21 Essential Eyewear Industry Statistics All Specs Lovers Should Know in 2021

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21 Essential Eyewear Industry Statistics All Specs Lovers Should Know in 2021

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Everyone knows at least one person who wears spectacles or some other sight-corrective device. With such a large consumer base, the industry must be very profitable. But just how profitable is it? And how did the global pandemic in 2020 affect the market — if at all?

In this eyewear industry statistics overview, we’ll answer these and other questions about the industry. We’ll also examine the UK market to see how it fares in the global context. Finally, we’ll explore the most recent developments in the sunglasses and luxury eyewear markets.

Top Eyewear Industry Statistics (Editor’s Choice)

  • The worldwide eyewear market was worth £101.1 billion in 2020.
  • At least 4 billion people across the globe wear glasses.
  • Ecommerce accounted for 21% of the total eyewear revenue in 2020.
  • In 2020, specs sales in the UK generated £181.2 million.
  • The UK sunglasses market is projected to generate £382.6 million in 2021.
  • UK sunglasses exports generated £45.1 million in 2020.
  • The luxury eyewear sector’s worth in 2021 is projected at £14.2 billion.
  • Luxottica is the world’s top eyewear company with £6.6 billion in revenue in 2020.

Essential Eyewear Industry Statistics

1. The worldwide eyewear market was worth £101.1 billion in 2020.

(Statista)

“Eyewear market” is a broad term, which includes not just prescription spectacles but also contact lenses, sunglasses, and other related products. Experts predict the world’s eyewear market will continue growing in size over the coming years. In 2021, its value is expected to reach £106.1 billion — a 4.9% increase year-over-year. By 2027, the market is projected to approach £142.5 billion in value, marking an impressive 40.9% growth over seven years.

2. Between 2021 and 2026, the eyewear industry will grow by 4.69% annually.

(Mordor Intelligence)

While many sectors were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, that wasn’t the case with eyewear. The projected eyewear industry growth rate is in line with those from prior years — 4.45% in 2016, 4.68% in 2017, and 4.76% in 2018. North America will retain its status as the world’s largest market over the coming years. During this period, experts predict Asia-Pacific — and China in particular — will emerge as the fastest growing market.

3. At least 4 billion people across the globe wear glasses.

(Reference)

The Vision Council of America estimates that 75% of adults worldwide rely on some sight correction product. About 64% wear prescription glasses, statistics reveal. Meanwhile, the remaining 11% have opted for contact lenses. It’s also interesting to note that a whopping 85% of the world’s adult population reports wearing sunglasses. And while most wear them as a form of sun protection, some people use prescription sunglasses with corrective lenses.

4. Women are more likely to wear spectacles than men.

(Glasses Crafter, Reference)

Eyeglasses statistics show that more than 50% of women worldwide wear spectacles, as opposed to just 42% of men. The situation is similar with contact lenses — 18% of women and 14% of men use them for sight correction. Of those who use both products, 62% say they wear contact lenses more often. Demographic data also shows that older people are more likely to suffer from farsightedness, whereas younger people are typically nearsighted.

5. Ecommerce accounted for 21% of total eyewear industry revenue in 2020.

(Grand View Research)

Despite the dominance of ecommerce during the pandemic in 2020, 79% of worldwide eyewear revenue came from brick-and-mortar sales. And while this share is slightly down from previous years, experts predict people will continue buying glasses from physical stores in similar numbers until at least 2028. This trend isn’t surprising, as brick-and-mortar stores have the advantage of providing optometrist checkups — something buyers can’t get online.

6. Non-plastic frames brought in nearly £10.9 billion in revenue in 2020.

(Statista)

Although their sales were down from £13.3 billion in 2019, non-plastic frames are outselling plastic ones. Metal eyeglass frames are among the top eyewear trends in 2021, and industry insiders project their annual growth rate at 6.6% between 2021 and 2025. At this rate, the sales of non-plastic frames could generate £16.5 billion per year by the end of this period.

7. Meanwhile, plastic frames sales generated £10.7 million in 2020.

(Statista)

Similar to plastic frames, the revenue was down from £13.5 billion due to the pandemic and related lockdowns. As mentioned, non-plastic frames outsold plastic ones for the first time in 2020, and it’s one of the eyewear industry trends that’s bound to continue. Experts say the sector’s annual growth rate for the 2021–2025 period will be 6.5%. Growing at a somewhat slower pace than non-plastic frames, the sales revenue could reach £16.3 billion by 2025.

UK Eyeglasses Statistics

8. 59% of UK citizens wear glasses.

(Statista)

The UK ranks just outside of the top 10 European countries with the largest percentage of glasses-wearers. For comparison, Belgium and North Macedonia are the countries with the most significant share of bespectacled people — 70% each. And while 67.7% of the Swiss wear glasses, they’re also common in Norway (66%), Finland (65%), and Cyprus (65%).

