The eyewear industry in India, once a near stagnant market, has today been converted into one of the fastest growing retail sectors in the country. And this is credited to the entry of many organized players in the market, drastic growth in the demand for eyewear in terms of volume sales, significant shifts in consumer preferences and attitudes towards eyewear category, etc. The burgeoning eyewear market has even prompted industrial powerhouses like Reliance and Titan to establish their presence in the market.
Market Scenario & Changing Consumption Pattern
Technological advancements and demand of eyewear manufacturers from unorganized to organized sector has been changing the market significantly. “In 2016, the Indian eyewear market was estimated around Rs.8,400 crores and is projected to grow to Rs.12,600 crores in the coming years. While the unorganized stores handle most of the prescription eyewear, the organized market is set to grow much faster at 15 percent CAGR. The organized market, although smaller in volume than the unorganized sector, is expected to draw Rs.1,700 crores of business over the next four years. These figures shed light on the immense potential of the organized sectors,” informs Sambuddha Bhattacharya, Business Head & Co-Founder, John Jacobs.
The consumption pattern for eyewear in India is also changing at a brisk rate. Agrees Shalini Gupta, Head – Marketing, Design and Visual Merchandising, Titan Eyeplus, “The demand for eyewear in India generated double -digit growth in terms of volume sales since 2016. There have been significant shifts in consumer preferences and attitudes. Consumer’s perception of eyewear has changed; no longer does the category only operate from the position of loss, no longer does it only serve as a tool for vision correction. The category today has moved from clinical and closer to a lifestyle accessory.” Gupta also pointed that diverse purchasing options too are helping the market to grow, supported by availability of branded eyewear products and consumers’ choice of “quality over quantity”.
Talking about per capita consumption, Sambuddha Bhattacharya asserts, “Per capita consumption has increased 5X over last 5 years because people want to now buy multiple eyeglasses and multiple sunglasses. Modern day changing lifestyles entails individuals to purchase sunglasses, lenses and frames according to the ongoing fashion trends.”
Consumers today are more aware and well- researched about the products, changing trends and available brands in the market, which has led to a more evolved consumer base. Favourable demographics, hectic lifestyles accompanied by increasing chronic eye diseases are anticipated to drive the eyewear market size. As per analysis, about 20 percent of world's population is aged 50 and above. As per WHO estimation, globally more than 285 million individuals are visually impaired where 246 million have low vision and 39 million are blind. Also, Shalini Gupta from Titan Eyeplus maintained that more and more consumers have started to own two pairs of spectacles leading to increased consumption per consumer. She feels, “A higher receptiveness of Indian consumers towards high- end brands has further paved the way for more customized and stylized products. While consumers do not hesitate spending on a stylish pair of frame, they are still conservative about the cost.”
Ongoing fashion trends coupled with a shift in consumer lifestyle will support the industry growth. Consumers’ transition from health to fashion conscious has spurred demand for luxurious and branded products. Increasing spending on luxury eyewear owing to rising disposable income will favour product demand over the forecast period.
However, I Rahumathullah, MD, Maui Jim, asserted that the per capita consumption has not grown that much as compared to other sectors.
Challenges on the Way
The spectacle market remains highly unbranded — only 20 percent of the market is branded. This emerges as an important challenge for any organized player entering into the category. The growth of the industry can also be hindered by price differentiation between branded and unbranded frames, sale of illegal novelty contact lenses and the challenging local conditions in various countries. Sambuddha Bhattacharya shares similar sentiments, “The primary challenge in the eyewear category is lack of access to affordable eyewear. The price gap between unbranded and branded eyewear is substantially high due to opaque pricing and mark-ups.” Shalini Gupta is afraid that the market has become highly fragmented with too many unorganized players and that “consumers are choosing low priced frames over good quality”. Besides the challenges posed by the unorganized players selling low- quality products, Rahumathullah from Maui Jim maintains, “Currently, the biggest challenge faced by the industry is the emergence of online retailers. Almost anyone can sell eyewear through online portals and there is no benchmark of quality they have to adhere to. Also, the consumer and optician interaction along with physical touch is slowly diminishing and sunglasses have become a mere fashion accessory.”
