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ITALIAN EYEWEAR: EXPORT SUCCESS AT A DISTANCE OF 4000 KILOMETRES
The overseas market-place helping to sustain the Italian eyewear industry lies at a distance of some 3800 kilometres. This is the average journey that a pair of Italian-made glasses has to make to reach those countries which have encouraged growth of commercial links within this sector, and which now account for 70% of its exports. This information is provided by Anfao, the national association of eyewear manufacturers.
Latin America and Oceania are the traditional destinations, while China and more generally the Asian nations represent the emerging markets. These are long journeys, when we consider that even Italian haute couture, always considered the sector with the greatest international ambitions, travels average distances of just 3000 kilometres. “No man is a prophet in his own country” is the repeated comment from producers whenever there is mention of internationalization, and especially of the prospects for the domestic market. A look at the business trends, however, shows that once again in 2011 exports emerged as the driving force, compensating for the domestic slow-down which at the height of the crisis would never have permitted the 10.9% rise in exports that producers achieved last year.
Cirillo Marcolin, president of Anfoa, offered an explanation: “The sector’s export arm is still a force in foreign markets, while the domestic market continues to stall. Consumption has failed to achieve any positive growth, remaining generally firm. 2011, which only twelve months ago was viewed as the year for stabilizing expectations and reducing uncertainty after a time of serious crisis, certainly closed in a positive way, but with different prospects ahead.” Rather than talking about recovery tactics, Anfao sees itself in a situation of consolidating existing volume, given that the Italian eyewear industry has never lost its market position from 2008 onwards. Last year showed us a sector with overall production worth 2,650 million Euros, an increase of 8.2% on 2010. In terms of manufacturing volume, a total of 90 million pairs of glasses were sold during 2011, of which 66% were sunglasses and 33% were frames. The engine of this success has been driven by a relatively small number of players: 900 companies employing a total of 16,000 workers. The long international journey accomplished by the Italian eyewear sector has resulted in a positive import-export balance of 1,644 million Euros ( 13.6% compared to 2010).
These excellent Italian-made products have managed to avoid the real crisis, as the international markets had already confirmed their interest in this offering before the onset of 2009. A steady 90% of production is still dedicated to sunglasses, which showed an increase in exports of 12.7% in 2011, with a total volume of sales worth 1,634 million Euros. However, the frames sector is also doing well, with an 8.1% rise in exports and a turnover of 761 million Euros. Despite the economic slow-down, Europe remains one of the principal outlets, with a 9.9% growth in sales during 2011. After this come the other main international markets: South America ( 10% just for vision glasses), Asia ( 18.4%), Africa ( 9.7%), Oceania ( 7%), and the United States ( 8.2%). More plans for internationalization are in hand, forming part of a global strategy which has helped make Italian eyewear a flagship product throughout the world.