The Optical Business Barometer (OBB), a monthly survey designed to gauge business attitudes among independent eye care professionals in the U.S., remained stable at a 3.65 rating for May 2013, indicating no change from the overall rating for April 2013. For the period from January through May, the average rating stood at 3.73, as compared to 3.76 for the same period in 2012.

The average for this period has been steadily increasing since 2010, when it stood at 3.57, followed by 3.62 in the same period of 2011. The confidence rating for the coming six months increased from 3.67 in April to 3.82 in May. This compares to a confidence ratings of 3.75 in May 2012, 3.55 in May 2011 and 3.69 in May 2010.

For eyeglasses, the score marginally increased in May to 3.64, as compared to 3.63 in April. For eye test ratings, the score decreased to 3.62 in May, compared with 3.70 in April. The rating for contact lenses registered a slight decline, from 3.55 in April to 3.52 in May.

The average scores for eyeglasses, exams and contact lenses for the period running January through May 2013 remained the same or very close to the ratings in the previous report. For eyeglasses, the average score for this period stood at 3.70, showing no change from the rating of the same period in May 2012. For contact lenses, the average score showed a marginal decrease to a 3.58 rating, from a 3.59 rating in the same period in 2012. The average rating for exams for this period stood at 3.73 against a 3.74 in 2012.

The barometer's data are based on a monthly online survey of a representative sample of independent optical retailers in the U.S., conducted by Jobson Optical Research. Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is very negative, 3 is neutral and 5 is very positive.

OBB ratings are also compared with findings from the U.S. Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Survey, the monthly survey conducted by Nielsen. Its latest findings showed an increase in May 2013 to a 76.2 from a revised 69.0 in April. The Consumer Confidence Index reached its highest point in January 2000, with a rating of 144.7, and its lowest point in February 2009, with a rating of 25.3.

In April, The Vision Council conducted its annual VisionWatch Economic Situation Survey, an online survey of over 10,000 adult consumers in the U.S. examining how the state of the economy influences purchasing behavior for optical goods and services. The results indicated that purchases in the optical industry have been slowing down but much less when compared to other retail sectors as a result of the economic slowdown.

According to the survey, 43.7 percent of American adult consumers cut back on their general purchases “slightly” or “a lot” over the past year as a result of the economy, while only 20.2 percent increased general consumer purchases either slightly or a lot over the same period. For the eyewear industry, in particular, 11.6 percent of consumers increased their purchases of eyewear over the past year as a result of economic changes. About three-fifths of all American adult consumers claimed that they did not alter their eyewear buying habits because of economic conditions during the past year.