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Optical industry eyeing teens

Approximately 160 million people in the U.S. wear some form of eyewear, but with the introduction of refractive eye surgery to permanently correct vision for those 18 and over, the adult eyewear demo has taken a bit of a hit....
August 1, 2001

Approximately 160 million people in the U.S. wear some form of eyewear, but with the introduction of refractive eye surgery to permanently correct vision for those 18 and over, the adult eyewear demo has taken a bit of a hit.

Roughly 2.2 million refractive surgeries will be performed in the U.S. this year, according to stats from market research firm Spectrum Consulting, and that figure is up from 1.45 million for 2000. The eyewear industry is responding by shifting its focus onto the crucial youth market.

Bill Cox, a licensed optician at Visionary Opticians in Omaha, Nebraska, elaborates: ‘I’m seeing MDs fit contacts for kids as young as 10, whereas a few years ago, they wouldn’t see kids younger than 15 or 16.’ According to trade association the Contact Lens Institute, there are over 34 million contact-wearers in the U.S., and about 13% of these are under 18.

In eyeglasses, the kids and teens demo makes up about 70% to 75% of Visionary Opticians’ business, according to Cox. Youth-friendly glasses brands include Nine West, Tommy Hilfiger, Guess and Candie’s. ‘With the teenagers, you want to get a name that gets their attention,’ says Cox. Lantis Eyewear debuted its Seventeen-branded Eyewear Collection in June under a licensing agreement with the magazine’s owner Primedia. Younger kids go for brands like Barbie, Osh Kosh and Fisher-Price. Logo, a Miami-based frame manufacturer, is also coming out with a new Harry Potter line of glasses to coincide with the movie launch this November.

In February, CIBA Vision, a large player in the contact lens market, launched a US$1-million, teen girl-targeted print campaign for its Focus Dailies disposable lens line. Running through October, the effort consists of an ad appearing 23 times in mags like Seventeen, Teen People and Jump. Projected to reach 65% of the total U.S. teen population and 93% of U.S. teen girls, the ad builds on the success of last year’s 30-second TV spot ‘Teen Tribunal,’ in which a gaggle of teen girls counsel their spec-wearing friend to switch to contacts. The spot aired during shows such as Party of Five, Charmed, Felicity and Buffy from February to September 2000.

‘An important part of being a teenager is fitting in and being part of the crowd,’ says Steve Colton, VP of marketing for CIBA Vision’s North America lens business. The company used this vital teen need for acceptance in its campaigns. The face of a teen girl contact-wearer dominates this year’s print ad, focusing specifically on her eyes. In panels running across the top of the ad, she’s featured whooping it up with her friends.

In April, CIBA Vision also launched a program to promote safe driving for high school drivers-ed students. An interactive CD-ROM was distributed with games designed to help teens be more aware of their vision skills on the road. The initiative is expected to resurface for 2002.

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