Luxury Eyewear Giant Luxottica Eyes Chinese Market

Now that China has announced its presence as a big buyer of luxury goods, brands are falling all over themselves to please the Chinese buyer. That includes Italian eyewear group Luxottica. Fashion fiends will recognize that Luxottica makes sunglasses that bear brand names like Prada, Ralph Lauren and Ray-Ban. And now, the eyewear giant is working on a new line that caters exclusively to Asian tastes. This includes creating eyewear that is better suited to Asian faces. So, for instance, you have a lower nose saddle to better suit Asian features.

This would not be the first time that luxury eyewear is being tailored to meet Asian specifications. Ray-Ban, Vogue and Oakley have already gone down that road. But it is the need of the future. So watch out for Asian lines of luxury sunglasses from the likes of Prada, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana (all of which produce Luxottica eyewear). Luxottica’s Chief Executive, Andrea Guerra, said that the Italian luxury brand is looking to “become domestic in these markets”.

If it does succeed in its aim, the Milan-headquartered company could significantly increase its business in China. Currently, Luxottica tops the list of glass makers and sellers. In 2010, the luxury brand’s sales rose to €5.8 billion. This includes sales from retail chains like Sunglass Hut and LensCrafters, as well as from sales of the brands that it manufactures eyewear for. Of these brands, Ray-Ban is the largest with €2 billion in retail sales. If business improves in China, Ray-Ban sales for Luxottica would rise to €3 billion by 2013.

However, if it wants China to fuel its worldwide growth, Luxottica will have to step up its China campaign. As of now, even though a survey by Bain & Co. places China as the seventh-largest luxury goods market in terms of sales, it recorded only $75 million in Luxottica sales last year.

But Guerra remains unfazed. He predicts that China is poised to become one of the top three markets for the luxury eyewear company. Products that are customized to meet local needs should provide the necessary boost. Is it any wonder that even Prada is moving eastwards?

The company that entered the Chinese market as early as in 1991, formed a new design hub (the company’s fourth internationally) in Shanghai to work on creating luxury eyewear that will sit perfectly on local faces. A 19-person team was formed, mostly made up of Luxottica employees from either their Guangdong site or the US, to design the company’s new Ray-Ban line.

Luxottica released its first customized collection last year with a mix of exciting frames. 30 percent of the new collection were created exclusively for Chinese faces. These largely included rimless frames of metal and titanium. An additional 45 percent were international designs for Ray-Ban which were tweaked for Asian faces. Since then, sales has doubled. Plus, Ray-Ban is setting up 500 new outlets within China over the next three years. In the meanwhile, Luxottica will be waiting with bated breath for the response to the new Asian collections of Prada, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana this fall.

Via: The Wall Street Journal

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