According to Anfao, in 2020 production and exports of the eyewear secotor have returned to 2013 levels: production in 2020 was 3.089 million Euro, a drop by 22.6% compared to 2019, exports closed at 2.882 million Euro, a decline of around 26% compared to 2019. In just one year, around 1,000 million euros were burned in terms of both production and exports.
During the lockdown periods due to the pandemic, eyewear companies manufacturing medical devices (eyeglasses) and personal protective equipment (sunglasses) could carry on their activities after securing their sites, since they were a critical part of the supply chain for producing essential goods. Similarly, opticians have been allowed to re-open their shops once they have implemented the necessary anti-Covid measures.
Despite this, the sector suffered greatly due to the lack of international mobility, which held back exports, and due to a general decline in consumption, which penalised sales, especially of sunglasses.
A realistic assessment of the production sector and the workforce can only be carried out after the gradual return to normality with the phasing out of social shock absorbers and the end of emergency measures such as the ban on redundancies. The relaunch of exports should allow previous employment to be maintained.
Exports in 2020
Exports of frames, sunglasses and lenses, which account for around 90% of the sector's production, stood at 2.882 million Euro, a drop of around 26% compared to 2019
The segment that suffered the highest loss was sunglasses (-27%), which stood at 1.871 million Euro. Exports of frames, on the other hand, fell by 22% to approximately 936 million Euro.
At the monthly level, exports showed the V-shaped performance: an extremely critical trend since the beginning of the year, with the figures falling sharply to a low point in April 2020 (-70%), only to recover to acceptable levels, but still below 2019 only from July onwards.
The domestic market
According to the sales data of the optical channel, monitored by GfK Retail & Technology Italia, the domestic market in 2020 suffered a strong downturn: - 14.4% in value compared to 2019 for a total of 2.500 million Euro. A loss of approximately 400 million.
The most significant drop was recorded in sunglasses sales (-32%), followed by frames (-8.5%) and finally, ophthalmic lenses (-7.9%), which are obviously more related to the actual need to adjust one's vision defect and less likely to be purchased.
2021 began amid the third pandemic wave and, simultaneously, with the arrival of vaccines and the hope of national and international recovery.
However, due to limited international mobility, restarting production did not coincide with the revitalisation of exports, nor did it lead to the recovery of all consumption, which was still too shrouded in a climate of mistrust and uncertainty. Specifically, the postponement of medical examinations also had the effect of slowing down the recovery of the eyewear sector and the sunglasses sector, which is more linked to the fashion world.
Exports in the first part of the year were still lacklustre, too tied to limited international mobility.
On the other hand, the domestic market showed a slight recovery compared to 2020, especially for frames and ophthalmic lenses, which returned close to 2019 levels.
The situation of the first quarter of 2020 as a whole was therefore very delicate. Finally, in April, the Italian economy saw some positive signs thanks to the change of pace brought about by the national vaccination plan and the progressive opening plan that boosted consumer and business confidence.
In contrast, the world seems to be recovering, and international trade is already growing above pre-Covid levels. Such growth is still led by Asian countries, China above all, and the United States.
Based on current evidence, we have estimated that exports in the sector will increase in value by 10% compared to the first half of 2020 and 19% compared to the second. As a result, by the end of the year, the sector will record an overall export growth of 15% compared to 2020, but still 14 percentage points lower than the growth reported in 2019.
The actual revival with the achievement of pre-pandemic values will most likely take place in 2022.