NEW YORK—In contrast to the harrowing year that was 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic shook the world and forced many stores to close in the U.S for many weeks, the 2021 business year saw a comeback for the U.S.’s Top 50 Optical Retailers and groups, Vision Monday has learned. Based on submissions from companies as well as VM’s own estimates, the collective Top 50 Retailers’ sales for the 12 months ending 2021 ended up higher by some 21 percent from the previous year.

Most retail executives shared that their second half of 2021 was back in a strong way, despite their having to operate by appointment in some markets as COVID infections continued. Consumers looking at digital screens for more hours a day did impact their vision correction needs and concerns. And even though it was a cyclical year of ups and downs as per store closings in some parts of the country, consumers and patients returned to stores and to eye doctors to take care of their eyes and purchase eyewear and contact lenses.

The new Top 50’s share of the total U.S. optical market sales of $38 billion as reported by The Vision Council’s VisionWatch for the year, saw that the Top 50 collectively generated sales of $18.0 billion or 47 percent of the market. The Top 10, though, who got larger, many via acquisition, others through organic growth and comp store gains, grew substantially, representing 39.6 percent of the total U.S. market’s sales, comprising $15.2 billion collectively per VM’s estimates.

Mass merchant optical departments benefited from the uptick in general traffic to the stores they were in, and they saw sales of about $3.9 billion among them, or about 10 percent of the total U.S. market.

There were some changes among the Top 10 groups ranked by VM for their calendar year 2021 performance. And several sales milestones were set. National Vision exceeded $2 billion in sales as the company expanded its store count. MyEyeDr., with comp growth as well as some larger regional acquisitions plus smaller offices, broke through the $1 billion sales mark. EyeCare Partners moved up to the number 5 position from its spot as number 7 in the prior year’s ranking, driven by its acquisitions of both MD and OD practices.

Visionworks, part of VSP Vision, opened up new stores and grew sales. Keplr which continued its acquisition of doctor practices made it to the Top 10. And Warby Parker, which had been in the Top 10 before, based on its online and in-store sales, went public and for the first time released its sales numbers for the year, maintains its number 9 position.