Dubai – MENA Herald: The growing and increasingly ageing population of the Middle East is contributing to the anticipated growth forecast of the region’s US$2.67 billion optical market, as demand for contact lenses and spectacles in particular rises among older consumers.

A report conducted by global market research organisation GfK, which analysed data up to the end of 2015, found that the MENA market offers vast potential to opticians, eyecare retailers and professionals because of the expected 26% increase in regional population by 2030 compared to 2015, according to the UN World Population Prospects.

Coupled with the advances in healthcare which are supporting an ageing population – an increase of 21% for Saudi Arabia and 24% for the UAE by 2050 – the report suggests that despite global economic difficulties and challenges, there is a positive outlook for opticians. The research has been released as hundreds of eyecare professionals prepare to take part in the 17th edition of Vision-X, the gateway to the MENA optical market, which returns to the Dubai World Trade Centre from 25-27 October 2016.

Attracting more than 4,000 buyers from over 70 countries, Vision-X will showcase more than 250 brands, with dedicated areas such as the Future in Focus and Retail Theatre for business owners and managers to improve their operations, and the Vision-X Opticare Conference in cooperation with the International Association of Contact Lens Educator (IACLE) and the European Academy of Optometry and Optics (ECCO)offering eyecare professionals the opportunity to earn valuable CPD points for their practices.

“The results of the GfK report are very promising for the growing number of optical professionals working in the MENA market,” said Trixie Loh Mirmand, Senior Vice President, Events & Exhibitions Department, DWTC.

“While the wayfarer frames, most typically associated to the Ray Ban brand, are still the best-selling fashion frames, the rounded styles take the top spot for the best-selling new models. It is also significant to note that while 80% of Middle East opticians’ core business comes from spectacle lenses and frames, there is a growing demand here for contact lenses, specifically within the beauty sector, demonstrated by the fact 95% of UAE opticians carry the coloured and beauty contact lenses compared to only 52% of European opticians.”

The report also underlined the opportunity for the Middle East market to become more innovative and take advantage of the opportunities e-commerce and online presences could make to annual sales. With a 52% online penetration in the Middle East, only 25% of optician outlets in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are currently operating websites with online sales capabilities, representing just 92 opticians.

In 2015, 50% of Vision-X exhibitors generated sales over US$200,000, with one of the key highlights being the sale of a unique pair of Bentley frames crafted with titanium, gold and diamond inlays to a private buyer in Dubai for AED650,000.

This year, the organisers expect to see an influx of new exhibitors to the show this year. Notably, a country like Turkey decided to double up the number of exhibitors under the Turkish pavilion, a first for the show.

Participants can also expect returning exhibitors from Germany, Italy, and South Korea to showcase a range of products. Additionally, many of the major brands and luxury names that dominate the industry will be displaying their latest designs.

Visitors can expect to see the very latest in cutting-edge design, technology and innovation at Vision-X. Returning to the show this year is a host of recognised industry names including Baush & Lomb, Alcon, GKB Hi Tech, and Anesthesia USA, as well as leading fashion brands such as Future Optic, Ata Optic and Dzmitry Samal. Speakers from International Association of Contact Lens Educators and European Academy of Optometry and Optics will be among the experts addressing delegates from around the world in the Vision-X Opticare Conference, highlighting issues such as myopia, paediatrics, low vision and ophthalmic dispensing.

Celebrating excellence in the eyewear and optical care industry, the Vision-X Vision Plus Awards returns for the third year to provide a platform for leading brands to celebrate the best in business. The ceremony takes place on 25 October at the Dubai World Trade Centre.