Growing Opportunities & Potential of Tier –II & -III Markets
Opportunities in the eyewear segment are immense and the industry has just evolved from being a necessity to an important fashion accessory. While consumers in metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and other tier -I cities experiment with designs offered by brands, smaller towns are still fragmented and underpenetrated which leads to consumers relying solely on unorganized retailers. There is definitely a huge potential for branded eyewear in these areas. “Titan Eyeplus has always strived to be in the forefront of the industry providing quality branded products at varied price points. We have launched retail stores in tier –II and –III markets which are positioned as small- format stores. The move is aimed at catering the needs of small towns, particularly those that do not have the presence of branded players in the eyecare space. Titan Eyeplus has also ventured into e-commerce world with omni- channel model, in order to cater to the internet savvy customer base,” asserts Shalini Gupta. Bhattacharya from John Jacobs also agrees to the fact that tier –II and –III cities have become a larger playground for generating brand awareness and higher reach due to “government’s digital push” in these areas.
Consumers are now more open to pay higher for quality and premium products which ultimately show that the market is maturing for eyewear in India. Image consciousness and increasing fashion awareness amongst consumers have led to a growing emphasis on the style and the make of spectacle frames, in addition to their functionality. This has majorly been aided by an increased penetration of international eyewear brands in India. Talking about the competition against these international giants, Sambuddha Bhattacharya affirms, “International eyewear brands definitely have notable presence in the market, owing to the high demand for premium sunglasses amongst urban Indian consumers. Exposure to global trends, changing lifestyles and higher disposable incomes has enabled Indian urban consumers to spend on premium and luxury sunglasses, but he is also value- conscious and strives to make sensible purchase decision. John Jacobs exists at the intersection of inspirational, honestly priced yet luxury quality brands that is international yet home-grown.” Titan Eyeplus also maintained that it does not consider international brands as competition and work as partners.
Trends In Vogue
Trend is one thing in fashion that has never been constant, be it in apparel category, or footwear or other accessories. And eyewear has very recently proved its utility as a fashion product. “Sunglasses are essential accessory now-a-days. Not only do they make a strong style statement but also play the role of protective shield for eyes against the harmful UVA and UVB rays of sun,” says I Rahumathullah. Shalini Gupta also points that “celebs too are embracing the trend” whether during photo shoots, or while tripping down the red carpet or just popping to the shops.
Judging from the plethora of eye-catching sunglasses that have been getting face time over the last few years, it's clear that glasses have gone from necessity to chic accessory. The curiosity remains how does international trends actually affect the trends in India or do we really create our own trends. Shalini Gupta informs, “India does follow international trends but not all styles are suitable to Indian face. As a company, we have established an in-house design studio that designs products specifically for the Indian face. For example, the size of frames in European market is way bigger than the Indian faces and hence one cannot blindly follow the same. One has to take the face size, nose shape, skin colour, etc. into consideration. An oversized frame may be a big fashion abroad; in India it may get a lukewarm reception. Hence, we don’t follow international trends blindly.”
So what exactly is in-vogue in this category? According to I Rahumathullah, the hot- selling and the latest trend in eyewear is “flat lenses and highly polarized sunglasses along with the inclusion of prescription eyewear into the segment of sunglasses”. Sambuddha Bhattacharya accentuates on the prominence of trendy and stylish spectacles with the growth in demand as he maintains, “Global demand of eyewear market will continue to be driven by spectacles, on grounds of the fact that spectacles covered 55 percent of the overall revenue in 2016. The onset of the third millennium has witnessed a plethora of trends and styles, eyeglasses being no exception.” In terms of ongoing trends in the category, he pointed that this market is experiencing a reinstatement of the yesteryears, which is evident from consumers’ inclination towards “round glasses, cat-eyed frames and asymmetrically structured sunglasses”. Titan Eyeplus bets on dark tones like black, brown, red or colour of tortoise shell, for the autumn season.
The Way Ahead
The eyewear market in India is slated for huge growth in the years to come. “The future of eyewear industry in India seems to be quite bright as people are becoming more aware about the importance of sunglasses in daily life,” says Rahumathullah from Maui Jim. Besides, unlike yesteryears, people do not tend to wear the same set of glasses for years but keep on changing the frames at shorter intervals or own different sets of glasses for separate occasions. According to Bhattacharya from John Jacobs, “Millennial consumers have been the major catalyst in the expansion of eyewear market as they are increasingly accepting quirky style sunglasses, freestyle spectacles, etc. The demand is multiplying.” And major brands in the category are all set and ready to tap this market with the best possible collections they can offer to their consumers. While Titan Eyeplus is launching its range of in-house frames, Maui Jim will be offering its “Zeal Optics” collection in the beginning of 2018. Meanwhile, Jahn Jacobs prides in its trendy collection, made using the choicest high- end materials like handcrafted Italian acetate, pure wood, titanium, etc.
While this category is still developing and gaining strength with time, we are affirmative about its growth in the near future with more players entering the segment, offering newer and trendier eyeglasses to the discerning consumers.