This classification includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing ophthalmic frames, lenses, contact lenses, and sunglass lenses. Establishments involved in manufacturing molded glass blanks are included in SIC 3229: Pressed and Blown Glass and Glassware, Not Elsewhere Classified; and businesses engaged in grinding lenses and fitting glasses to prescriptions are classified in SIC 5995: Optical Goods Stores.
339115 (Ophthalmic Goods Manufacturing)
The ophthalmic goods industry was marked by intense competition among its major players in the early 2000s, not surprisingly considering the potential market to be conquered. About 159 million people in the United States require some type of vision correction. By 2005, 20 percent of the population will be between the ages of 55 and 74, about 95 percent of which will consume ophthalmic goods. Meanwhile, industry players, hoping to develop long-term relationships with younger customers, unleashed an expansive advertising effort in the late 1990s.
About 520 companies in the United States, including 23,766 employees and 17,031 production workers, were involved in manufacturing ophthalmic goods. These companies generated about $4.45 billion in 2001 shipment values for products covered in this industry classification. This figure represented an aggregate value of shipments largely derived from the production of the four primary products in the ophthalmic goods industry: ophthalmic lenses and frames, sunglasses, industrial eyewear, and contact lenses. Contact lenses, by far the dominant ophthalmic goods product in the 2000s, accounted for more than 43 percent of the total shipments delivered by the industry, with soft contact lenses representing 95 percent of the contact lens product share. Plastic ophthalmic focus lenses accounted for approximately 18.3 percent of the industry's shipments, and ophthalmic frames and industrial eyewear each accounted for 3.6 percent of the product share. Nonprescription sunglasses represented 4 percent of the total shipments delivered by the industry. Other products within the ophthalmic goods industry include underwater goggles, reading and simple magnifiers, and an ophthalmic lens coating.
The ophthalmic goods industry has retained solid growth for nearly two decades. In 1990, shipments of ophthalmic goods totaled $2.27 billion, having risen from $1.28 billion in 1982, though with a slight downturn in the mid-1980s. Through the 1990s, sales continuously improved, attributable in part to the increasing popularity of designer sunglasses and to technological innovations in the development of contact lenses. Especially in the late 1990s, growth-hungry U.S. manufacturers sought markets overseas with less penetration than mature U.S. markets—in which rising consumer prosperity was reaching levels attractive to U.S. manufacturers.
The ophthalmic goods industry was predominantly populated by relatively small manufacturing operations. Of the 575 establishments involved in producing ophthalmic goods, nearly 75 percent employed fewer than 20 people and more than a third had less than five employees. Typically, the larger companies do not solely manufacture ophthalmic goods but manufacture a diverse line of products to generate sales. For example, the leading company in the industry, Bausch & Lomb Inc., garnered more than two-thirds of its sales in 1999 from health care products.
The industry relies heavily on consumer advertising for retail sales, spending $517 million on such advertising in 1998, up 8 percent from 1997. Indicative of the vigorously competitive atmosphere, much of this advertising is price-driven, whereby companies broadcast their products' cost-savings to consumers.
In the distribution sector, optical chains have gained a significant foothold, with $5.2 billion in retail sales in 1998, a 5 percent increase over 1997, due in large part to consolidation. Mass retailers, like Wal-Mart, were also aggressively moving into the ophthalmic-goods distribution market during the 1990s. Meanwhile, retail sales were somewhat curtailed by the explosion of electronic commerce. In an effort to minimize the costs involved in trying to secure distributors, manufacturers made great efforts to expand their relationships with various dispensers, which include ophthalmologists and optometrists, optical chains, mass retailers, and home maintenance organizations practices.
During the 1980s, the cost of conducting business in the ophthalmic goods industry rose sharply, far outpacing the increase in sales during the decade. In 1982, the industry recorded $1.3 billion in sales and spent $41 million on capital investment. By 1990, sales had climbed to $2.3 billion, but capital investment had more than tripled to $137 million. In 1997, capital investment reached $2.4 billion against sales of $3.6 billion. The average investment required to operate an ophthalmic facility in 1989 was $282,398, a figure that totaled $414,325 by 1997. The average cost for facilities operating in the ophthalmic goods industry reached $2.7 million in 1997, up from $1.3 million in 1989.
