Saying that sunglasses are a dime a dozen isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s not that far off either. You can visit your favorite mall boutique and find dozens of high-priced brands ranging from Versace to Prada. Travel across town to the local flea market and you’ll find dozens of additional brands you’ve never heard of. Then there are the unbranded sunglasses that show up at gas stations and convenience stores.
So what’s the deal? Why are there so many different brands of sunglasses when most other consumer products don’t even come close to comparing? Here’s the dirty little secret: there aren’t a lot of eyewear manufacturers out there. You have only a small number of players controlling the entire market.
There are basically three types of sunglasses: major brand, off-brand, and white label. Salt Lake City’s Olympic Eyewear says most of the major brands are owned by a single Italian company known as Luxottica. Pretty much everything else is up for grabs.
1. Where Retailers Get Their Sunglasses
Retailers acquire sunglasses just like any other retail product. They buy wholesale sunglasses from distributors and wholesalers. The real question is where those distributors get their products. That is where companies like Luxottica and Olympic Eyewear come in.
Luxottica brands include the previously mentioned Versace and Prada. The Italian corporation also owns Ray-Ban, Oakley, Bulgari, Tiffany & Co., Chanel, and dozens more. They sell tens of millions of pairs of sunglasses every year. Their sunglasses are sold to distributors through global distribution networks.
Luxottica is in a league by itself. Next up are the smaller eyewear companies like Olympic Eyewear. Actually, Olympic is both a wholesaler and designer. They have a few dozen of their own brands; they also import brands from overseas. They and their competitors are followed by smaller distributors of men’s and women’s wholesale sunglasses specializing in white label products.
2. Major Brand Differences
Manufacturers sell to distributors or wholesalers. Sometimes wholesalers and distributors are one and the same. When they are not, distributors sell to wholesalers and wholesalers sell to retailers. That is essentially the supply chain that makes retail run. But what about the major brand differences between Luxottica, Olympic Eyewear, and white label wholesalers?
The biggest difference between Luxottica and Olympic brands is price. Luxottica charges more for two reasons. First, they have global brand recognition on their side. Secondly, their brands cater to people willing to spend hundreds of dollars on sunglasses. In terms of quality and function, Olympic’s products are on par.
Olympic caters to customers who want quality sunglasses but don’t want to spend a small fortune. They distribute what are considered off-brand products. Their sunglasses are every bit as good as Luxottica brands for a fraction of the cost.
That leaves us with white label products. What label products are made in overseas factories with no label or branding attached to them. Companies buy the sunglasses and add their own branding. As such, you might have thousands of the same model come off the assembly line yet branded by a hundred different companies. Each company is selling the exact same model but with their own logo printed on the side.
3. Price and Quality of Relative
The lesson in all of this is that when it comes to sunglasses, price and quality are relative. Just because you are purchasing an expensive Luxottica brand doesn’t mean you’re getting a better-quality product as compared to an Olympic brand. As a consumer, you get to decide what is important to you. Needless to say, there are enough brands to satisfy just about everyone.