Staying cool and keeping your eyes shaded from the glaring sun is a big business. Italy is the world’s biggest exporter of sunglasses and accounts for over 40% share with China, a distant number two.

Italian sunglass exports were growing steadily in the years before the crisis, up 15% between 2015-19 when they exceeded US$2.7bn.

sunglass exports

The covid pandemic put a stop to that and last year exports dropped 25%.

Industry giant, one is almost tempted to say, monopolist Luxoticca, is the world’s largest lens and eyewear manufacturer with over 20% share. The business is vertically integrated with famous brands including RayBan, Oakley and Costa. It also controls over 9000 retail locations with franchises like Sunglasses Hut. The group also has a wholesale distribution business.

Luxottica’s history has been one of M&A and alliances with leading luxury groups. Last year, to the surprise of many, the EU approved the company’s acquisition of GrandVision, Europe’s largest optician.

As many businesses have found, shopping habits shifted dramatically in the pandemic. Once reliant upon its retail stores, Luxottica saw sales on its eCommerce platform grow 40% last year to exceed Euro1.2bn. 

One recent survey reported nearly half of all eyewear shoppers have used virtual try-on while shopping online. Unlike many EC categories where Amazon dominates, the survey showed that eyewear shoppers are 3x more likely to trust an eyewear brand over the EC giant.