The International Vision Expo fair scheduled for March 10-13 in New York, which will group more than 550 exhibitors from the USA and abroad, is going to take place against the backdrop of an apparent increase in US consumption of sunglasses and other eyewear products, at least in terms of volume. US sales of sunglasses were up by 4.8 percent last in units last year, reaching reach a total of 97.2 million pairs, according to the Sunglass Association of America's annual members' report on non-prescription sunwear and over-the-counter or ready-made readers' sales.

The report, based on consumer market research by Jobson Optical Research and FSA International on100,000 adult consumers, also showed that growth of non-prescription sunglasses in terms of dollars only improved by 0.3 percent, to reach a projected $1.9 billion in sales in 2004.

The average retail price of a pair of non-prescription sunglasses in the USA in 2004 was $19.72, which marks a 4.7 percent decline from $20.70 per pair in 2003 and a 9.5 percent decline compared to the $21.77 price across all retail outlets in 2001. Meanwhile, retail sales of over-the-counter readers rose to $432.2 million in 2004, a 9 percent increase from 2003, with ready-made readers' unit sales for the year reaching 30.6 million units, a 5.2 percent gain compared with 2003. The full market study is exclusively available through SAA members.

Vision Expo East is sponsored by the Vision Council of America, whose membership has grown by 147 percent since 1999. A total of 59 new members joined the association last year, taking the whole membership up to 166. VCA's members are going to benefit from discounted fees for purchasing the findings of VisionWatch, the North American consumer research panel conducted by Jobson, following VCA's acquisition of a stake held in the service by its British partner, FSA.

Andrea Gluck, co-president of Eyewear Designs, was elected a few days ago as the new chairperson of VCA, succeeding Richard C. Elias of PPG Industries. She had spent the last two years as vice chairperson and as the woman in charge of VCA's strategic communications committee and of its frame division. Larry Clarke of Satis-Loh will act as vice chairman of the association. Mike Daley of Essilor will be the secretary and treasurer of VCA, which continues to be run by Bill Thomas.

Other board members are Al Berg of Marchon, Dick Bullwinkle of DAC Vision, Raanan Naftalovich of Shamir Insight, Mike Hundert of REM Eyewear, David Rips of Younger Optics, Gerard Santinelli of the eponymous firm, Ron DeLong of Vision Advantage and Pat Langone of The Optical House.