Thomas Truckenbrod, president of the German opticians' association, ZVA, reported at the Opti '12 trade show in Munich that the German ophthalmic optics market recorded an increase in sales of about 2 percent in 2011, but with a decline of about 1.5 percent in the number of frames sold in the stores. As market results are not complete this early in the year, ZVA conducted a survey among its members in order to come up with this forecast.

Although politicians and financial experts have been predicting that this year will be even more difficult than last, the sentiment in the optical retail market remains positive for 2012. The great majority of the opticians participating in the survey described their current financial situation as good or satisfactory. When asked about their expectations for the new business year, more than two-thirds of the respondents assumed that their financial situation in 2012 would be stable, whereas only 8.7 percent expected a change for the worse.

Their relative confidence is partly due to the fact that more than 43 percent of the opticians recorded sales increases of more than 2 percent in 2011 compared with the previous year. At the beginning of 2011, most of the opticians didn't expect such an increase. So this year, about 95 percent of the respondents expect higher or stable sales for 2012.

The ZVA's survey also showed that 69 percent of the opticians expect increases in their fixed costs for this year, and 47.8 percent plan bigger investments in equipment and fixures. Nine out of 10 opticians wish to recruit new personnel within the year, and the half of the new posts will probably be assigned to trainees. The number of trainees in the German ophthalmic optics market increased in 2011 once again by 2.2 percent and reached 6,617 at the end of the last year.

More than 40 million people in Germany wear glasses. German opticians are encouraged by that fact that 62 percent of the German population need glasses for their everyday life, and an aging population means increasing demand for good vision.

The wholesale figures provided at the Munich show by Josef May, president of the German ophthalmic industry association, Spectaris, and managing director of Silhouette's German subsidiary, generally supported the picture drawn by the ZVA. In fact, German suppliers of ophthalmic optic products recorded a slight decrease in domestic sales of 0.5 percent to €1.98 billion in 2011 as compared to the previous year.

The foreign picture was not much better, as German producers' sales abroad fell by an estimated 2.6 percent to €1.86 billiion, leading to a decrease of 1.5 percent in the industry's total turnover to €3.84 billion for 2011. Exports made up 48.2 percent of the total. Shrinking exports to other countries of the European Union, which made up 60 percent of the industry's export sales in 2011, were mainly responsible for the decrease in export sales. Exports to the rest of Europe remained stable and accounted for 15 percent of the industry's total export sales. One-fourth of Germany's exports went to countries outside Europe, with 10 percent of exports going to Asia, 5 percent to North America, 3 percent to the Middle East, 2 percent to the Central and South America region, and 1 percent each to Australia, New Zealand and Africa. The remaining 3 percent of exports went to the rest of the world.

The number of employees in the German ophthalmic industry was stable at a total of 21,400. The number of businesses in the industry also remained stable, with 150 companies that had more than 20 employees.

Based on a survey among the members of Spectaris, May also presented a financial forecast for 2012. Despite beneficial indicators in the industry such as an aging population, the association remains skeptical and expects a slight increase in domestic sales of 1 percent. The industry's foreign turnover is expected to grow by 3 percent and its overall turnover by 2 percent in 2012.