reading in these countries and in Europe. One big difference was the use made for watching TV and driving. While 74 percent of the people use them to watch TV in Europe, 84 percent in China, 75 percent in Russia and 68 percent in Japan, the score declines to 57 percent in the U.S., where the usage of contact lenses for this purpose is the highest at 39 percent.

Contact lenses are used for driving by 57 percent of eyewear consumers in the U.S., 52 percent in China, 60 percent in Russia and 46 percent in Japan, compared with only 36 percent in Europe. Using optical glasses for driving is common among 52 percent of the wearers in Europe, 37 percent in the U.S., 40 percent in China, 27 percent in Russia and 39 percent in Japan.

The use of different materials is another area in which trends differ from one territory to the other. The OMO survey presented at the last Silmo showed an overall decline in Europe in the share of optical glasses made with metal, down to 37 percent from 39 percent in the previous year. The survey presented at Mido showed a similar trend for China and Japan, where metal use fell to 35 percent and 23 percent of the new eyewear sold. However, metal use grew from 40 to 42 percent of the market in the U.S. and from 40 to 43 percent of the market in Russia. The share of acetate remained constant everywhere except in the U.S., where it dropped from 39 to 38 percent, and in China, where it rose from 24 to 27 percent.

With regard to the style of the glasses, GfK's latest research points to a decline in the share taken by rimless frames in China and Japan; down to 12 and 5 percent of the market, and an increase in the share of full frames in both countries, up to 62 and 66 percent, respectively. This style remained dominant in the rest of the world, but it declined slightly to 69 percent in Europe, 73 percent in the U.S. and 75 percent in Russia.

Within the category, the square/wayfarer shape is the most commonly bought one everywhere, with a peak of 48 percent of the market among male consumers in Japan. Rounded glasses have strong preference among female consumers in China, representing 39 percent of the women's market, compared with 33 percent in Russia and 26 percent in Japan. Men go for rounded glasses more than women in the U.S. and Europe, with shares of 30 and 21 percent, respectively.

Round shapes are “the new cool,” according to GfK. They are preferred by women over men in sunglasses everywhere. They represent 27 percent of the women's sunglass market in Europe, 36 percent in the U.S. and China, 40 percent in Russia and 34 percent in Japan.

In the U.S. and Russia, price is the main driver for the purchase of either optical glasses or sunglasses. The Chinese focus on the advice of ophthalmologists for the acquisition of optical glasses and on the materials used for sunglasses. In Japan, health aspects are rated a priority for optical glasses and price for sunglasses.

The survey revealed that 37 percent of those interviewed estimate that design is “extremely important” in choosing sunglasses, with the Americans being mainly attracted by a “cool” design and the Chinese, Japanese and Russian customers by an “elegant” design.

GfK identified what it calls the “cosmopolitan trendy” market segment as the most interesting one for sunglasses. Cosmopolitan trendy consumers are generally big city residents and are 51 percent female and 49 percent male. About 60 percent of them are white-collar employees and 36 percent are in the 26-35 year-old bracket. They represent 23 percent of the population, ranging from 26 percent in the U.S. to 21 percent in Russia and Japan. About 73 percent of them are expected to buy a pair of sunglasses over the next 12 months, focusing on a cool design, against a ratio of 53 percent for the average population, spending an estimated €151 versus €99 for the population at large.

Their “cosmopolitan trendy” customer's main touch points for information are brand websites and the physical stores. The retail channels that they prefer are sunglass specialists and optical retail chains. On the other hand, the functional “active” target group represents 30 percent of the sunglass market, the more “conservative” functional segment 29 percent and the “elegant classic” segment 18 percent of the market.

The “cosmopolitan” and “active” users tend to be the trendsetters. Curiously, while 26 percent of the wearers in the U.S. can be regarded as “cosmopolitan” and 23 percent are “active,” the share taken by the “active” consumers rises to 29 percent in China, 33 percent in Russia and 33 percent in Japan. The share of the “conservative” market is the highest in the U.S., at a level of 35 percent, followed by China at 32 percent.