Retro styles look back while industry looks forward
Sunglasses serve a dual purpose — protecting vision and enhancing personal style. That explains why it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. We explain how the industry can gain inroads that can last generations.
Summer brings out a whole new opportunity for self-expression and our choice of summer eyewear is one way we declare our sense of style. Sunglasses are not only functional — they are among the most prominent fashion accessories we wear. Across all demographics, from 18 to 30 year old Millennials up to their grandparents, shades are featured on almost every face. This helps explain why, even during the recession, sales of sunglasses didn’t drop off as much as many other consumer items.
The sunglasses industry saw a 3.2% growth in sales between 2010 and 2011, almost overcoming a slight slump created by the 2008 economic downturn. Worldwide, about $68 billion is spent on eyewear, including prescription glasses, traditional sunglasses and prescription sunglasses. Sunglass stores in the United States alone are a $1 billion market and while the industry suffered a one percent decline over the last five years, this isn’t too shady for an industry that is as much about luxury goods as it is about personal need. The global recession had a far worse impact on many other industries.
So we have a sense of what the sunglass trend is for industry — what is the forecast for sunglass wearers? The industry has had good financial statements recently — now it’s about making a fashion statement.
The Vision Council, an industry group, offers an overview of the latest facial fashions.
“For men, they say, it’s all about retro influences, edgy style and timeless looks while women won’t be able to resist the ladylike shapes, abstract details and brilliant hues.”
It sounds like some glasses designers have been peering at MadMen.
On the production side, there is one name that may not be familiar to consumers, and which stands alone among eyewear manufacturers. The Italian company Luxoticca produced 70% of designer sunglasses, under brand names like Burberry, Chanel, Polo Ralph Lauren, Paul Smith and Stella McCartney. Luxoticca also owns outright leading brands like Ray Ban and Oakley. On the retail front, Luxoticca owns Sunglass Hut and Pearle Vision.
Symptoms of a monopoly are deceptive, though. Conventional retailers of sunglasses are being strongly challenged by increases in online sales, and a chipping away of the market by general retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco.
The prices, of course, range from $10 outfits to several hundreds of dollars. Proper UV protection can be had from about $40, according to experts and, after about $70 or $100, you stop paying for vision protection and start paying for brand names.
What has been key to the industry’s resilience seems to be that even in times of economic challenge, sunglasses can be a fairly affordable statement of personal style.
With the increased competition in the marketplace, and the comfort with which people are buying things like eyewear online, traditional retailers are challenged. Because 18 to 30 year old Millennials are among those most concerned with keeping up to date with fashion, reaching them can make a huge difference for eyewear marketers.
One thing that Millennials care about as much as fashion is social good. They are the most socially conscious generation yet. Marketing to this difficult-to-target demographic can be massively improved by demonstrating affinity with the same issues Millennials care about. For businesses that have not made strategic moves toward corporate social responsibility, there is an easy, affordable, turnkey entry that can launch sunglasses — or any other product — into the sightlines of millions of Millennials.
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