Sunglasses recorded strong growth again in 2019 as an increasing concern for eye health among consumers continued to lift demand for protective eyewear. As consumers in the US spend more time outdoors in line with the global health and wellness trend, they are becoming increasingly aware of the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays, thus finding both safety and comfort in wearing sunglasses more often.
While the small sunglasses popularised by cultural influencers like Kendall Jenner were the prevailing trend in 2018, 2019 saw the return of larger and sportier sunglasses styles. As a result of both the rapidly changing nature of fashion trends and consumers’ increasing prioritisation of health and wellness, consumers largely returned to styles that not only enabled them to participate in a range of outdoor activities, but also those that protected their eyes far better than the small sunglasses popular in the previous year.
Internet retailing continued to be the fastest-growing channel for sunglasses in 2019 as both pure-play internet retailers and, primarily, store-based retailers expanded the number of sunglasses offered for sale online. The growing prevalence of internet retailers offering free returns helped to further drive this growth, as free returns enable consumers to try on sunglasses purchased online without committing to purchasing them.
While eyewear giants Luxottica, Essilor, Safilo and Vision Service Plan Global continue to account for the lion’s share of sunglasses sales in the US thanks to their wide portfolios of both owned and licensed brands, a number of emerging speciality brands are establishing a foothold in the category, especially among millennials and other affluent young consumers. Independent sunglasses brands, including San Francisco-based Westward Leaning, New Orleans-based Krewe and Los Angeles-based Garrett Leight, all of which were established in the last few years, have been enjoying critical acclaim from local fashion media.
As fashion brands continue to seek new strategies to improve both sales and margins, many are slowly moving away from the licensing model that has long dominated the eyewear industry. In 2014, French luxury group Kering SA made headlines for the establishment of its own Kering Eyewear group to bring the design, manufacture and distribution of its eyewear brands in-house.
With its strong portfolio of prominent owned and licensed brands, Luxottica US Holdings Corp continued to lead sunglasses in 2018. In addition to high sales from its two largest owned brands, Ray-Ban and Oakley, which continued to be the two best-selling brands in the US market, Luxottica benefitted from the support of its other businesses, including its EyeMed Vision Care insurance and its large retail network under brands including Sunglass Hut.
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This industry report originates from Passport, our sunglasses market research database.