The eyewear industry is showing signs of recovery in 2021 largely driven by innovations, and replacements in the US, and rising income and greater access to eye health in India and China. Post-pandemic, consumers increasingly expect convenience, quality and purpose, and the shift to e-commerce is set to further accelerate with the deployment of digital tools. In that context, M&A activity will surge with industry players seeking to expand in new growth hotspots and to transform digitally.
Global sales bounce back from 2021
After a severe decline in 2020 due to COVID-19, the eyewear industry is already showing signs of a bounce back, with global sales up by 5% in 2021. The industry is set to recover pre-COVID-19 sales levels by the end of 2024, as demand for essential corrective products remains strong, while more discretionary categories such as sunglasses, which suffered most during the pandemic, are recovering thanks to the reopening of stores, the increased digital offer as well as a strong demand for outdoors activities, and an increase in travel activities compared to 2020 when they were at a standstill.
Asia Pacific continues to drive global sales
Asia Pacific continues to be the world’s growth engine and will add an extra USD7.8 billion in sales from 2021 to 2026. At USD35.3 billion in 2021, it will match Western Europe in terms of regional value sales. By 2026, Asia Pacific is expected to overtake North America and become the largest region in terms of eyewear sales in the world at USD42.9 billion, as demand for eyewear in the region is set to grow faster than in the rest of the world due to demographic factors, increased disposable income and wider access to eye correction in many markets including China and India where the eyewear penetration rate is still relatively low compared to Europe or America.
Channel shifts as new shopping habits stick
COVID-19 has been a catalyst for e-commerce adoption among eyewear players which had historically been overreliant on optical shops. As consumers continue to enjoy the convenience of online shopping, and as the shift to learning, working, eating, shopping, playing and socialising moves further to the home and online, eyewear players are set to deploy digital services to replicate virtually their in-store offer in future. But physical stores remain important to create bonds with customers, and retailers and brands will also invest in enhancing their physical locations for greater engagement and service delivery.
From sustainability to purpose
Since the pandemic, consumers have had time to rethink their priorities and needs and increasingly demand from the brands they buy to be purpose-driven. In that context, eyewear players will be expected to increasingly support social initiatives and local communities, as well as increase their commitments to combat climate change, in order to gain consumers’ favour.
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