Germany became for the first time the biggest importer of ophthalmic optics products in the European Union in 2015, reaching a level €1.28 billion, according to an annual report by Spectaris, the German ophthalmic industry association, on trade flows in Europe. France came in second place with an import value of €1.27 billion, followed by the U.K. with €1.25 billion. The U.K. swapped the third place with Italy, which ranked fourth with imports of €1.23 billion.

The Netherlands kept its fifth place with an import value of €518 million, followed by Spain (€475 million), Belgium (€299 million), Poland (€216 million), Austria (€215 million), the Czech Republic (€197 million), Sweden (€191 million), Denmark (€177 million), Portugal (€147 million), Hungary (€132 million), Finland (€75 million), Ireland (€68 million), Greece (€58 million), Slovenia (€38 million), Romania (€35 million), Estonia (€35 million), Luxembourg (€29 million), Croatia (€28 million), Lithuania (€27 million), Slovakia (€19 million), Bulgaria (€15 million), Latvia (€11 million), Cyprus (€11 million) and Malta (€6 million).

Prescription frames accounted once again for the largest share of trade in the sector in the EU with a total import value of €2.24 billion in 2015, up from €1.96 in 2014. Contact lenses reached a total import value of €1.69 billion, up from €1.44 billion, finished lenses €1.38 billion, up from €1.19 billion, and sunglasses €1.86 billion, up from €1.62 billion. Semi-finished lenses had an import value of €678 million in 2015.

Italy was again the biggest exporter of ophthalmic optics products in Europe last year, with an export value of €3.35 billion, followed by Germany with €1.29 billion. The U.K. ranked third, overtaking Ireland with an export value of €1.12 billion. Ireland ranked fourth, with €1.01 billion of exported products in 2015, followed by France with an export value of €608 million.

The export ranking continues with the Netherlands (€539 million) in sixth place, followed by Belgium (€281 million), Austria (€229 million), Hungary (€205 million), the Czech Republic (€185 million), Poland (€146 million), Spain (€140 million), Denmark (€121 million), Portugal (€103 million), Sweden (€61 million), Slovenia (€55 million), Lithuania (€19 million), Estonia (€17 million), Luxembourg (€13 million), Finland (€12 million), Greece (€9 million), Romania (€8 million), Latvia (€7 million), Croatia (€5 million), Slovakia (€3 million), Cyprus (€2 million), Bulgaria (€1 million) and Malta (€1 million).

Sunglasses took up the biggest share of Europe's export trade in 2015 with a total of €2.95 million. They were followed by contact lenses with an export value of €2.85 million, and by prescription frames with exports of €2.19 billion. Finished ophthalmic lenses reached export sales of €786 million and semi-finished lenses €543 million.

Spectaris' statistical study also shows the 2015 sales breakdown for the main product categories in each country. In France, ophthalmic lenses accounted for 61 percent of total retail sales, whereas in Germany they made up 63 percent. The ratios were 45 percent in Italy and 55 percent in Spain.

Sunglasses accounted for 7 percent of sales in France, 5 percent in Germany, 21 percent in Italy, 15 percent in Spain and 3 percent in Great Britain. Frames represented 26 percent of sales in France, 25 percent in Germany, and 19 percent in Italy and Spain, respectively. In the U.K., where lenses are not counted, frames represented 77 percent of opticians' revenues.

Contact lenses made up 5 percent of sales in France, 6 percent in Germany, 14 percent in Italy, 10 percent in Spain and 18 in the U.K. Other eye care products accounted for about 1 percent of the market in France and Germany, about 2 percent in Spain and the U.K. and about 3 percent in Italy.

The average prices paid by customers varied from one country to the other in 2015, with Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the U.K. at the top of the price scale for prescription frames as well as lenses, and the U.K. at the top for sunglasses.

Sunglasses were priced on average at €152 per pair in the U.K., €86 in Spain, €111 in Italy, €96 in Germany and €85 in France. Corrective frames cost on average €110 in France, €89 in Germany, €109 in Italy, €84 in Spain and €90 in the U.K. Lenses carried average unit prices of €106 in France, €141 in Germany, €87 in Italy and €86 in Spain in 2015.