Take a Look at the Eyewear Industry
Humans have always suffered from visual impairments, yet these conditions have become more prevalent with time. The humble pair of glasses has made clearer vision more accessible, increasing the overall quality of life. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that one in two people require them today.
The newest spectacles import-export data shows that the industry is currently worth around $170 billion. And a medium-to-low level of growth is expected in the future. The demand and consumption rates are relatively stable while supply is steadily growing.
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The product is considerably rudimentary, with just three basic components: Frame, Lenses, and Hinges or connecting components. Lenses are the only part that tends to range from highly sophisticated and advanced to basic ones, used primarily in fashion.
In fact, specialized lenses comprise the highest price bracket in this market. Custom glasses for color blindness are just one example, besides ones that can protect the eyes from screens.
Sunglasses, safety glasses, concave, convex, bifocals, and eyewear made from any kind of material for all uses are also included in this category.
The top exporting countries in the eyewear industry have made great strides in pushing the envelope. Each one is renowned for its various strong suits. For instance, the US is home to iconic fashion brands like Ray-Ban and Calvin Klein. The country also leads in frame design and lens technology research and development. Meanwhile, Italy, the birthplace of Balenciaga, is lauded as the capital of high-end fashion.
Conversely, China has a well-established supply chain ideal for eyewear production, just like camera lenses. It’s common to find copies of high-end designs here for a fraction of the price. We also see in the glasses export data that Germany exports a lot of industrial-grade and performance products for sports and safety needs.
Top Exporting Countries (2021)
- China ($3.71 billion)
- Italy ($3.08 billion)
- Chinese Taipei ($576 million)
- United States ($480 million)
- Germany ($436 million)
America and Europe have by far the biggest markets for high-end eyewear. Most people buy locally-produced and affordable eyewear. Chinese products are bought for the same reason. Except for high-end European stock, these imitations are often indistinguishable from the original products.
Not that China only produces counterfeit products. The glasses import data shows that the US imports many of its eyewear components from the Asian manufacturing hub.
Top importing countries (2021)
- United States ($2.81 billion)
- Germany ($637 million)
- France ($588 million)
- Italy ($577 million)
- Hong Kong ($550 million)
What to Expect
Glasses are more of a fashion accessory than a meddlesome necessity. Many people associate them with style, intelligence, or a number of other qualities.
An array of new technologies and designs in both lenses and frames are spurring demand. With increased screen time worldwide, special lenses with features like anti-fog, UV, and screen protection are gaining popularity. Big fashion brands like Thelios are also making waves in terms of fashion and design.
European producers are likely to propel growth in the future, with the US leading in R&D. Affordable products continue to thrive in China. As manufacturers diversify their supply chain, countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh are primed to be growing markets for production.