ANFAO - (Italian Optical Goods Manufacturers' Association) 06.02.23 (Z1655)-1
ANFAO 2022 Data & Preview 2023


2022 preliminary BALANCE: PRODUCTION +24%,
EXPORT +22.5%.
1H 2023 forecast: EXPORT +6-8%.


At the gates of 2022, the world was expecting a simpler, post-pandemic period, but reality made us realise that we were facing something quite different. 2022 was a year that will be remembered in economics and history books for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which disrupted an economic system that had yet to stabilise from the pandemic.

We have entered a world of even more rapid change, with unprecedented political and media polarisation, severe supply chain problems, spikes in inflation, debt and geopolitical conflicts. Some analysts have gone so far as to call this situation 'the new era of chaos'.

In the course of 2022, the conflict in Ukraine, the soaring cost of living and this new atmosphere of extreme general concern were the leitmotif of the entire global economic scenario. In its latest October Outlook, the IMF reported a sharp slowdown for the US economy compared to expectations at the beginning of the year, as well as for the German economy.
The worst energy crisis ever, inflation at its highest since the 1980s and rising interest rates have effectively shifted all economic growth forecasts for all countries downwards.


Despite this general climate, it must be said that the Italian economy, after an initial moment in which it seemed that it would suffer a recession in the second half of the year, over the course of the months the Italian manufacturing system has withstood the blow, continuing to grow at a good pace. So much so that it recorded the best industrial production among the major European economies since the beginning of the year.

Overall world trade grew, however, supported by the US and the Eurozone. In particular, Italian exports grew more than those of other European countries due to some specific factors: the weakness of the Euro, the good geographical positioning less exposed to China and countries involved in the Ukrainian conflict, and the robust American demand for Italian products.


Italian eyewear did not escape this dynamic: thanks to its strong international propensity, it performed brilliantly in international markets, but inflationary tensions and uncertainty weighed on the domestic market and margins.

On the basis of the latest available data (October 2021), a 2022 preliminary balance was drawn up that sees Italian eyewear production in 2022 at EUR 5.17 billion, an increase of 24% compared to 2021.

The total balance of producers dropped by about 2 percentage points to 830 companies nationwide. On the employment front, the end of the year seems to be positive for the time being: the sector basically closes with 18,250 employees, a situation that is largely stable compared to 2021.  


Exports, of frames, sunglasses and lenses, which absorb about 90 per cent of the sector's production, grew by 22.5 per cent over 2021 toabout EUR 5 billion (EUR 4.94 billion).

Sunglasses exports in 2022 showed a trend change of 28.9 % to almost EUR 3.4 billion. The year 2022 marked the complete recovery of sunglasses exports, which had suffered so much during the pandemic period.

Exports of frames, on the other hand, grew by 9.9 per cent to EUR 1.4 billion.

In spite ofdifficulties in sourcing raw materials, delivery times and back shoring phenomena, a good recovery was also marked by imports, which closed 2022 with a preliminary figure of around EUR 1.7 billion, +22.3% compared to 2021 values.

The trade balance of Italian eyewear increases its surplus (approx. EUR 3.3 billion export-import balance in 2022).


Considering the two product macro-segments as a whole, sunglasses and frames, with regard to the geographical areas in detail, we can observe that:

  • The reference area for eyewear exports is still Europe (in 2022 the export share remained constant, absorbing about 50% of all exports in the sector) with a trend growth of 20% over 2021 (+28.1% for sunglasses, +6% for frames).
  • In America, Italian eyewear exports accounted for more than 36% of all exports in 2022. The increase in exports of eyewear was 23.2% compared to 2021.Driving this growth was the excellent performance of exports of sunglasses +27.9% flanked by +11.3% of frames.
  • Asia benefited from the renewed international mobility of some countries: the share of Italian exports to the Asian area reached 13.1% in 2022 (but was over 16% in 2019). The trend change in exports was +34.4% compared to 2021 (+24.6% for exports of frames, +38.1% for sunglasses). 
  • Africa remains an area that absorbs a share of the sector's exports of less than 1.5%, but which could represent a good, as yet unexpressed potential. In 2022, total Italian eyewear exports to the region remained substantially stable compared to 2021 (+0.1%).
  • In Oceania, which remains a marginal area with a share of close to 0.5 per cent, Italian exports of sunglasses and frames in 2022 grew by 22.4 per cent in value compared to 2021.


From the point of view of the analysis by individual export countries, one can point out:

  • in the United States (which has always been the leading market for the sector, with a share of more than 30% in 2022). Both sectors grew:exports in value of frames increased by 7.1% and those of sunglasses by 24.8 % over 2021.
  • In Europe, Italian exports in the various countries performed very well in relation to 2021. In France, theexport forecast for the sunglasses sector in 2022 recorded +18.1% over 2021 (+5.5% for frames and +28% for sunglasses). In Germany as awhole, growth was 24.5% over 2021, broken down as +32.2% for sunglasses exports and +12% for frames. The preliminary balance for exports to Spain wasvery good, with +31.8% in value compared to 2021 (substantially stable exports of frames at +1.5%, with exports of sunglasses recovering sharply with +48.6%). The result obtained by Italian eyewear exports to the United Kingdom was the least brilliant: overall exports were +4.8% in value compared to 2021, but sustained by +8.1% in sunglasses against a negative performance of exports of frames at -3.5%. Italian eyewear exports to Northern and Eastern European countries continued to perform well: Sweden (+20.6% compared to 2021), Poland (+24.1%), Croatia (+15.7%), Austria (+17.4%), Denmark (+14.3%) and Hungary (+31.3%).


