Insights for Eyes Analyzes COVID-19 Impact on National Spectacle Lens Sales

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CINCINNATI, Ohio—Insights for Eyes (I4E), a new independent data analytics company, based here, has established a weekly index to track spectacle lens sales in the U.S. The company's recent weekly index reveals the business impact of the coronavirus pandemic at eyecare locations. After nine consecutive weeks of positive year-on-year growth trends, followed by a relatively minor dip in the week ending March 15, the company reported a dramatic decline of 37.4 percent in spectacle lens volume for the week ending March 22 when compared to the same period in 2019.

Executives at I4E said they are using ECP site-level transaction data, predictive consumer modeling and primary research, to create the weekly tracking index. The index of 4,257 ECPs represent national spectacle lens sales. This cohort of trendable sites was specifically selected from roughly 20,000 locations based upon a variety of measures, including reporting consistency, weekly lens volume and historical trend stability."

Steve Duff, CEO of Insights for Eyes, said, "We are all understandably concerned about the impact of COVID-19. We created this tracking index to help the optical industry make data-driven decisions while we get through this pandemic together."

In total, 98.8 percent of cohort ECPs were at least partially open for business last week as measured by reported lens volume. Despite being open, 80 percent of all individual ECPs sites in the cohort had lens volume declines versus same week last year.

While some of the United States’ largest population states, including California and New York, are now living under shelter in place restrictions, this drop-off is in no way isolated, as all 50 states and Washington, D.C. have experienced lens volume declines in aggregate, Insights for Eyes said, noting that Northeast business appears to be most impacted at this point, with Northeast states representing six of the seven largest percent volume declines, the company said.

Given strong positive correlation relationships, Insights for Eyes said it predicts relatively similar trends in both direction and magnitude for frames and for exams. Contact lenses are challenging to predict with only a moderate positive linear relationship to lens trends, and the ease of ordering replacement lenses without requiring an exam or office visit, the company stated.

Insights for Eyes will continue to monitor trends weekly as the extent and implications of the COVID-19 outbreak continue to evolve. Duff told VMAIL, "We are receiving daily updates of transaction data generated from 20,000 ECP sites. Every one of the 4,257 sites we selected in our tracking index does a minimum of 780 pairs of lenses per year.

"Every one those sites has reported data every week for the last 65 weeks. And every one of those sites has a relatively stable trend in lens volume, allowing us to understand the true impact of COVID19. 95 percent of the included sites are independent vs. chain. These ECPs locations are in all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C."

He noted that the firm has signed NDAs with its actual data partners, "We can share that data generation originates in actual ECP offices." Duff added, " We don’t yet have rich data on frames, but we are actively exploring industry partnerships that have the potential to complement our existing data to create a more holistic view of the industry."

Insights for Eyes started in 2019, Duff explained, "because we were looking for an opportunity to start a new business in an industry where we had an opportunity to give back at this stage of our careers. We focused on vision care because we learned from colleagues that they believed there was tremendous untapped potential, and that increased capacity for utilizing data could lead to better outcomes for suppliers, for ECPs and for patients. Regarding the giving back component, we are allocating a percentage of our profits for contribution to vision care foundations."

Duff has worked with big data at P&G and the health care medical records industry. 20 years of running a successful health care technology company has made him an expert in data mining and identifying insights. He said he is an advocate for OneSight, VisionSpring, RestoringVision, and Essilor Vision Foundation and is committed to eliminate poor vision and its lifelong consequences.

Tom Gormley, president of Insights for Eyes, has spent much of the past 30 years working in data analytics, largely in retail and consumer brands, including being one of the original members of the dunnhumbyUSA team who helped Kroger grow from $50 billion to $100 billion in sales.