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FASHION AND ELEGANCE: THE SUCCESS OF THE BELLUNO EYEWEAR DISTRICT
It is one of the most important and prestigious industrial districts in Italy, headed by 286 companies employing some 11,000 workers, and situated in a highly strategic area of the country.
The district in question is that of the Veneto eyewear manufacturers (www.distrettoocchiale.it): companies whose research over many decades has resulted in unique quality and elegance.
The story of the district started back in 1878, with the establishment of the first spectacle works at Calalzo di Cadore, in the province of Belluno. Nowadays, apart from a few factories situated in the Alta Trevigiana region, the district is still concentrated throughout this same province, and has become one of the main drivers of the local economy.
The figures certainly confirm this, valuing sales of Italian eyewear at 2919 million Euros: of which 2811 million are in exports and 80% just from the Belluno district.
The district extends from the Cadore area into the territories of Agordino, Longarone, Alpago and Feltrino, and its main focus is the manufacture of eyeglasses, sunglasses, eyewear accessories, production machinery and equipment, galvanic processes, glasses cases and lenses.
The stability and robustness of this industry is confirmed by the fact that it has not suffered any significant impact from the global economic crisis. Lorraine Berton, President of SIPAO (the eyewear manufacturers section of the Belluno Dolomites Industrial Association) explained that this result is mainly due to exports, which grew by 7.2% in 2013. Nevertheless, the situation varies quite considerably between individual companies, with larger businesses having different experiences to SMEs.
Lorraine Berton provided more details: “The eyewear district remains the most important industrial entity in the province of Belluno, and the reason it has managed to survive the economic crisis, which has now lasted over five years, is largely down to the dynamism and international approach of the companies concerned.” But she also made the following point: “The larger companies are achieving very positive results, and have had a significant effect on indicators for the sector, beginning with the export figures, which have grown by over seven per cent in the last year. However, for small and medium-sized companies the situation is more variable, and unfortunately some of these have found themselves in difficulty.
Nevertheless, there have been some promising signs in recent months, even for the domestic market, and these were particularly evident at the Milan international trade fair (MIDO). It is too early to describe this as a definite turnaround, but we have reasons to be cautiously optimistic.”