The Virtual Sunglasses Workshop 2020 is a category initiative by Kering Eyewear, Luxottica Group, Marchon, Marcolin and Safilo conduced by FILTR

The Virtual Sunglasses Workshop 2020 — which was held in a virtual format today for the first time at the Moodie Davitt Virtual Travel Retail Expo — presented an upbeat picture of the sunglasses category’s road to recovery and eventual renewed growth.

The workshop was moderated by The Moodie Davitt Report President and Editorial Director Dermot Davitt. It was opened by FILTR Co-Founder & Managing Director Alex Cook, who outlined the key findings from a Sunglasses category retailer survey.

The survey revealed that majority of retailers believed that sanitation, price promotions, and product novelty were the key factors to drive growth once the pandemic eases.

Retailers also believed that key challenges and priorities for the sunglasses category in the ‘new normal’ of retail are inventory optimisation, digitalisation and price promotion.

Inventory optimisation, digitalisation and price promotion are the three key challenges and priorities for retailers in the sunglasses category

These insights were reflected in the ensuing panel discussion which outlined the sunglasses category recovery roadmap from a retailer’s perspective. The panel included: China Duty Free Group Deputy Director for Fashion Julie Kwok; The Shilla Duty Free Luxury Fashion & Fashion Accessories Merchandising Director Jaephil Yoon; Duty Free Americas CEO Jerome Falic; and Dufry Luxury, Fashion, Sunglasses, Watches, Jewellery and Accessories Category Management Director Manuela Facheris.

Julie Kwok illustrated the positive impacts of China’s expanded offshore duty free shopping policy and how this has influenced the sunglasses category. “Travel restrictions have worked in our favour, because this promotes consumption within the country,” she said.

“Business continuity is important – we are accelerating our digital transformation and optimising our supply chain. It’s a good time to be in China. We’re trying to be flexible, agile, and move where we need to.”

Duty Free Americas CEO Jerome Falic also discussed his company’s recovery roadmap and how promotions and newness will drive sunglasses recovery. He said: “We’ve now started re-opening some airport shops and find that promotions have been working well. We’re also finding that there has been a quicker recovery in the border business.

“It’s important for us to keep having the latest and greatest styles of sunglasses. We have already launched online pre-purchase and delivery directly at the gate. As traffic increases, the opportunities for this to increase are also there.”

For Dufry Luxury, Fashion, Sunglasses, Watches, Jewellery and Accessories Category Management Director Manuela Facheris, creating a good offer for the smaller travelling consumer base is key. “We have been optimising our stock and POS, working closely with brand partners, launching in-store activations and markdowns to create customers attention for those who are still flying. We need to create a good offer for them while still protecting brand image.”

Facheris also highlighted the resilience of the sunglasses category, “Volumes are still driven by sunglasses, because customers can never have too many pairs of sunglasses. We will leverage this desire by expanding more space for sunglasses in our stores.”

The Shilla Duty Free Luxury Fashion & Fashion Accessories Merchandising Director Jaephil Yoon added that changing perceptions of sunglasses in Asia Pacific can not only boost short-term recovery but secure category growth in the long-term. He said, “In Asia, there is still a perception that sunglasses are for holidays and are yet to be widely accepted as a daily item. However, young people in their 20s and 30s are incorporating sunglasses into daily lives shortening the replacement cycle of sunglasses and creating demand for new designs.

“Another driver for category growth is the growing online channel. In South Korea, ecommerce is growing by double-digits every year. The Shilla Duty Free’s ‘Shilla Tipping’ platform targets millennials and has performed very well. We are motivating creators with our profit share incentives which boosts usage,” Yoon added.

Yoon also explained how digitalisation can boost physical store sales. “Digitalisation is a great way for offline to work. If retailers can deliver great value products and first-class service, customers will keep coming back to offline stores.”

So – how can the industry come together to support recovery? Yoon said that sunglasses operators need to adapt traditional methods of production and be more agile. “Oversupply is the biggest problem in the sunglasses market,” he said. “Global sunglasses brands need to regularise prizes and shorten production times.

“Sunglasses suppliers, operators and retailers need to work together to solve the oversupply issue, otherwise customers will go elsewhere. Brands need to differentiate their models and price ranges to capture younger generations.”

“We need the help of sunglasses brands to enhance innovation,” Kwok added. “We’re slowly getting ourselves there, but we need to get to the next level. Online and offline must blend seamlessly and brands need to work with us on this. We ask that brands be more flexible and allow us to explore new ideas and opportunities.”

Facheris concluded by reinforcing Dufry’s confidence in the sunglasses category. She said, “We have faith in the category, and it can be a driver for recovery. The confidence and the motivation is there, the sunglasses category is very resilient. People will always need a pair of sunglasses and the sun will always shine even if there is a crisis, and so we are very confident.”