Until the 1960s, growth in the ophthalmic goods industry had occurred at a steady, predictable rate, largely dictated by the rate of population growth in the United States. During the 1960s, however, an increased demand for ophthalmic products elevated the production and sales levels of manufacturers to an unprecedented high. A combination of several factors prompted this remarkable surge in growth, including a dramatic rise in the nation's population and an increase in the availability of eye examinations. The advent of contact lenses in the 1950s as a genuine alternative to conventional corrective eyewear, however, contributed most significantly to the growth of the ophthalmic goods industry.
Although extraordinary gains were achieved by contact lens manufacturers and retailers during the first years of quantifiable production in the 1950s, certain difficulties associated with the early development of contact lenses slowed the public's acceptance of the new product. On average, a pair of contact lenses sold for $200, an exceedingly high price to pay for many consumers, and the discomfort caused by wearing the hard, hydrophobic lenses, which initially covered most of the exposed eyeball, dissuaded a considerable percentage of consumers from making a long-term conversion to contact lenses. According to industry estimates, roughly half of the people who began fittings for contact lenses reverted back to conventional corrective eyewear, a rate of attrition that continued to plague contact lens manufacturers into the 1970s.
Despite the high cost of these lenses and the discomfort they often caused, consumers purchased enough contact lenses to push annual sales from $2 million in 1950 to $60 million by 1959. The number of contact lens manufacturers, the majority of which were small, privately owned companies, also increased at a commensurate rate during the decade, climbing from 20 in 1950 to more than 400 by 1960. This proliferation of contact lens manufacturers led to a rash of deceptive advertising complaints issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and sparked several fiercely contested patent disputes, as the excitement generated by the creation of a new, potentially lucrative market within the ophthalmic goods industry attracted increased competition. Complaints filed by the FTC, 15 of which were recorded in 1961 compared to only four prior to 1960, and patent disputes, along with issues such as whether only ophthalmologists and oculists should be allowed to prescribe and fit contact lenses, caused the sales of contact lenses to stagnate at the close of the decade. But these were problems generally associated with the nascence of the market and, as such, inflicted only a temporary setback on the burgeoning industry.
By the mid-1960s, improvements had been made in contact lenses, although their cost still hovered around $200 a pair. The thickness of the plastic used to manufacture the lenses had been reduced, alleviating some of the irritation experienced when a contact lens wearer's eyelid passed over the lens, and the diameter of the lenses had also been reduced so that they only covered the iris and the pupil, rather than the entire exposed eyeball. Shortly before these improvements were made, however, a discovery of lasting importance for the future of the contact lens market overshadowed the technological strides made by the industry in hard contact lens design—although it would be years before its impact would be felt by manufacturers and retailers. In 1965, two Czechoslovakian scientists, Otto Wichterle and Drahoslav Lim, were awarded a patent for their invention, five years earlier, of a soft plastic suitable for body implants that could also be used to produce contact lenses. Marking the beginning of soft contact lenses, which would eventually account for an overwhelming percentage of contact lens sales, the pliable, hydrophilic material absorbed tears rather than shedding them, as did hard contact lenses, and virtually eliminated any sensation of the eyelid passing over the lens.
Concurrent with the encouraging development of soft contact lenses, the rest of the ophthalmic goods industry was expanding at a robust rate, exceeding the rate of growth in the nation's population. From 1955 to 1965, the population over the age of five increased 18.4 percent, whereas the number of corrective eyewear users rose by 30 percent. This growth was primarily attributable to a greater portion of the population undergoing complete eye examinations, a trend facilitated by Medicare and Medicaid health programs, increased screening for vision acuity in public school systems, and states requiring mandatory eye examinations for people applying for driving licenses. The increasing number of union optical plans, coupled with a greater number of corrective lens wearers purchasing more than one pair of ophthalmic lenses and frames, also fueled the expansion of the ophthalmic market in the 1960s.
