The eye­wear has it

Style, health drive an eye­glass mar­ket worth 1 tril­lion yuan

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By WUYIYAO in Shang­hai wuyiyao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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

CHEN XIAOGEN / FOR CHINA DAILY

A vis­i­tor tries on a stylish UV-light pro­tec­tive glasses at an in­ter­na­tional op­to­met­ric and op­ti­cal fair in Bei­jing.

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