Competitive Myopia in the U.S. Eyeglass Wear Market

Most Consumers Unaware that Many National Chains and Fashionable Brands are owned or licensed to the Same Corporation

 

If you think it is easy to find competitively priced eyeglass wear, you better think again.  This ConsumerGram discovers that many of the stores and brands are owned by or licensed to the same parent corporation.  This means that pitting one eyeglass company against a competitor may be less effective than you might have believed.    

 

 

Do We Have a Near-Sighted Market?

In need of glasses?  Maybe you want to buy something popular, like Ray-Ban or Oakley?  Maybe you would prefer to buy your glasses with a quality high-end brand, like Burberry, Brooks Brothers, or you might to drawn to the fashionable brands of Polo Ralph Lauren, Tiffany or Prada?  If getting a good value is important, you could you consider BJ’s, Target or Sears optical centers?  Or, say you price shop at LensCrafters and try to pit their prices against their competitors, like Pearle Vision or the Sunglass Hut.  The choices and options seem endless … or, do they?

 

What most consumers do not realize is the all of these eyeglass stores, brands and labels are owned by or licensed to a single vertically integrated corporation – Luxottica Group.  Luxottica is a $5.9 billion foreign-owned corporation with $4.1 billion in gross profit, according to the company’s 2006 annual report.  While North America is this company’s major source of sales, having around 4,600 retail stores (including licensed brands), they also manufacture and wholesale, as well own a U.S.-based managed vision care operator.    

 

 

Putting Luxottica under the Lens

Focusing on just their retail presence, Luxottica Group has a number of house brands, including Arnette, Killer Loop, Luxottica, Persol, Ray-Ban, Rēvo, Sferoflex and Vogue.  Its licensed brands include Anne Klein, Adrienne Vittadini, Brooks Brothers, Bvlgari, Burberry, Byblos, Chanel, D&G, Dolce&Gabbana, DKNY, Donna Karan Eyewear, Genny, Miu Miu, Moschino, Prada, Savatore Ferragamo Eyewhere, Sergio Tacchini Sunglasses, Tiffany & Co., Versace and Versus.  In the U.S., its retail division includes D.O.C. Optics, LensCrafters, Oakley, Pearle Vision and Sunglass Hut, as well as licensed brands Sears Optical, Target Optical and BJ’s Optical.

 

Visible Competition Needed?

When buying eyeglasses, the vast majority of consumers are completely unaware that they are sometimes buying Luxottica manufactured products, often at Luxottica stores and possibly under brands licensed to Luxottica.  It may also be the case that employees are using their Luxottica’s managed vision care provider to buy these Luxottica products.  Our concern is not necessarily with the size and scope of Luxottica, since we have not studied the structure, conduct or performance of the industry.  Instead, our concern is with consumers who have no idea that one corporation is behind all of the brand names and stores.  More work is needed to determine the extent to which this may affect the consumer’s ability to comparatively shop and obtain competitive prices. 

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