New Eyewear Research: What Is It Telling Us?

According to Euromonitor International’s latest research, eyewear is valued at US$119 billion globally in 2013, growing by more than 4% over the previous year. While economic uncertainty remained an issue in 2013, eyewear sales reflected a positive growth across all regions.  Western Europe was the hardest hit region due to the regional financial crisis which continued to dog many markets and resulted in an overall low growth.

Growth markets for 2013

With economic uncertainty troubling Western Europe and North America, eyewear businesses have increasingly focused on emerging countries such as the BRIC markets in recent years. However, in 2013, the BRIC countries themselves are not spared of economy challenges, with China experiencing weak foreign trade; India having an all-time low rupee; Russia facing a continuous drop in oil prices; and Brazil having to contend with poor economic growth and rising inflation rates.

Despite facing these challenges, three of the four BRIC countries continued to make it to the top spots in eyewear with high growth. Interestingly, Asia Pacific’s Thailand and Philippines joined the ranks of the top five growth markets for eyewear at 19% and 15% respectively.

Top 5 growth countries in eyewear, 2012-2013


International eyewear companies rule

The global competitive landscape for eyewear remained static in 2012. Be it at the eyewear or sub-category levels, the leadership board remains very much the same as the previous year, with no changes in rankings amongst key players.

In 2012, only the top six eyewear companies managed to garner value shares exceeding 2% each. Of these, Luxottica Group and Essilor International dominated with a combined value share of 24%. The remaining four companies – Johnson & Johnson, Safilo Group, Carl Zeiss and Novartis – trailed behind with less than 5% value share each. It is worth highlighting that amongst the leading six eyewear companies, Essilor International and Johnson & Johnson registered the highest growth in 2012.

Exploring new channels

In recent years, eyewear businesses have been exploring new channels and their potential for growth in the long run. While optical shops continue to be the key channel, it is steadily losing share to internet retailing over the review period – a trend which is likely to continue in the forecast period. Internet retailing has grown tremendously over the years as consumers are increasingly e-commerce savvy. Major eyewear brands and retailers have also equipped themselves with strong supportive internet platforms, be it for marketing or sales purposes.

Additionally, vending machines carrying contact lenses has emerged in Russia and is a growing channel for the country. A quick observation sees a handful of eyewear businesses in other countries have also jumped on the vending machines bandwagon, with the Japanese selling non-prescriptive PC glasses and New Yorkers selling sunglasses at rooftop patio parties.

While it is unlikely that these new channels will overtake traditional optical shops, they nevertheless add novelty to the way consumers shop for their eyewear. In terms of benefits for the eyewear players, other than exciting the consumer, non-store channels the likes of vending and internet retailing potentially translates to lower operational costs and increased revenues.