Anne Cooper

As the first half of 2024 draws to a close, we are afforded the opportunity to look back at 2023 with the blessings of distance and perspective. The year marked a time of continued global turmoil, with escalating conflicts in both eastern Europe and the Middle East. Within the U.S., borrowers from the everyday consumer to large corporations engaged in tenuous dances with rising interest rates that tightened available credit and limited the generosity of profit margins, all while making the cost of borrowing money prohibitively high for many, whether the purpose was to finance a car, buy a house, or eye potential practice acquisitions or consolidations. This climate, coupled with inflation-fueled increases affecting everything from gasoline to groceries to takeout, made 2023 a financially skittish time at best.

That said, VM’s Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers chart this year will once again reveal a remarkable level of overall resiliency in the optical industry that, according to experts, has come to be expected regardless of challenging macroeconomic or global landscapes. A look at the 10-year history of total sales numbers for the Top 50 retailers (shown on page 24) tells a compelling story, as they demonstrate consistently steady and continued growth in all years (with the exception of 2020, due to COVID). Total 2023 sales stayed on trend, showcasing an 8 percent increase year over year. In addition, more than 200 units were added collectively in 2023, and four new companies entered the ranking.

In prior reporting, VM has detailed the tailwinds that reliably drive the industry’s continued growth. The U.S. population continues to grow and age, bringing with them a rising need for eyecare and eye health services that bumps up against a shortage of ECPs, creating an environment that favors the industry, with demand exceeding supply. Against this backdrop, we were curious to see how this year’s rankings would come together—we hope you are, too. And we’re already looking forward to what next year’s rankings have in store.