Eyewear refers to glasses and other items or accessories that are worn on or over the eyes for functional or stylistic purposes. Eyewear comes in many different forms, such as spectacles, contact lenses, sunglasses and blue light glasses, and varies in functionality and purpose. The global eyewear market was valued at over $140 billion in 2020. The market is projected to increase every year from 2020 forward and is forecasted to reach $197 billion by 2027.
Spectacles make up a significant portion of the eyewear market. In 2020, spectacles—which include prescription eyeglasses, blue light glasses, reading glasses, and others—captured a volume share of over 55 percent. One significant factor contributing to this growth is the popularity of fast fashion among millennials, which has encouraged eyewear manufacturers to regularly come up with new designs and patterns to meet constantly evolving trends. Another significant factor is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in an increase in working or attending school online. The resulting increased use of computers and phones has also contributed to a rise in the sales of spectacles, especially blue light canceling lenses. While blue light lenses are still in their infancy, they are expected to gain increased popularity among consumers in the coming years.
Spectacles are mostly purchased at physical brick and mortar stores, which made up 79 percent of revenue share in 2020. However, the rise in online glasses marketplaces, as well as new technology that allows customers to virtually try on a pair of glasses, has given online glasses sales a slight bump in recent years. This is expected to only increase in the future; however, the trend of going to an optometrist and then purchasing glasses from a physical store is also expected to remain steady in the years to come.
Contact lenses are thin, plastic lenses placed directly on the surface of the eye. Like the rest of the eyewear industry, contact lenses have also steadily increased over the last few years, accounting for significant revenue share in 2020. New developments in contact lenses over the last few years have made them more user-friendly and less uncomfortable than in years past. The introduction of light-adaptive lenses and multifocal toric lenses, which are lenses that have been designed to change eye shape according to certain lighting conditions and thus reduce irritation and dryness, have made contacts increase in popularity and have been critical to their growth in the industry. Additionally, online contacts retailers, such as 1-800-Contacts and Scout by Warby Parker, have made buying and refilling contacts prescriptions easier and helped drive growth.
Sunglasses are special lenses or protective eyewear designed to shield one's eyes from the harmful rays of the sun. The global sunglasses market size was valued at almost $17 billion in 2019 and was projected to steadily increase to $18 billion by 2027. Unlike spectacles or contacts, many of which require prescriptions and are a necessity for many consumers, sunglasses are mostly viewed as a luxury fashion accessory. However, they do serve a functional purpose, as some models can block out 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays from the sun and block out the sun's glare.
The sunglasses market can be further divided into two categories: polarized glasses and unpolarized glasses. Unpolarized glasses are dominant in the sunglasses market, due to their widespread availability at clothing stores, convenience stores, and even gas stations. While the sunglasses market is expected to steadily increase, the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting lockdowns in 2020 did have a negative effect, as people were staying in their houses and not going outside or engaging in social gatherings.