Go Back To All Articles Dec 9 2015

The Business Times: Transitions Optical eyes Asia-Pac growth through tinted lenses

US-BASED optical firm Transitions Optical sees room for growth in the Asia- Pacific, where sales are rising at a double-digit clip.

While its market share in this part of the world lags behind its stronghold in more mature markets such as North America and Europe, it is keen to boost awareness of its adaptive lenses, especially in promising Asian markets.

Globally, the maker of adaptive lenses has a market share of 10 per cent of all lenses (which includes regular prescription lenses). In Singapore - which has one of the highest rates of myopia in the world - the brand's market penetration is 15 per cent.

Factors which influence demand include purchasing power, the maturity of local optical professionals - its key distribution partners - as well as the distribution channels.

"In Asia Pacific, the (market share) is in the single-digits. We haven't been as established here as in North America," said Stuart Cannon, general manager for AMERA (Asia, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Russia and Africa), adding that its market share in North America is close to 20 per cent. "The purchasing power in North America is more receptive (compared to) parts of Asia."

As such, in certain markets, it has a "mid-tier" range which is offered at a lower price point as a secondary option to its traditional Signature and the XTRActive products.

As premium products, Transitions Optical lenses command an additional cost on top of prescription lenses. Its lenses, which activate automatically, protect from outdoor glare as well as the harmful UV rays that come through the ozone layer. The plastic lenses are coated in a proprietary dye which reacts to UV light, and recalibrates depending on the amount of light present. As such, it also adopts a mid-tint when there is less light, such as when the wearer is standing outdoors in the shade.

Mr Cannon said: "What we're seeing is very strong growth in Asia-Pacific because there's more education and more awareness of the damage the sun can bring to the eyes. The other thing is more ... purchasing power. Asia-Pacific is catching up, and catching up quite quickly."

While the pace varies across the Asia-Pacific, overall growth for the region is in the double digits, fuelled by countries such as China and India.

Globally, over 130 million photochromic lenses are sold each year, of which roughly half are sold by Transitions Optical, the firm highlighted. Rival products tends to come out of China and Korea at a lower price point and with more "basic" functionality.

Citing industry data, Mr Cannon said sales volumes of photochromic lenses worldwide are growing at 7 per cent year on year.

Transitions Optical is aiming for over 7 per cent growth worldwide and over 10 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region, he added. The region is also a key manufacturing base for the company, with as much as 90 per cent of its global production taking place in Thailand and the Philippines. Meanwhile, Singapore is home to its marketing office for the region.

North America makes up about half of its sales, while Asia accounts for about 10 per cent. Europe and the Middle East contribute another 30 per cent while the balance comes from Latin America.

To drive growth in the region, it plans to raise awareness of the brand in new markets such as Indochina; it also plans to roll out media campaigns in markets such as Asean, Greater China and India.

The Florida-headquartered company, which was set up in 1990, raked in over US$800 million in sales last year. It invests a "significant" amount in research and development, with about 80 scientists employed to work on new technologies and create products that are suitable for the latest consumer trends.

The firm is also embracing digital platforms and doing more research with younger demographics to connect with a younger audience. Currently, its users are typically over the age of 40.

"We're trying to change the mindset. Traditionally, Transitions has been seen as more skewed towards the older demographic. The benefits are attributable to anyone," he pointed out. "People need protection when they are outdoors."