9. The UK has over 25,000 visually impaired children under the age of 16.

(Sight Advice FAQ)

Eyewear market research reveals that up to 50% of these children also have some other disability. Their vision problems may stem from various factors, and many of these occur already at birth. For example, research shows that premature babies and those born with untypically low weight are at an increased risk of developing sight problems later in life.

10. In 2020, specs sales in the UK generated £181.2 million.

(Statista)

The eyewear industry in the UK experienced a 12.7% year-over-year decrease in revenue compared to 2019. But this doesn’t seem related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, sales have been gradually declining since their 2015 peak of £251.3 million. From that point, the UK glasses industry had been losing revenue each year — the sales were down to £242.4 million in 2016, £240.4 million in 2017, £224.2 million in 2018, and £207.5 million in 2019.

11. 3.8 million pairs of corrective spectacle lenses were sold in the UK in 2020.

(Statista)

Although similar to the drop in eyeglasses sales in 2020, spectacle lens sales experienced a more drastic decrease — down 50% from 7.6 million in 2019 and 56.3% from 8.7 million in 2018. According to the UK eyewear market data from previous years, corrective spectacle lenses peaked in 2013 with a record-setting 12.7 million pairs sold. Their sales had since stabilised in the 7–8 million range, but that was before the unprecedented downturn in 2020.

12. In 2021, eyewear frames will generate £775.7 million in revenue in the UK.

(Statista)

The UK ranks sixth in this regard, with the US eyewear market firmly in the lead. Eyewear frames are projected to bring in over £5.95 billion in the US, while China’s booming market ranks second with £3.52 billion. The top five also includes Germany (£1.17 billion), France (£1.08 billion), and Japan (£1 billion). Besides the UK, the rest of the list comprises Canada (£733.7 million), India (£733 million), Brazil (£724.3 million), and South Korea (£541 million).

13. In 2020, the sales value of plastic eyewear frames sat at £157,000.

(Statista)

Plastic frames’ eyewear market share is rapidly declining in the UK, their sales value having dropped by 83.7% from £962,000 in 2019. The term sales value differs from revenue — it indicates how much a retailer makes after subtracting what they owe to the manufacturer. Still, these numbers clearly show that plastic frames are nowhere near as popular today as in 2010. Back then, their sales value was almost ten times higher at nearly £1.35 million.

Eyewear Industry Statistics - Woman holding sunglasses

Sunglasses Industry Statistics

14. The UK sunglasses market is projected to generate £382.6 million in 2021.

(Statista)

The UK ranks 12th globally, with the US once again firmly in the lead (£2.98 billion). China is in second place with £1.3 billion in projected revenue, and Brazil follows closely with £959.4 million. India with £756.5 million and Germany with £556.6 million round out the top five.

Interestingly, eyewear industry facts point to Russia as the ninth largest sunglasses market in the world. Experts predict its revenue will reach £472.8 million in 2021, putting it on almost even ground with eighth-placed Australia (£473.6 million). And though Japan (£444.7 million) and Canada (£384 million) are currently behind Russia, all three still rank ahead of the UK.

15. The majority of Brits spent under £25 on sunglasses in 2020.

(Statista)

In 2020, 1.42 million people in the UK bought sunglasses that cost less than £25. Looking at historical eyewear industry sales data, these cheapest sunglasses have regularly sold the most units. Yet despite their dominance in 2020, the models offered at this price point saw a sharp decline in sales — the number was down by 36.5% from 2.25 million units in 2019.

16. At the same time, only 78,900 people spent £200 or more on sunglasses.

(Statista)

Most Brits don’t like investing in expensive sunglasses, and market share data proves this. In 2020, only 78,900 people in the UK spent £200 or more on sunglasses, while 587,000 of them spent between £100 and £199. In line with the general industry trends, both numbers were down from 2019 — by 67% (from 239,000) and 13.5% (from 679,000), respectively.

17. The UK sunglasses exports generated £45.1 million in 2020.

(Statista)

Due to its significant sunglasses marketing spend, Italy is the world’s leading sunglasses exporter with export revenue of £1.48 billion in 2020. The fast-emerging Chinese market comes in second with £838.7 million in exports, while Hong Kong is third with £388.4 million. One of the most prominent players in the global eyewear market, the US ranks fourth with £200.3 million in exports. Meanwhile, the UK’s export revenue puts it in tenth place globally.

18. The UK holds 1.2% of the world’s sunglasses export market.

(Statista)

Thanks to the Italian eyewear industry’s immense export value, the country holds 40% of the global export market. China’s market share stands at 21.9%, while Hong Kong ranks third with an 11.1% share. All other countries are in the single digits — the US holds 5.7% of the market, followed by Germany (3.5%) and France (3.1%). The Netherlands (2.1%) and Japan (1.9%) are next, with Spain (1.3%) and the United Kingdom (1.2%) rounding out the top ten.

