The eyewear retail space occupies the middle ground between healthcare and fashion – for some, eyewear is a luxury item, and for others an essential product. But this hasn’t spared the industry from inflationary headwinds affecting other retail categories. We dove into the location analytics for three top eyewear retailers – America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, LensCrafters, and Warby Parker – to take a closer look at changing consumer behavior and what lies ahead for the eyewear industry.
Putting the “Eye” in Inflation
America’s Best and Warby Parker began 2023 with a favorable year-over-year (YoY) comparison to an Omicron-plagued January 2022. And although inflationary headwinds seem to have reached the category, with YoY visits falling slightly as the weeks progressed, traffic to both brands still consistently outperformed 2022 levels. And as inflation has begun to slow, it’s likely that the brands will continue to see YoY visits increase.
LensCrafters – the largest of the three analyzed – seems to be feeling the pinch of inflation more acutely. The company’s recent YoY visit gaps may be partially due to its significant mall presence, as YoY visits to the brand seem to be closely related to wider mall visitation patterns.
Still, comparing LensCrafters traffic to that of Placer.ai’s Indoor Mall Index – which aggregates location intelligence from 100 top-tier malls – revealed that LensCrafters’ recent YoY weekly visit gaps were consistently smaller than those of the Indoor Mall Index. So, while LensCrafters does appear to be affected by wider mall visitation trends, the brand is still pulling ahead of the wider mall space.
The Eye of the Beholder
Looking beyond store fleet configuration and diving deeper into consumer demographics offers further insight as to why these chains are experiencing different visitation patterns. Using the Census 2019: (5-year ACS) dataset to analyze the Trade Area of potential markets – which reflects the census blocks where visitors to these brands reside – showed the demographic differences between the consumers these brands attract. In Q1 2023 Warby Parker’s potential market had the highest median household income ($81.9K), followed by LensCrafters ($63.8K) and America’s Best ($57.8K). And LensCrafters’ potential market had the highest median age of the three brands (37.3) followed by America’s Best (33.8) and Warby Parker (31.6).
Warby Parker’s more affluent consumer base is less likely to be impacted by inflation. And the brand’s younger clientele – one that may see eyewear as must-update fashion – could be contributing to the chain’s consistent YoY visit growth. Meanwhile, the relatively low median household income (HHI) of residents in America’s Best’s trade area could mean that its prices cater to a lower-income clientele. A lower price-point could be helping America’s Best capture some market share in the current inflationary environment by attracting visitors trading down to lower-priced retailers.
But LensCrafters’ trade areas reflected a moderate median HHI and the highest median age of the three retailers. This likely contributed to recent YoY visit gaps for the chains since a relatively older clientele that is also strapped for discretionary dollars is more likely to hold off on a non-urgent glasses upgrade.
Keep an Eye Out
The eyewear industry hasn’t remained impervious to the challenges posed by inflation. But because eyecare will always be a basic healthcare need, the industry remains a relatively resilient one.
For updates and more data-driven foot traffic insights, visit Placer.ai.