New product developments in the conventional corrective eyewear field also contributed to the gains achieved by the ophthalmic industry in the 1960s. One of the four leading publicly held companies engaged in the ophthalmic goods industry at the time, American Optical Corporation, introduced a new single vision lens that provided increased visual sharpness and less distortion from peripheral angles of view. Another leader in the industry, Univis, developed bifocal lenses in 1964 without a visible line separating each half of the lens. Plastic, shatterproof, and lightweight lenses also made their debut in the 1960s. Accounting for only 5 percent of the total corrective lens sales by the mid-1960s, plastic lens sales, nevertheless, had been growing faster than the industry itself during the decade.
Sunglasses also experienced a surge in sales during the 1960s, further accelerating the rapid pace at which the ophthalmic goods industry was expanding. During the 1960s, sunglasses became fashionable accessories worn throughout the year and were no longer considered seasonal products. As the product in the ophthalmic goods industry most sensitive to fashion trends, sunglasses quickly became a lucrative product to manufacture and sell, as unit sales rose from 60 million pairs in 1960 to 175 million pairs in 1966. By the end of the decade, the sunglasses market had leapt 70 percent from the sales volume recorded in 1965 to approximately $200 million.
Conspicuously absent from the contact lens market during the 1960s were the leading manufacturers in the ophthalmic goods industry. American Optical Company and Bausch & Lomb Inc., which together controlled more than 90 percent of the conventional eyeglass market, had eschewed entrance into the contact lens market primarily because the directors of the companies perceived the competition to be too intense. Moreover, neither company felt it had developed a technological innovation in the product encouraging enough to warrant a foray into the market. In 1966, however, Bausch & Lomb acquired the exclusive rights to manufacture and sell the soft, hydrophilic lenses developed by the two Czechoslovakian scientists and, by 1972, the company started distributing soft contact lenses nationwide.
In the 1970s, the ophthalmic goods industry continued to benefit from the population growth, as the prodigious sales increases of the 1960s continued. Wholesale billings for the overall optical industry increased from $400 million in 1959 to $900 million by 1969, and then doubled to nearly $2 billion by the end of the 1970s. The success of the industry attracted the attention of the FTC once again, in 1974, when it began investigating restraints on price advertising in the optical industry. In the course of its investigation, the FTC found a significant discrepancy in the price of eyewear throughout the nation, with the average price of eyewear running 25 percent higher in states where advertising was illegal and varying by as much as 300 percent within the same state. In 1978, the same year in which eyeglass coverage became mandatory under Medicaid, the FTC lifted the restrictions on advertising with the hope of saving consumers as much as $400 million annually. Consequently, competition within the ophthalmic goods industry intensified as pricing strategies became of paramount importance.
Along with this transformation of the retail side of the optical industry, ophthalmic goods manufacturers continued to experience growth, engendered in part by the expansion of the sunglasses market. In the early 1980s, sunglasses sales dropped, with unit demand slipping 15 percent in 1981 and 1982, but sales began rising as the decade progressed. Indicative of the product's dependency on fashion trends, the increase in sales was partly attributable to the popularity of several films during the early 1980s that featured well known actors wearing sunglasses. For example, perhaps the greatest boost from the motion picture industry came when a pair of Bausch & Lomb's Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses were prominently featured in Risky Business. In 1981, 18,000 pairs of the Wayfarer sunglasses were sold; however, after the film was released in 1983, unit sales ballooned to 330,000 pairs. Retail sales in the sunglasses market rose from $361 million in 1985 to $1.5 billion by the end of the decade, reflecting a 100 percent increase from 1980.
Although the number of contact lens wearers in the United States tapered off to approximately 24 million in the four or five years prior to 1992, the dynamics within this segment of the ophthalmic goods industry were rapidly changing in the early 1990s. Disposable soft contact lenses, first marketed by Johnson & Johnson in 1988, grabbed the attention of consumers during the product's first years of availability and were expected to woo many contact lens wearers away from conventional contact lenses.
By 1999 the number of people wearing contact lenses in the United States had grown for seven consecutive years. That year, about 30 million people in the United States wore contact lenses, creating a $2.5 billion market. The largest market was for soft lenses, with 27.6 million wearers. Rigid gas permeable lenses accounted for 5.6 million wearers. In addition, the market for disposable lenses skyrocketed throughout the 1990s; twothirds of soft lens wearers now use these lenses.
