Eyewear executives say eyesight is declining due to working from home – WWD

The eyewear industry continues to recover amid global uncertainties. Executives from leading companies told WWD at Vision Expo East last week — the first in-person edition since the pandemic began — that the overall industry outlook remains positive despite swirling global forces.

“This industry is generally isolated from economic problems,” said Angelo Trocchia, Safilo Group Chief Executive Officer.

The short-term future of supply chains, transportation and essential retail networks in China is uncertain due to escalating COVID-19 lockdowns there, which has also impacted the return of travel retail. But executives said longer-term projections of eyewear demand paint a more important picture.

Most executives said they had observed data predicting a massive global decline in vision due to an increasing reliance on electronic screens – particularly due to the work-from-home culture. They expect this to create unprecedented demand for optical frames and lenses, especially those with upgrades like blue light lenses.

“I’ve heard statistics that myopia is going to increase in significant numbers, not that we wish that on anyone, but it’s a fact and appears to be an issue we could capitalize on,” said Steve Wright, president and chief commercial officer by Safilo UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

“From a social point of view, it’s a huge phenomenon, especially if you look at Asia, there’s probably a huge number of people who are going to need this category, which is going to be huge,” Trocchia said.

Thomas Burkhardt, Marchon’s Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President of Brands, added, “Certainly there is data examining how professional video gamers in their late 20s need vision correction – there is a clear cause and effect.”

Marchon President Nicola Zotta said, “What we’re seeing from people who have been working from home for a couple of years is an increased awareness that they need proper vision and blue light lenses.” 2022 is on track for “solid single-digit” growth, a relatively conservative estimate compared to recent times, which Zotta attributes to global circumstances.

Eyewear’s biggest players claim that stormy inflation is having minimal impact due to the sheer size of their operations, but they are taking the current situation day by day.

“Larger size helps companies reach their distribution network more effectively and all of this is very helpful when you are facing harsher market conditions such as inflation or fluctuations in demand. However, not all competitors survive,” said Marcolin’s newly appointed US President Emanuele Cappellano.

He was more concerned about wider implications. “Transportation supply chain and raw material network are affected by fuel inflation and as a trend we see rising labor costs in North America, Europe and Asia,” he said, adding that Marcolin is monitoring the situation in China and its relationship with the company’s global supply chain .

However, Burkhardt countered: “Despite inflation and ever tighter wallets, higher price points are doing well. There is still an expense report.”

Zotta added: “We believe Europe is in good shape region by region, but overall has been slower than expected due to the war. For Asia, we need to see what happens in China,” he said, noting, like most people, a slow return in travel retail that has hurt earnings forecasts. The recent cancellation of a major trade fair in China also had an impact.

“We have to start digesting that we’re living in a moment of inflation — we’ve lived with almost no inflation for the last three to four years,” Trocchia said.

He’s among the eyewear players gathering for the first time in years at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City for a show that has updated its concept to be more interactive and fun. While some booths were handing out baked goods or installing smoothie bars, the Vision Council also set up a puppy playpen in the center of the exhibit space where visitors could play with dogs and eventually buy them (for thousands of dollars) so inclined.

In a way, the brighter mood was a nod to eyewear’s new capabilities in the general accessories landscape. Although they never had the importance of shoes or handbags, the Zoom culture and wave of practicality of the pandemic have given eyewear a new edge.

“If you’re an investor and you see how resilient eyewear is to crises, how we’ve rallied in eyewear versus other fashion accessory categories, that’s very important. Eyewear is not only a healthy market, it is growing because there is a need,” said Trocchia.

Zotta said: “Eyewear is taking center stage, which is good news. Our customers are happy with our service and we are optimistic about the industry, we are solid and there has been no impact on demand.” Marchon’s parent company, VSP, recently revamped its branding and will be more front-line in Marchon’s own advertising be.

Burkhardt: “VSP has 85 million members and it’s nice for our licensors that we represent their brand and can access such a group of people, new licenses don’t always know everything.”

The eyewear industry is also benefiting from an increased desire for meaningful frames. The current Zoom culture has encouraged consumers to choose frames that express a certain level of individualism, allowing eyewear manufacturers to focus on creative designs that speak more to their individual brand licenses than to an overarching trend. While thick acetate frames remain popular, there is also an appetite for bright colors, wireframes and sporty crossover styling.

According to Zotta, this is a good thing for companies that hold multiple eyewear licenses. “I don’t think you’re showing a single trend. Now there are equally cool trends. When I look at our collection now, it’s more diverse than it used to be, you don’t have to change brands every 18 months and the brand can stand for itself,” he says of the new eyewear fashion rules.

Fabrizio Uguzzoni, President of Wholesale North America at EssilorLuxottica added: “In the fashion industry, people show more of their face on Zoom. We make sure that all our brands have their own DNA and have a very close relationship with the brands to interpret trends in different ways.”

The company recently introduced Oakley lifestyle crossover designs and will be releasing a line of colorful Ray-Bans outfitted with lanyards designed for music festival season.

The company continues to have an eyewear license with Tiffany & Co. amid its global rebranding under new leadership of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. For Uguzzoni, Luxottica and Tiffany’s relationship has “changed for the better.” Her license at Tiffany has several years left, Uguzzoni said.

“I don’t know if it’s the European component, but the relationship has gotten even better in terms of alignment. Our values ​​around eyewear align with what they do, there’s now a more fashion forward approach while respecting the brand’s heritage,” he said.

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