Sunglasses was among the hardest hit categories within eyewear in 2020 and the early months of 2021, as store closures and other limitations to in-store shopping and services, travel restrictions, and economic constraints because of the pandemic delivered a triple-blow to the fashion-led category. Months of store closures across the US amid lockdowns, as well as increased hygiene and social distancing regulations in-stores during the remainder of the year, prevented many consumers from trying on sunglasses before purchasing, impeding sales over the research period.
In the years leading up to the pandemic, sunglasses in the US had continually delivered strong growth year-on-year as consumers’ increasing knowledge and concern for eye health and proper eye care, on the heels of larger health and wellness lifestyle trends, led consumers to increasingly purchase and wear prescription and non-prescription sunglasses. Wanting to not just protect their eyes and improve their eyesight, however, products from luxury brands had proven especially popular among consumers eager to show off designer labels and iconic designs with their sunglasses, as well as to incorporate them into their outfits as a key fashion accessory.
Sunglasses in the US continues to be dominated by large, multinational eyewear groups, with the largest among them, EssilorLuxottica SA, commanding over half of market share in 2019 and 2020. The second and third ranked companies are Safilo Group SpA and Vision Service Plan Global, in 2020.
Amidst a positive economic environment and supportive consumer trends, sunglasses registered positive growth each year over 2010-2019, as consumers not only increasingly participated in outdoor and athletic activities, but also increasingly chose to wear sunglasses in order to both protect their eye health and accentuate their personal styles. Although consumers did continue to participate in socially distant outdoor activities including walking and biking throughout the pandemic, sunglasses still suffered a steep sales decline in 2020 and saw a slow return to growth in early 2021, as many of the key drivers of sunglasses sales, including domestic and international tourism and summer events, were restricted throughout the period.
With the sunglasses category already having become increasingly competitive in recent years, many independent brands are looking to technical innovations to challenge legacy and designer eyewear brands. Start-up AshChromics recently introduced FADES, its brand of light-adaptive electrochromic eyewear.
As many consumers’ only available, or otherwise vastly preferred, sales channel for sunglasses throughout much of 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19-related restrictions, growth in the category’s e-commerce penetration came as many consumers became increasingly comfortable shopping for and purchasing sunglasses of increasingly high-value entirely online, with many doing so for the first time. As a result, brands and retailers have been increasingly investing in new digital sales and marketing tactics, such as video-based styling and personal shopping appointments, livestream shopping events, and virtual try-on tools, as well as curbside pick-up at stores, to facilitate e-commerce sales.
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Understand the latest market trends and future growth opportunities for the Sunglasses industry in USA with research from Euromonitor International's team of in-country analysts – experts by industry and geographic specialisation.
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This report originates from Passport, our Sunglasses research and analysis database.
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