U.S. consumption trends in the ophthalmic sector are faltering behind the general retail trends, according to the newest VisionWatch Economic Survey out by The Vision Council. While the overall retail sector is increasing significantly compared with 2009, consumer spending in the optical realm it is just barely growing along with the economy, which is still struggling to expand. The survey asked 9,599 American consumers in October about their purchasing habits both in general and specific to eyewear and eye care, and the results were similar to those from a study conducted in April.

The poor economy has affected spending on eyewear below the average among male customers, residents of the Northeast, higher-income Americans and those with managed vision care coverage. Conversely, women and people over the age of 45 are lagging behind other consumers.

Most of those surveyed, 62.5 percent, are concerned about the current state of the U.S. economy and its outlook for the future. Younger people and those making lower incomes said that they worried about rising prices and unemployment when they consider purchasing eyewear. Older Americans and those making more money were more worried about losses in their savings, stock and retirement accounts.

Some optical products and services have been hit harder by the economic uncertainty than others. Refractive surgery is one of those categories suffering the most, while eye exams and contact lenses are only seeing a slight impact. Reading glasses, plano sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses are on safer ground.

As a result of the recession, U.S. customers are more likely to put off buying eyewear while they look for better value. Many of these have turned to the internet in searching for deals, especially for eyeglasses, plano sunglasses and contact lenses. You can get more information on the survey from Stephen Kodey at skodey@thevisioncouncil.org.