3.3 Progressive lens sales take off

In our global analysis of this period we have still to have a look on the Asian Pacific region. Here two countries play a predominant role - Japan and Australia . In Japan Varilux was distributed by Hoya through a 50/50 joint-venture with Essilor . This joint-venture lasted until 1986 when Hoya launched its own brand Hoyalux [3]. Very innovative at that time was Seiko/Hattori which around 1985 had already launched a series of 4 progressive lenses under the umbrella brand P1. With regard to the global PPL sales these 2 companies ranked behind Rodenstock and Zeiss.

In 1960 in Australia a company with the name of SOLA was founded. It was pioneering the development of plastic lenses and at the end of the 1960’s started first overseas operations in Japan. Its turnover in 1981 was only about $ US 40 million and so it was about 6 to 8 times smaller than Essilor or Rodenstock at that time[10]. But between 1985 and 2000 it would become the most powerful competitor of Essilor for the leadership of the PPL market, particularly in the USA. A special chapter is dedicated to SOLA below.

So between 1980 and 1990 6 major companies were competing with Essilor in the progressive lens market: AO and Sola in the USA , Rodenstock , Zeiss ,Hoya, Sola in Europe and Hoya, Sola and Seiko in Asia. There were also some smaller companies such as BBGR, Univis, Younger and Polycore launching their own products . Following the multiplication of the optical companies manufacturing, promoting and selling progressive lenses the global sales increased steeply. At the end of the eighties the market volume was about 30 million lenses [11], i.e. between 1975 and 1990 the worldwide market grew by about 10 times.

More and more opticians gained experience in adapting and selling progressive lenses. The growing conviction that the varifocal lens is the most comfortable correction for the presybyope, accelerated the replacement of common corrections as single vision and bifocal/trifocal lenses. So in the USA where approximately one out of two lenses was a multifocal lens the growth potential was very high.