The eyewear has it
Style, health drive an eyeglass market worth 1 trillion yuan
Li Rongnan, 36, a Shanghai-based corporate legal affairs consultant, bought three pairs of glasses on a weekend this scorching summer.
“One for driving, one for swimming, and one for playing tennis,” said Li, adding that various situations in life demand matching eyewear.
He now has eight pairs of glasses, including three sunglasses, for abetter vision and, yes, great looks.
Li said a pair of good glasses is a multipurpose accessory. “It’s worth investing in because it is perhaps the only item that you wear the longest in a day. It is part of how you dress for an occasion, and it’s part of your personal image,” said Li.
He has spent more than 34,000 yuan ($5,128) on eyewear in the past two years.
Eyewear makers and retailers have sensed a big opportunity in China. According to the China Optometric and Optical Association, China already boasts more than 60,000 eyewear stores.
Frederic Poux, CEO of Alain Afflelou Group, France’s largest franchised eyewear group, said increasing disposable incomes of middle-class Chinese, and rising awareness of the importance of vision and sight, are likely to boost the Chinese eyewear market.
Players expect that in the next five years, China will likely need 120,000 eyewear stores to meet the fast-growing demand that could spawn a 1-trillion-yuan market.
According to data of Shanghai Bosi Commercial Consultancy Ltd, China has more than 400 million users of some kind of eyewear. That would mean about 80 million pairs of glasses will be needed every year.
So, eyewear manufacturers are eager to set up shop in China as the market expands.
Eyewear prices vary greatly — from less than 100 yuan per pair to 100,00 yuan per pair (excluding those using precious metals or gems).
Key determinants of the price are quality, functions of lenses, materials used and brands of frames. Some eyewear may need specialist treatment at the optician’s, which means extra charges are possible.
Robert Ng, 43, an optician at a Shanghai store of a Hong Kongbased eyewear chain, said he has observed more consumers are choosing high-end lenses nowadays, and the most popular price range spans from 3,000 yuan to 8,000 yuan.
“In the past, when a consumer was recommended Zeiss lenses, he or she would hesitate because the price was beyond his or her budget, or considered not affordable.
Now, many consumers would consult us about the differences between a wide range of lenses offered, and hear us out patiently about particular functions of specific lenses.
“Again, in the past, much of a consumer’s eyewear budget was spent on the frame, especially luxury brands’ frames. Now, more is spent on high-end lenses.”
Market researchers expect eyewear brands and manufacturers in China to take advantage of evolving consumer demand for items that symbolize wealth, health, good looks and taste.
More so because eyewear is now considered part of wearable devices that are fast becoming part of personal high-tech fashion accessories.
A research note from Huatai Securities said eyewear is among the most striking examples of how supply-side reforms, which underline that products should be priced cost-effectively to reflect their real worth, are having an impact on retail.
The note further said the entire eyewear sector in China is moving up the value chain to bring more choice to eyewear users and create more added value by way of superior design, technology and branding.
It’s worth investing in because it is perhaps the only item that you wear the longest in a day.” Li Rongnan, 36, a corporate legal affairs consultant
A visitor tries on a stylish UV-light protective glasses at an international optometric and optical fair in Beijing.