Sunglasses is a largely underdeveloped category in Japan compared with Western markets, largely due to the fact that it has a negative image with many consumers. Some people associate sunglasses with the Yakuza (the Japanese mafia) or with young delinquents because of their use in the portrayal of such characters in films.
The negative image of the category in Japan is slowly changing, as a rising number of consumers increasingly see sunglasses as a fashion item. Manufacturers are working to encourage this change in attitude through marketing activity emphasising an approachable and relatable image.
While the rise in health-consciousness means that consumers are increasingly aware of sunglasses’ capacity to offer eyes protection from the harmful effect of the sun’s rays, the product is still not strongly associated with UV protection in Japan. Japanese consumers will still more commonly turn to alternatives such as hats, sunscreens and sun-protection umbrellas.
As sunglasses is less mature in Japan than other eyewear categories, global brands continue to have a strong presence. Mirari Japan Co remained the leading player in the category in 2018.
As Japanese consumers remain hesitant about wearing sunglasses, manufacturers are working to promote the use of such products. For instance, both JINS and Intermestic offer tutorial pages on their websites advising which designs of sunglasses would best fit consumers’ face shapes and style preferences.
The underdeveloped character of sunglasses in the Japanese market provides significant potential room for growth in both volume and value terms, despite the shrinking of the Japanese population. Although global brands have established high levels of consumer awareness, emerging domestic brands are targeting the particularities of local demand by tailoring designs to the shape of Japanese people’s faces and facial parts.
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This industry report originates from Passport, our sunglasses market research database.