Eyeglass Frames Market Report-China

Source: Fashion Global Resources

Demand from Asia, South America, the Middle East and Africa are compensating from declining sales in Western countries.

Even though China export statistics for optical frames and reading glasses are showing strong performance, many suppliers are feeling the pinch of the slump in overseas demand.

In 2009, the country shipped out 837 million pairs worth $963 million, growing 5 and 20 percent YoY in terms of volume and value, respectively.

Figures for the first quarter of 2009 also show a substantial increase in quantity and revenue, correspondingly 8 and 11 percent higher compared with the same months in the previous year.

Rising demand from Asia is one of the main reasons for this growth. While 2008 exports to the region averaged $27 million per month, the same was $31.8 million in 1Q09.

In comparison, the average monthly sales to Western markets has decreased. For example, the EU bought about $21.5 million worth of China-made optical frames and reading glasses on average every month last year. This figure dropped to $17.7 million in early 2009.

Fewer or smaller orders from such key markets have, in fact, led to the closure of an estimated 30 percent of eyewear enterprises in the main production center of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province. A number of surviving makers have reported a 20 to 50 percent reduction in export sales, especially to the US and EU, since the financial crisis hit.

Suppliers are now exploring alternative markets to compensate. They are attending international trade shows in order to find clients from South America, the Middle East and Africa.

Yet some companies are unwilling to participate in exhibitions due to the high cost of travel. There is also the risk of not meeting fruitful prospects. Products are instead promoted through the Internet.

In addition, manufacturers are cautious of accepting orders from new customers. They conduct background checks to ensure that buyers have the capability to pay promptly.

To stimulate interest, exporters are implementing special offers. An example is the reduced MOQ for free molding, from the previous 1,000 dozen to 300 dozen pairs. For long-term contracts, the payment can even be delayed by as much as two months.

Products & prices

Reading glasses represent about one-third of China’s eyewear shipments, while optical frames are considered a minor line.

The best-selling reading glasses are chunky, plastic designs in striking colors and patterns. Black, white, pink, blue and green are the popular hues. These can be combined with clear resin for a two-tone look.

Some women’s models have an allover print such as zebra stripes and leopard spots, and come with matching pouches.

Various embellishments are being applied to thick temples. These include rhinestones, metal logos, a cracked painted finish, and printed or etched vines on the inner surface.

For optical frames, lightweight and classic are the keywords. Releases are mostly metal spectacles with wire-thin borders. Rose gold plating lends an updated appearance.

Makers are also adopting titanium in more models because of the durability and hypoallergenic nature of the substance.

Materials and the complexity of the production process are the two main determinants of price.

Brass, acrylic and PC are considered low-end, while Monel, CuNi, AlMg and MnNi are midrange. High-end varieties are made of memory metal or resin, or titanium.

Between CR-39 and resin, the former is the more expensive option for the lenses of reading glasses. Polarized and coated varieties add to outlay.

Intricate component shapes, multiple surface treatments and embellishments also raise quotes.

Most R&D departments of China eyewear companies use AutoCAD, CorelDraw, 3ds Max and Pro/E when coming up with new designs. Molds are normally created in-house but some small plants delegate this step to specialists.

There are separate workshops for making plastic and metal parts, and lenses. Plastic-injection, casting, punching, cutting, drilling, welding, soldering and bending machines are used. Frames and temples are then printed, engraved, electroplated or painted as necessary.

Once all the components are ready, they are brought to the assembly line and pieced together by hand. The glasses are cleaned before packaging.

Initial, inline and final QC involves visual and tactile inspection for correct size and shape, smooth surface, and uniform color and finish.

Chemical analysis for azo and lead content is usually subcontracted to third-party laboratories but a few large suppliers own equipment for carrying out such tests. The same institutes can examine finished products for compliance with various international standards.

Note: All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates’ respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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