France remained the biggest importer of ophthalmic optics products in 2012, with an increase in the value of imports of 18 percent to €1.26 billion, according an annual report by Spectaris, the German ophthalmic industry association, on the state of the European market. Germany remained in second place with an import value of €1.18 billion, up from €956 in 2011, followed by the U.K. with a considerable increase from €782 million in 2011 to €1.01 billion in 2012 and Italy with an increase from €842 million to €1 billion.

The Netherlands kept its fifth place with an import value of €490 million, followed by Spain (€425 million), Belgium (€278 million), Austria (€240 million), Sweden (€236 million), Poland (€187 million), Denmark (€170 million), the Czech Republic (€160 million), Portugal (€144 million), Hungary (€116 million), Finland (€76 million), Slovakia (€68 million), Ireland (€60 million), Greece (€57 million), Slovenia (€40 million), Romania (€28 million), Luxembourg (€28 million), Lithuania (€20 million), Latvia (€19 million), Bulgaria (€13 million), Cyprus (€12 million), Estonia (€7 million) and Malta (€5 million). 

The biggest increases in the import value of ophthalmic optics products were recorded for Slovakia, up from €21 million in 2011 to €68 million in 2012, Latvia, up from €8 million in 2011 to €19 million in 2012, and Hungary, from €70 million in 2011 to €116 million in 2012. The biggest drop in the import value of ophthalmic optics products took place in the Czech Republic, from €199 million in 2011 to €160 million in 2012.

Prescription frames accounted once again for the largest share of trade in the sector within the European Union with a total import value of €1.75 billion in 2012, up by 5.5 percent in comparison to 2011. Contact lenses reached a total import value of €1.33 billion, up by 4.7 percent, and finished lenses €1.04 billion, up by 8.6 percent.

The import value of semi-finished lenses was €652 million in 2012, whereas imports of sunglasses were worth €1.372 billion. Both values were relatively stable as compared to 2011.

Italy was again the biggest exporter of ophthalmic optics products in Europe last year, with an export value of €2.6 billion, and it was up by 7 percent from 2011. Germany followed with an increase in the value of exports from €1 billion in 2011 to €1.3 billion in 2012. Ireland ranked third, with an export value of €1.06 billion, followed by the U. K., up from €818 million in 2011 to €1.01 billion in 2012 and France, which raised the value of its exports from €554 million in 2011 to €715 million in 2012.

The ranking continues with the Netherlands (€481 million) in sixth place, followed by Austria (€313 million), Belgium (€226 million), Hungary (€162 million), the Czech Republic (€137 million), Poland (€109 million), Sweden (€108 million), Portugal (€107 million), Spain (€101 million), Denmark (€97 million), Slovenia (€59 million) and Greece (€30 million).

Contact lenses took up the biggest share of the export trade with a total of €2.4 billion. They were followed by sunglasses, with an export value of €2.23 billion, and by prescription frames, with exports of €1.87 billion. These three segments enjoyed increases in value of 6.9 percent, 5.1 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively. Finished ophthalmic lenses reached export sales of €686 million and semi-finished lenses €488 million.

Spectaris' statistical study also shows the 2012 sales breakdown for the main product categories in each country. In France, ophthalmic lenses accounted for 59 percent of total retail sales of eye care products, whereas in Germany they made up, again, 62 percent of the total market. The ratios were 43 percent in Italy and 48 percent in Spain.

Sunglasses accounted for 10 percent of sales in France, 5 percent in Germany, 24 percent in Italy, 16 percent in Spain and 3 percent in the U.K. Frames were 24 percent of sales in France, 25 percent in Germany, 17 percent in Italy and 23 percent in Spain. In the U.K., where lenses are not counted, frames represented 73 percent of the opticians' revenues.

Contact lenses made up 6 percent of sales in France and Germany, 13 percent in Italy, 11 percent in Spain and 22 percent of total sales in the U.K. Other eye care products accounted for about 2 percent in Germany, France, Spain and the U.K. and for 3 percent in Italy.

The average prices paid by customers varied from one country to the other in 2012, with Italy, France and Germany 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 €122 in the U.K., €85 in Spain, €117 in Italy, €88 in Germany and €101 in France. Frames cost on average €121 in France, €87 in Germany, €114 in Italy, €95 in Spain and €81 in the U.K. Lenses carried average unit prices of €94 in France, €133 in Germany, €94 in Italy and €75 in Spain.