Luxury Eyewear Industry Stats

19. The luxury eyewear sector’s worth in 2021 is projected at £14.2 billion.

(Statista)

According to the latest data, luxury eyewear accounts for 7% of the total worldwide revenue in the luxury goods market. Experts predict this particular segment of the eyewear industry will grow at a compound annual rate of 3.7% during the 2021–2025 period. By the end of it, luxury eyewear should exceed £16.4 billion in revenue —.a record high for this segment.

20. Luxury eyewear in Central and Western Europe generated £2.5 billion in 2020.

(Statista)

Eyewear industry stats point to a minor year-over-year decline from £2.7 billion in 2019. Still, experts predict 2021 will be a banner year for luxury eyewear in the region. Their projections put the sector’s annual revenue at a record-high £3.45 billion. From there, the number will decrease in the coming years, but it should stabilise at about £3.1 billion by the end of 2025.

21. Luxottica is the world’s leading eyewear manufacturer with £6.6 billion in revenue in 2020.

(Statista, Luxottica, ZEISS)

The Milan-based Luxottica Group owns some of the world’s best-known eyewear brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley. Its portfolio also includes licensed luxury brands like Bulgari, Emporio Armani, and Ralph Lauren. Unsurprisingly, the company’s revenue declined in 2020 — it was down by 20.5% from £8.3 billion the previous year. But despite this pandemic-related drop, it was still enough for Luxottica to rank first among the world’s biggest eyewear companies.

Essilor, another key market player, ranked second with worldwide revenue of £5.7 billion. The company, which is known for its wide range of corrective lenses, saw its revenue drop from £6.3 billion in 2019. Optical industry statistics put the Germany-based ZEISS in third place in terms of revenue. However, only a portion of the company’s £5.7 billion in 2020 came from spectacle lenses, as its output also includes cameras and other optical devices.

Eyewear Industry Statistics - Two Eyewear

Eyewear Industry Statistics: In Conclusion

Despite the slight pandemic-related drop, the eyewear industry had a very successful year with £101.1 billion in revenue in 2020. Spectacles and spectacle frames accounted for most of the revenue, but sunglasses and luxury eyewear also contributed to the industry’s profits.

And after a somewhat shaky year, the industry is about to resume its growth — by 2027, it’s projected to reach £142.5 billion in annual revenue. Along with the global market, the UK’s optical glasses industry will also experience growth, particularly in the eyeglasses segment. In fact, experts project the country’s sunglasses market will generate £382.6 million in 2021.

Luxury eyewear is another integral part of the industry, and insiders predict 2021 will be a record-breaking year for the sector with £3.45 billion in Central and Western Europe alone.

FAQ

How many people wear glasses?

The Vision Council of America’s estimate that 64% of adults around the globe wear glasses translates into at least four billion glasses-wearers worldwide. Meanwhile, more than half of the UK’s population — 59% — wears glasses, putting it just outside the top 10 of European countries with the largest percentage of bespectacled people. Belgium and North Macedonia top that list with 70% of glasses-wearers each, while Switzerland is just behind with 67.7%.

How profitable is the eyewear industry?

In 2020, the industry generated £101.1 billion in worldwide revenue — and experts predict a steady growth in the coming years. For example, the number is expected to grow by 4.9% year-over-year in 2021, reaching £106.1 billion. By 2027, the industry will be worth close to £142.5 billion, which would mark a significant 40.9% increase over a seven-year period.

How large is the eyewear industry?

Even though they rake in the largest chunk of the profits (up to 50% by some estimates), eyeglasses are just one of the industry’s several segments. It also includes contact lenses, spectacle glasses, and spectacle frames. In 2020, for example, spectacle frames alone brought in £21.6 million in revenue worldwide. Sunglasses also make up a significant portion of the industry’s profits — especially in the US, where they’ll bring in £2.98 billion in 2021.

What is the markup in the eyeglass industry?

The markup in the eyeglass industry depends on various factors and can go from 100% with lesser-known companies to 1000% with the more popular brands. The reason eyewear can be so expensive has to do with the state of the industry, where larger companies have the power to influence the prices. Industry insiders point to Luxottica as one such brand whose luxury products command prices that are up to 20 times higher than their actual value.

Who is the largest eyewear manufacturer?

Italy’s Luxottica Group is currently the largest eyewear manufacturer, having generated £6.6 billion in revenue in 2020. Eyewear industry statistics put France’s Essilor in second place with £5.7 billion in earnings. Interestingly, the two companies merged vertically in 2018 to form a single entity — EssilorLuxottica. The corporation’s revenue reached £12.3 billion in 2020, putting it far ahead of its competitors despite a pandemic-related year-over-year drop.

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