The Number Of Spectacles Being Sold In Australia Is So Big You'll Think Your Eyes Need Checking

Glasses: Shutterstock

Pop quiz. This is like one of those market-sizing questions that sometimes can come up in job interviews.

How many pairs of prescription glasses are sold across Australia every week?

Take the number of Australians, estimate the number who wear prescription glasses and how often they buy them.

(We tried this in the Business Insider office and everyone came out significantly short of the mark.)

The answer is around 135,000. So about another two pairs of prescription glasses will be sold each time you blink while reading this.

According to retailer Specsavers, 5.5 million Australians now buy a total of 7 million pairs a year, thanks to lower prices, 2-for-1 deals, and subtle demographic shifts that mean our eyesight is getting worse over time.

While the number may seem high for a country of 23 million people, demand is expected to grow.

Specsavers sells around 60,000 pairs a week. Its market estimate also excludes non-prescription sunglasses and off-the-shelf reading glasses.

Add those in and the eyewear sales estimates become, excuse this, but eye-popping.

When the other categories are added – fashion sunnies and $20 reading glasses from the chemist when you can’t find yours – and research firm Euromonitor International estimates that 31 million pairs of glasses were sold across Australia in 2012, up from 27 million in 2007.

(It’s unclear if this accounts for lens-less glasses bought by hipsters.)

Euromonitor says close to half of all Australians require “corrective vision devices or procedures of some kind”.

Now to look at some of the forces that are behind the increase in demand for prescription glasses.

– The ageing population is driving more long-sightedness.

– Office work and high levels of immigration from East Asia driving more short-sightedness.

Euromonitor expects Australian spectacle sales figures to grow a total of 10% in the 5 years to 2017.

Specsavers Global Retail Director Derek Dyson told Business Insider that the market had grown significantly since it launched its signature 2-for-1 offering in 2008.

The retailer expects its sales to grow to 80,000 pairs a week during the summer peak season and an average of 75,000 pairs a week next year.

About 70% of Specsavers customers buy more than 1 pair of glasses at a time through the 2-for-1 deal. “Some people might have a pair of [prescription] sunglasses and some may like to have 2 different frames,” Dyson explained.

Dyson credited Specsavers’ low-price marketing strategy for encouraging Australian glasses-wearers to replace their spectacles once every 2-2.5 years, down from 4 years in 2007.

Euromonitor researchers separately acknowledged that Specsavers’s low prices and bundling deals had “significantly altered the optical retail landscape in Australia”.

“We launched in Australia in 2007 and have had double-digit growth almost every year,” Dyson said. “I think we’ll continue to grow year-on-year, as we do in the UK and our other markets.”

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