Sunny Chi­nese have an eye for fash­ion

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS FOCUS - By WUYIYAO

For 25-year-old barista Xu Xinyue, choos­ing a pair of sun­glasses from her col­lec­tion for a hol­i­day in Thai­land is a tricky task. She has more than 120 pairs to choose from!

It took her some time to fi­nally pick three. “You can take along just one pair. But you need one pair for proper pro­tec­tion against bright sun­light, and at least another two to match your clothes, if you want to take nice pic­tures.”

For Xu and many of her ilk, sun­glasses are no longer just sum­mer-time pro­tec­tion for eyes. They are toys, gifts, sou­venirs and, yes, masks, es­pe­cially if you don’t want to be rec­og­nized or dis­cov­ered when star­ing at a hand­some hunk, said Xu.

For sun­glass re­tail­ers, China has been a boom-boom mar­ket in the past decade. In­sid­ers are chuffed that Chi­nese con­sumers now rec­og­nize sun­glasses have more uses than just as eye­wear.

Zhang Yufen, 43, sales man­ager at Shang­hai-based Hong Xing Eye­wear, said when she started as a shop as­sis­tant 20 years ago, sun­glasses were as­pi­ra­tional prod­ucts, along­side hand­bags, watches and jew­elry. At that time, sun­glasses were not re­ally af­ford­able for many as only lux­ury brands were re­tailed, with out­lets dis­play­ing them in locked glass cases.

“Now peo­ple re­al­ize sun­glasses are es­sen­tial for many oc­ca­sions. Peo­ple travel more fre­quently dur­ing sum­mer, go ski­ing, do a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties. They need more sun­glasses for pro­tec­tion. More sup­pli­ers means sun­glasses are more af­ford­able now than be­fore, and sun­glasses have also be­come a fash­ion state­ment, in terms of shape, color and de­sign,” said Zhang.

Cur­rently, more than 700 sun­glass brands sell in China, ac­cord­ing to the China Op­to­met­ric and Op­ti­cal As­so­ci­a­tion. Most are eye­wear-only brands, but there are some ap­parel and fash­ion mak­ers that of­fer eye­wear in mul­ti­ple de­signs as af­ford­able brand ex­ten­sions that tar­get younger con­sumers. “We aren’t just sell­ing eye­wear, we’re sell­ing ac­ces­sories, some­thing fun, mem­o­rable, and emo­tional,” said Su­san Chen, pres­i­dent of Swatch Group China.

Mar­ket ex­perts said sun­glasses rep­re­sent just one of the highly prof­itable cat­e­gories in eye­wear. Op­ti­cal glasses for sight-cor­rec­tion form another seg­ment. But sun­glass buy­ers are more likely to be in­flu­enced by TV com­mer­cials and celebrity en­dorse­ments.

A re­search note from Wanhe Se­cu­ri­ties said sun­glasses are more like fash­ion items, and con­sumers would be­lieve they need more than one pair, that they need more mod­els or de­signs ev­ery year to be “in”, not out of, fash­ion.

CHEN XIAOGEN / FOR CHINA DAILY

Two women wear­ing trendy sun­glasses en­ter the bustling shop­ping dis­trict of San­l­i­tun, Bei­jing, last week.

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