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Euromonitor International takes a look at polarised sunglasses, explains what they are and explores what is happening in this niche eyewear category.
Polarised sunglasses come with lenses which contain a special filter to block out horizontal light, thus reducing glare. Polarised sunglasses are popular with outdoor enthusiasts who engage in water or snow sports. While marketers claim polarised sunglasses are useful for drivers, others say that polarisation is known to create blind spots.
The downside of polarised sunglasses is reduced visibility on LCD and LED screens, such as those on ATMs, dashboards in cars and mobile phones. The average price of a pair of polarised sunglasses can be 25-30% more than that of a pair of normal sunglasses. Popular polarised sunglasses brands include Polaroid Eyewear, Ray-Ban, Oakley, Revo and Maui Jim.
Safilo Group acquired Polaroid Eyewear in late 2011. With Safilo Group being a leader in spectacle frames and sunglasses, this acquisition appeared to be a good fit with its existing product line. Tapping into Safilo’s marketing and distribution expertise, Polaroid Eyewear has benefited from a new lease of life in the global market. However, Safilo’s decision in 2012 to scale down its retail presence may be detrimental to the group and its brands, including Polaroid Eyewear.
In addition, polarised technology requires specialist know-how, for which Safilo is not known. In an interesting twist of events, the group announced a 10-year agreement to outsource the design, manufacture and distribution of polarised lenses to Essilor in the first quarter of 2013. This is an excellent move operational wise, tapping into Essilor’s vast knowledge of lenses. However, only time will tell if this move is successful for Safilo or leads to over-reliance on a potentially strong competitor.
Meanwhile, Oakley, owned by Luxottica Group, sold Revo, a polarised sunglasses brand, to Sequential Brands Group in August 2013. Sequential Brands owns a diversified portfolio of fashion and sports brands, spanning apparel, footwear, personal accessories and sunglasses. The acquisition prompted the group to sign two further agreements, one with B Robinson, an eyewear company, to manufacture and distribute Revo sunglasses, and the other with Sunglass Hut, also owned by Luxottica Group, to continue the global distribution of Revo. Luxottica Group is known to be constantly on the lookout for potential brands to beef up the group’s portfolio. Thus, this sale of Revo was rather unexpected.
A recent convert to polarised sunglasses, I personally feel that their benefits clearly outweigh those of normal sunglasses. Despite the slight premium in price, the clarity of vision and protection from the sun make them a good choice. The retail channel, however, offers a limited selection of polarised sunglasses. The absence of strong marketing and education has led to low demand, and subsequently high prices. While the recent actions of companies such as Safilo and Luxottica do not seem to suggest heavy investment in this area, I believe polarised sunglasses have strong potential among increasingly sun-cautious mass consumers.