Retail margins began to flatten somewhat in the late 1990s amidst competition from mail-order providers and online lens sales. Ten percent of contact lens wearers purchase lenses through the mail, a figure that doubles for disposable lens wearers. As a result, prices were driven downward, forcing ophthalmic goods manufacturers to streamline their production processes in order to maintain solid margins. Optometrists and manufacturers joined together against mail-order outlets and, to a lesser degree, other discount outlets, who have garnered an increasing share of the market in recent years. Many manufacturers, including the giants of the industry, refuse to sell lenses to mail-order companies or discount outlets that do not have eye-care professionals onsite. Nonetheless, these distribution outlets continue to gain popularity.
Manufacturers have thus invested extensively to build brand equity, especially among younger customers with whom they hope to develop lifelong relationships, a primary focus of the recent advertising blitz. These trends, furthermore, helped spur the emerging specialty lens market, particularly among the industry's top players, who hope to realize higher margins. One of the most notable niche markets was for colored contact lenses, which have started to place contact lenses, like eyeglass frames, as fashion items. Colored contact lenses generated sales of $200 million in 1998, primarily of blue-tinted lenses. Another emerging niche market was for intraocular lenses, which replace the natural lens that is removed during cataract surgery. Cataracts occur in half of all 65- to 75-year-olds in the United States; thus, the aging of the population constitutes a prime factor driving future sales expectations in this market category.
Among the most notable developments in contact lens manufacturing was the development in the late 1990s of lenses that treat colorblindness. ColorMax Technologies, a California-based firm, received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in 1999 to sell lenses that enable a colorblind wearer to distinguish between colors that would normally appear similar. The technology functions by altering the wavelength of colors as they meet the eye. These lenses were to be customized for the particular patient's form of color blindness. Whereas similar technologies were already in existence, they failed to account for variations in the type or severity of customers' afflictions.
The industry was challenged in the late 1990s by the sharp increase in the number of customers foregoing corrective lenses altogether in favor of laser eye surgery. Analysts expect this market to grow exponentially in the early 2000s, which will likely force many players out of the ophthalmic goods industry. However, some of the larger firms such as Bausch & Lomb were able to capitalize on this growing market by diversifying and incorporating surgery into their business.
This competitive atmosphere of the ophthalmic goods industry was marked in 1999 by a false-advertising complaint to the FDA lodged by Johnson & Johnson against its chief competitor Bausch & Lomb. The controversy began when Bausch & Lomb ran an advertisement, which the FDA described as "false and misleading," that claimed their Pure Vision contact lenses were superior to Johnson & Johnson's AcuVue brand. The ad claimed that Pure Vision lenses caused the eye to swell only 4.1 percent, compared with AcuVue's 9.1 percent, due to the greater level of oxygen infiltration afforded by Pure Vision lenses. It went on to boast that consumers prefer Pure Vision to AcuVue at a rate of 69 percent. Johnson & Johnson cried foul, claiming that such declarations were not clinically substantiated. A warning letter from the FDA citing lack of adequate proof for such claims forced Bausch & Lomb to retract the advertisement.
As the population ages, continued sales are more or less assured, especially in the bifocal and multifocal lens sectors that target age-related presbyopia. Meanwhile, lighter and thinner ophthalmic lens technology, along with growing style consciousness, portends a healthy future for eyeglasses, even as contact lenses further penetrate the market.
In 1998, sales of sunglasses equaled $1.9 billion, with mass retailers accounting for $262 million, optical outlets $406 million, and sunglasses specialty stores $495 million. The most robust area of the sunglasses market was for designer sunglasses. These glasses, marketed as fashion wear, exploded beginning in the mid-1980s and became a particularly high-priority market sector in the late 1990s. The average price of sunglasses rose 50 percent between 1990 and 1997, when a pair cost $23.06, largely on the strength of name-brand varieties. About 44 percent of all sunglasses carry designer logos.
