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The Australian eyewear market comprises largely of necessary as opposed to discretionary items, however, the region has not remained impervious to the economic spending lull. Despite its solid economic position and its strong labour market, there is a widespread sense of consumer caution throughout Australia.
The distribution of eyewear in Australia falls overwhelmingly through optical shops, accounting for 69% of sales. Internet retail of contact lenses accounts for just under 10% of sales, as contact lenses being light-weight and relatively high-priced, are an ideal item for online distribution.
Online eyewear retailers have reaped the rewards of having low operating cost structures and have been able to aggressively discount their products compared with their bricks-and-mortar counterparts that were faced with high labour and utility costs.
Australia's ageing population, whilst boding well for eyeglasses sales in general, account for only a small portion of online sales due to their lack of technological prowess and comfort with transacting electronically. Retailers have attempted to address this issue by improving their websites to include higher levels of interactivity, such as virtual fitting rooms and other customisation options.
The bulk of eyewear sales that are distributed through alternative retail channels can be attributed to the sales of sunglasses through department stores and apparel specialist retailers.
The Australian eyewear industry has evolved markedly over the past decade. The entry of UK budget prescription eyewear giant, Specsavers, in 2008, altered the retail landscape significantly. Previously, the market had been dominated by Luxottica's retail chain OPSM, and a few other smaller retail chains, and as a result there was less price competition.
Specsavers rocked the foundations of the market by offering massively discounted products and value bundles, such as 2-for-1 deals on spectacles.
The future of the industry looks promising, with an increase in demand, greater internet access and new customer segments. The continued growth in the online retail sector will drive new consumers to explore the online space, as electronic commerce becomes a mainstay of Australian consumerism.
For more information on the Australian eyewear market, see the latest research: Australian Eyewear Market
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