In 2020, luxury eyewear saw its sharpest current value decline in recent history as a result of efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including travel restrictions, store and optometrist closures, and the cancellation of in-person social events. In 2021, both luxury spectacle frames and luxury sunglasses saw rebounds.
Further impacting sales of luxury eyewear throughout 2020 and much of 2021 was a lack of consumer need, not only amidst lockdowns and quarantines, but throughout the rest of the months of these years, as consumers continued to spend significantly more time at home than in typical years. With few opportunities to show off their luxury spectacle frames in the office, or luxury sunglasses during foreign travel, many consumers with discretionary income instead prioritised spending on goods and services to help make their increased time spent at home more comfortable, such as food and alcohol delivery, furniture, home décor and home entertainment systems.
While most domestic travel restrictions in the US were eased in the first half of 2021, alongside the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, many foreign travellers were unable to enter the US until November 2021. Therefore, with wealthy foreign tourists representing a key driver of sales of luxury eyewear in the US prior to the pandemic, especially luxury sunglasses, brands and retailers increasingly shifted their marketing and product efforts to focus on attracting local consumers instead, doing so by offering increased discounts, video shopping appointments and kerbside pick-up options.
2022 is expected to be the strongest year of recovery for luxury eyewear, with the normalisation of travel, in-store shopping and in-person gatherings, both outdoor and indoor. Consumers continued to have a medical need for luxury spectacle frames whilst working from home, which led this category to fare better than luxury sunglasses amidst the pandemic, and it is also expected to recover to the pre-pandemic level of current value sales the fastest – as soon as 2022.
Consumers have shown heightened scrutiny of companies and the impact of their actions on people and the environment amidst the pandemic. With many wealthy consumers increasingly researching the attributes and back stories of products before purchasing, in addition to advocating for the brands that they feel reflect positively on themselves due to their social and environmental merits, brands and retailers have begun to shift product development and merchandising efforts to offer more products made through sustainable processes.
As the shift to working, learning and socialising entirely from home amidst the pandemic accelerated the adoption and use of digital devices by consumers of all ages, luxury eyewear brands and retailers reconsidered their investments in digital merchandising, including investing in their social media presence on Instagram, launching virtual try-on tools, and hosting livestream shopping events, in order to capitalise on the growth in e-commerce penetration. Meanwhile, eyewear manufacturers and technology companies alike have begun to increasingly produce internet-connected smart, or otherwise technology-driven, eyewear products, especially given consumers’ increased time spent on social media platforms, as well as in virtual gaming worlds like Fortnite and Roblox.
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