In addition to heightened emphasis on designer sunglasses as fashion, sunglasses sales were aided by consumer concern about the protection of their eyes from ultraviolet rays on a year-round basis. Indeed, one of the most promising trends in this sector involved polarized lenses designed specifically to protect the eye from ultra-violet rays. Another innovation was bendable plastic frames for sports-related sunglasses.
Severely affected by the global recession in the early 1990s, the sunglasses market, especially sensitive to the health of the national economy, also suffered from its robust growth during the 1980s, as the proliferation of sunglasses manufacturers exacerbated the effect of the stagnant economy and saturated the market. The surfeit of manufacturers entering the U.S. market from both the domestic and international fronts does not bode well for the immediate future of sunglasses sales.
Additionally, pending legislation regarding the restructuring of the nation's health care system will undoubtedly affect individuals' ophthalmology coverage, which will in turn have a significant impact on ophthalmic goods manufacturers. Doubts concerning what provisions will be included for the optical industry, which ranks below the medical and dental industries in terms of size and political clout, characterized the industry's anxiety the last time national health care legislation was seriously considered in the early and mid-1970s. These same concerns were revisited as the industry entered the 2000s.
Shipments for ophthalmic goods totaled approximately $4.35 billion in 2001, up slightly from approximately $4.32 billion the previous year.
Cosmetic contacts became increasingly popular among teenagers, even those who do not require vision correction. Contact lens sales were up 20 percent in 2002, with many manufacturers marketing wild new colors and patterns in contacts specifically for the youth market. There were risks associated with the new trend, however, if such lenses were purchased from unlicensed vendors or not fitted by a doctor. Despite being uncorrective eyewear, such contacts can cause eye problems if not correctly fitted and used.
Soft, disposable contact lenses, including those that correct astigmatism, such as Bausch & Lomb's SofLens 66 Toric lenses, continued to be popular. The category-leading lenses are two-week replacements for patients with astigmatism. Continuous-wear lenses, such as Bausch & Lomb's PureVision, also generated strong sales in the early 2000s. Continuous wear lenses were designed for longterm uninterrupted wear. Novartis' CIBA Vision unit marketed a similar product called Focus Night & Day, a 30-day disposable contact lens launched in the United States in 2002, which the company had sold overseas since 1999. In direct competition with PureVision, the launch sparked lawsuits on both sides over patents and other issues. These new extended-wear lenses allow about 60 percent more oxygen to enter the eye, providing more comfort and optical health. Although growth in this area is difficult to predict, CIBA estimates about 30 percent of disposable lens users will switch to 30-day lenses within two years. Growth in this area has been flat during the past few years.
Although sunglass sales saw a temporary decrease after the events of September 11, 2001, sales bounced back in 2002 and forecasts for future sales were positive, due to the increasing emphasis on its importance as a fashion accessory, a larger variety of styles, year-round marketing, and consumers concerned about eye health. Nearly 90 percent of all sunglasses sold in the United States are $30 and under, according to the Sunglass Association of America. With technology increasing, consumers are aware that good sunglasses need not cost a lot. Drug stores and other mass market retail outlets claim that their less expensive sunglasses offer the same 100 percent UVA and UVB protection as their more expensive counterparts. Mass retailers, therefore, see a large portion of sales and are embracing year-round sunglass merchandising. An estimated 22-35 percent of sunglass sales occur between September and February, making it necessary for retailers to carry at least some assortment of sunglasses year round while offering a fuller selection in peak seasons. Styles that were popular in 2002 and 2003 included rimless, semi-rimless, and thin-line frames, colored aviators, and flash mirror lenses. Athletic sunglass products also continued their growth.
High-end sunglasses sales were approximately $490 million per year. Six million frames were sold averaging $82 a pair in this category. Leading premium sunglass makers in 2001 and 2002 included Ray-Ban, with $113.5 million in sales; Oakley, with $90.5 million; Nike, $40 million; Tommy Hilfiger, $25 million; Gucci, $23.5 million; and Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren, $22.5 million. Kenneth Cole New York, Bolle, DKNY, and Guess rounded out the top 10 top-tier sunglass manufacturers. More and more designers jumped on the sunglass bandwagon, increasing competition among more established high-end sunglass designers.
