The eyewear industry is reaching calmer waters following a period of upheaval and consolidation.
Safilo’s losses are narrowing and the company expects to return to profitability by 2020; Marchon expects 2019 to be its best year in a five-year period; Marcolin continues to invest in Thelios, a joint partnership with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and Luxottica North America’s diverse portfolio, it says, has been key in meeting a varied assortment of consumer needs — despite disappointing share valuations and management unrest at its parent company, EssilorLuxottica.
A strong preference, particularly amongst Millennials, for authentic specialty brands continues to strengthen. High luxury and contemporary price points are also performing well, according to the companies. The midrange market is encountering difficulties.
“The market is developing an hourglass shape: There is the high-end that speaks an authentic language that sells well, and there are trusted brands with more affordable prices. Stuff in the middle may be suffering more,” said Thomas Burkhardt, senior vice president of global brands, marketing and design for Marchon.
“We are seeing a segmentation of demand,” added Luxottica’s president of wholesale for North America, Fabrizio Uguzzoni. “You are seeing luxury and high-end demand growing. In the midrange, the consumer expects a very high value proposition. The brand has to be very strong because the consumer is looking for something fresh and a value — you need to make sure that your price point justifies a certain value.”
“The consumer is more and more opinionated,” said Marcolin USA chief executive officer Davide Rettore. “They are willing to pay a premium price for outstanding features,” he added, pointing to the success of Tom Ford eyewear’s blue lens collection, which blocks out blue light emanating from digital screens.
In the last year, both Marchon and Marcolin have made entries into the specialty eyewear market by partnering with high luxury eyewear-specific brands. Marchon has embarked on distribution deals with Cutler and Gross while Marcolin has done so with Barton Perreira.
“We are actively looking [for similar partnerships],” said Marchon’s Burkhardt, noting that these businesses fall well in line with the consumer trend for distinctive high luxury.
Safilo, which saw a 7 percent decrease in revenues for 2018, is beginning to recover following a change in top management. The company unveiled one of its newer contemporary licensees — Rebecca Minkoff — at Vision Expo East.
“The market is balanced now,” said Stephen Wright, chief commercial officer for Safilo North America. “You have Millennial groups looking at more authentic and purposed brands that might be tied to some type of cause. Then in terms of fashion, there is still an appetite for high-quality brands, especially at the contemporary level.”
Wright bet big on new eyewear offerings from Kate Spade, Jimmy Choo and Minkoff. He also noted that Carrera is strongly resonating for its “authentic” branding and sportiness.
Luxottica’s Uguzzoni said that a trend for sporty, shield styles is helping create a revival of the Oakley brand, which is performing very well. Marcolin’s Rettore also noted that shield styles are performing well for their athletic appeal.
“The basics are not selling like they used to,” Rettore added, pointing to colorful or geometric styles as more preferred this year.