Where Consumers Shop for Eyewear

December 2021

2021 showed signs of recovery, after a steep decline in 2020 due to the global pandemic. In the post-COVID-19 era, embracing digitalisation has been crucial for all categories. With eyewear still reliant on store-based channels for their in-store expert service, industry players will increasingly invest in omnichannel strategies to future-proof their revenue streams. Digital eye players also recognise the benefits of opening a physical space and are crossing over into physical stores.

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Key Findings

Global eyewear begins path to recovery in 2021 after a sharp decline in sales in 2020 resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic

Globally, retail sales of eyewear products rose by 5% in 2021, after a steep decline in 2020 due to the global pandemic wiping off USD20.6 billion in global sales. Spectacle frames and sunglasses both rebounded in 2021, but it was contact lenses that proved to be the most resilient thanks to wider distribution via e-commerce.

The shift to e-commerce is here to stay

COVID-19 has accelerated the transition of eyewear to e-commerce, the share of which rose from 9% of global sales in 2019 to 13% in both 2020 and 2021. In the post-COVID-19 era, embracing digitalisation will be crucial for all eyewear categories, as market players need to maintain consumer engagement, despite increased time at home. To support e-commerce expansion, more digital tools to mimic the in-store experience and expert service, such as virtual try-ons and online consultations, will be adopted.

Store-based channels remain dominant, despite a surge in e-commerce

Eyewear is still reliant on store-based retailing, with store-based retail accounting for 87% of eyewear sales globally in 2021. Within store-based retail, optical shops is by far the leading channel for eyewear. Even during distancing protocols, many consumers still prefer to try on spectacles and sunglasses, as well as solicit the opinion of knowledgeable sales staff.

Industry players will increasingly invest in omnichannel strategies

Over the forecast period, industry players will increasingly invest in omnichannel strategies and e-commerce infrastructure to future-proof their revenue streams to respond to consumers’ changing habits, including shopping for convenience, and spending more time at home, due to the increased prevalence of hybrid working, especially in Europe and America.



Key findings

Industry Snapshot

Global eyewear is on the road to recovery in 2021
Contact lenses cushions blow of pandemic in all regions
Asia Pacific to catch up with North America by 2026

Impact of Covid-19

Optical businesses are struggling with their supply chains
Eyewear catching up with other industries in e-commerce due to COVID-19
The rise in e-commerce has not offset the severe store-based losses
COVID-19 has changed the role of sustainability in eyewear

Channel Shifts

Despite shift to e-commerce, optical stores benefit from consumers’ trust
Asia Pacific emerges as largest region in global e-commerce for eyewear
Spectacles reports largest growth in e-commerce over historic period

Store-based Channels

Hypermarkets emerges as second largest store-based eyewear channel
Chemists/pharmacies rise as strongest performers during pandemic
Signs of recovery for optical stores, following a challenging year in 2020
Department stores look to innovate to tempt customers back
National Vision Holdings gains ground from favourable industry trends
Eyewear M&A set to increase in activity into 2022
Western Europe accounts for 98% of private label sales in eyewear
Private label offers opportunity for contact lenses and sunglasses

Non-store Channels

E-commerce dominates non-store retailing eyewear channel
Establishing an e-commerce offer: A matter of survival for optical players
COVID-19 era to take digitalisation in eyewear to another level
Sunglasses and spectacles outperform contact lenses in 2020 and 2021
Asia Pacific becomes the largest online market, overtaking North America

Future Developments

The industry is not set to fully recover from the pandemic before 2025
The future of optical retail will be hybrid
Gentle Monster tech-focused stores set the bar for eyewear optical stores
Monkeyglasses leads the way with sustainable optical store retailing
Polette: a glimpse of the forthcoming p hygital reality in eyewear
Virtual try-ons: The future of eyewear shopping
Digital health is happening right now in eyewear
Key takeaways: digital, physical and omnichannel


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