With some 30 million pairs sold each year, nonprescription reading glasses grew an estimated threefold during 1990s and were forecast to grow 8 to 10 percent from 2002 to 2004. The aging baby boom population was a large factor contributing to booming sales in this fast-growing sector. Consumers who wanted to remain stylish were driving the development of more fashionable, upscale reading glasses. Like sunglasses, rimless and semi-rimless styles were the trend. More compact reading glasses also were being made, some of which could be folded into a case no bigger than a tube of lipstick. Affordability was still a main concern, however, with lower prices allowing consumers to own several pairs.
With manufacturing or marketing operations in 26 countries, Bausch & Lomb is the dominant company operating in the ophthalmic goods industry. An industry leader since its inception in 1853, Bausch & Lomb secured a lasting foothold in the optical field by developing the first rubber eyeglass frames, contributing significantly to the advancement of microscope and telescope technology, and through the creation of Aviator-style Ray-ban sunglasses. The acquisition of the rights to manufacture and sell soft contact lenses in 1966 and the subsequent FDA approval to market the lenses in 1971, coupled with the company's diversification in the early 1980s into health care and biomedical business lines, contributed most appreciably to the company's success in the 1980s and 1990s. Bausch & Lomb posted overall sales of more than $1.81 billion in 2002, while maintaining a payroll of about 11,500 workers. The company reacted to tough competition in the contact lens market by cutting about 850 jobs in 1999. Bausch & Lomb accounts for 16 percent of the contact lens market, placing third in that sector; its business includes soft and rigid gas permeable contact lens and lens-care products. In the late 1990s the firm sold its sunglasses business, including the popular Ray-ban line, to Luxottica, and delved into refractive laser eye surgery.
Johnson & Johnson's Viskaton unit specializes in disposable contact lenses. Brands include AcuVue, a line that includes lenses that can be worn continuously for one week, and SureVue, two-week daily wear lenses. Other products include daily wear lenses, daily wear disposable lenses, color contact lenses, bifocal lenses, and lenses that correct astigmatism. Viskaton, with 2,500 employees, posted sales of about $1 billion in 2002.
Allergan, Inc. manufactures and markets contact lenses and a broad assortment of other ophthalmic products not included in this industry classification. Allergan employed 4,900 people and garnered $1.42 billion in sales in 2002.
Among the other leading companies in 2003 were Sola International, which designs and manufactures plastic and glass eyeglass lenses, with 6,983 employees and $562.7 million in sales in 2003.
Italy's Luxottica Group was the world's largest eyewear company in 2003. Luxottica offers mid- and premium-priced eyeglass frames and sunglasses, offering more than 2,250 house brands and designer frames, including the Rayban and Revo sunglasses lines, in more than 115 countries. The company purchased Sunglass Hut International, with about 1,500 specialty sunglass stores and more than 100 Watch Station and Watch World stores. It also operates the some 860 LensCrafters retail optical stores.
The ophthalmic goods industry employed 23,766 people in 2001, including 17,031 production workers, with the remaining workers performing administrative, technical, or managerial duties. Employment within the industry shrank during the mid-1980s to a low of 21,700 people but rebounded by the end of the decade to surpass levels established during the early 1980s.
Typically, production workers in the ophthalmic goods industry are employed on a full-time basis, averaging 2 percent more hours per year than the average of production workers employed by other U.S. industries. By 2001, the average hourly wage for production workers was $14.63, up from $13.40 in 2000.
Italy continued to dominate the eyewear manufacturing industry. The Belluno district of the country manufactures two-thirds of the eyewear sold around the world. In 2000, the district, including Belluno and the surrounding region of Cadore, was home to 170 eyewear manufacturers with some 13,500 employees and sales of $1.6 billion, according to Sipao, the association that represents the eyewear manufacturers of the region. Exports made up 60 percent of sales, with the U.S. market leading the way with 41 percent. The larger manufacturers of the region included Luxottica (which purchased the United States' Sunglass Hut), Marcolin, and De Rigo. The region's Safilo is the licensee of Gucci, Valentino, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Allison.
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