Have you gone shopping for glasses recently? Have you looked at the prices? While shopping for new frames this summer, I couldn’t help but notice the insanely high sticker price on almost every pair of glasses I picked up. It didn’t matter what brand I looked at or what shop I went to. It was all the same. “Why are these pieces of plastic and wire so expensive?” I asked myself.
What I discovered after doing some research completely blew my mind.
Stop and think about this. Why should a simple pair of glasses cost more than an iPad, a Kindle, or a Chromebook? Why do we pay so much money for the same glasses that were priced significantly lower just 20-30 years ago?
I think the answer is incredible.
Logically, you would think the vast competition between different designers and brands would drive the price of glasses down. One reason that hasn’t happened is because of a huge and mostly-unrecognized Italian brand called Luxottica.
If you own a nice pair of glasses, they are probably theirs. In fact, more than half a billion people are wearing Luxottica’s glasses right now.
Luxottica revolutionized how we ‘see’ glasses. Not too long ago, glasses were perceived as uncool. It was Luxottica who made wearing glasses fashionable by partnering themselves with well-known brands like Prada, Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, Versace, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany & Co., and Bvlgary. They even started calling glasses “eyewear” to change the perception.
Once glasses became more like jewelry, Luxottica could charge whatever they wanted. Their CEO tried to justify the high prices by describing their glasses as, “100% functional. 100% aesthetical.” While Luxottica does not reveal their markup, we know their glasses sell for up to 20 times more than the price of manufacturing.
If you knew your Burberry glasses were actually designed by Luxottica would that change the way you look at them? Luxottica does not use their name on any of their glasses even though they design them all! When Luxottica’s CEO was asked if they are trying to hide the company’s name, he responded, “Hiding it? No, not at all! We’re listed.”
Yes. Listed on the New York Stock Exchange where Luxottica shares are soaring.
The company brought in over 8 billion dollars in 2011 and has done better and better since then. Their biggest money-maker isn’t even one of the fashion-labels I mentioned before! It’s a brand they outright own: Ray-Ban! Luxottica bought Ray-Ban in 1999 and took their glasses off the market for about a year. Before the buyout, a pair of Ray-Bans sold for maybe $20.00. After reducing their supply and making them “upscale,” a pair of Ray-Bans can now sell for $150.00 or more!
Most consumers believe when they buy a pair of Ray-Bans that they are buying an American brand. But is it? Luxottica says, “It is an American brand. It’s an American brand owned by Italians.”
In the early 2000s, there was a dispute between Luxottica and Oakley- another big brand. When the two companies could not reach an agreement on pricing, Luxottica stopped carrying Oakley glasses in their stores. Unable to reach the consumer, Oakley’s stock crashed and Luxottica bought them in 2007. “Life is better together,” Luxottica explained.
This means Luxottica now owns the top two premium sunglass brands in the world: Ray-Ban and Oakley.
Luxottica also owns LensCrafters: the largest eyewear retail chain in North America. So now they can make them AND sell them! Oh and don’t think this means the consumer gets a discount for buying Luxottica-made glasses at Luxottica-owned stores. There’s essentially no competition because Luxottica also own Pearl Vision, Oliver Peoples, Target Optical, Sears Optical, and Sunglass Hut: the largest sunglass chain in the world.
If you’re wondering why insurance companies covering vision don’t complain about this, it’s because Luxottica owns them too! They own the Eye-Med: the nations second largest vision care plan.
The appearance of variety in the eyeglass market is a complete illusion.
Am I the only person who is shocked by this information? I had NEVER heard of Luxottica until I found all of this information after buying my new pair of “Versace” glasses. It’s a monopoly I had no idea about. I personally feel like it’s so sneaky and deceiving to make it “appear” like consumers have all of these choices and options when it’s really all coming from ONE company. It’s concerning to think about how much power they have.
How do you feel about this?