As in 2021, eyewear showed two speeds, one very fast in international markets, one with the brakes on in the domestic market.

Consumption, as monitored by GfK in the specialised optical channel, performed well with respect to 2021 (+6% the figure for January-October, the latest available); however, these values lead us to a projection in value for 2022 of a little more than 2019, very close in short to the EUR 3 billion that have been the value of the Italian mkt for many years.

An in-depth look at the data finally shows a recovery in sunglasses, but this is offset by the lacklustre performance of the prescription segment, which had recovered very well in 2021, returning to previous values. The figure for ophthalmic lenses, which now accounts for 50% of point-of-sale turnover, is confirmed.

The sell-in figure also confirms these trends.


Despite a less bad 2022 than expected, the general forecast for 2023 is not good.
In the coming months, the forecast scenario predicts a gradual slowdown in advanced countries' foreign trade and growth due to a number of decisive factors: high energy costs, the depreciation of the euro, below par against the dollar, record inflation in Italy and the Eurozone that does not seem to be receding, sharply rising interest rates and a widening of sovereign spreads in the Eurozone.

For the Italian eyewear industry, the issue no longer seems to be the speed of its exports, which will probably decrease, but taking advantage of the weakness of the euro in its main outlet market, the United States, it will still be able to grow in value (+6-8% is the forecast for the first half of 2023).

The real and central issue for the eyewear industry, as for most of Italian manufacturing, is that of rising COSTS.
The costs of energy, raw materials, transport, services, logistics and packaging have reached such a level that companies can no longer absorb them internally. It is estimated that they have more than doubled on average compared to the pre-pandemic period. As a result, companies are working with ever-diminishing margins that put at risk the survival of the companies themselves, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.

"We have experienced a 2022 that has shown several faces: double-digit exports, a stagnant domestic market, costs that do not seem to have a ceiling. - Says ANFAO President Giovanni Vitaloni. - Many companies, especially the small ones, are really struggling despite the fact thatcommissions and orders are not lacking right now. The effort for our companies has been to absorb the increase in costs as much as possible precisely in order to avoid a direct knock-on effect on the last link in the chain, the end consumer. However,' continues Vitaloni, 'it must be said that we are now working with very low margins, in some cases zero. This is a situation that we hope can somehow be remedied in the short term, otherwise in the long run it would mean jeopardising the companies' own investments in communication, training, research, development and innovation. And this,' concludes the President of ANFAO and MIDO, 'would really be a pity at a time when the sector seems to have returned to structural growth, as also witnessed by the great participation of companies at MIDO 2023.

Processing by ANFAO and Confindustria Moda for ANFAO on data from ISTAT, Coeweb, Global Trade Atlas, INPS, CCIAA, Cerved Atoka.

ANFAO - (Italian Optical Goods Manufacturers' Association) 11.07.22 (Z1608)-2

Data for the first quarter of 2022 were presented at the 2022 ANFAO (Italian Optical Goods Manufacturers’ Association) meeting, a key opportunity to take stock of the eyewear industry in the broader economic context. In addition to ANFAO President Giovanni Vitaloni, speaking on behalf of the public were Massimo Beccarello, Associate Professor of Industrial Economics at the University of Milano-Bicocca, also senior advisor to Confindustria for the Energy Transition, and Nicola Moro of Studio Fieschi, who shared perspectives on the new sustainability certification project and on the impacts of the current energy crisis in Europe and its effects on the eyewear industry.


Italy’s eyewear industry enjoyed a positive first-quarter 2022, especially regarding exports: ANFAO data for January-March indicate a 32.3% surge in growth compared to the same period in 2019 and a 35.3% increase over 2021.

Expectations for the coming months are for continued growth in terms of exports, manufacturing, the domestic market and employment in the industry.

The sector closed out 2021 on the “plus” side, lifting it up to pre-Covid levels. Thanks to its robust international affinity, eyewear was among the sectors that managed to respond well to the pandemic last year.
In 2021, Italian eyewear production reached 4.17 billion euros, up 35% from 2020, while exports grew by 39.9% over the previous year, to just over 4 billion euros.


February 2022 brought with it the Ukrainian conflict that abruptly changed the global outlook, already impacted by uncertainties around the new variants of the Covid-19 virus.

Generally speaking, Russia is not, and never has been, a “core” market for Italian eyewear (its weight in terms of exports is valued at less than 1%). The biggest repercussion will be on the retail sector where businesses will see a decrease in purchases by Russians in Italy and in the other European countries.
From a domestic perspective, the war in Ukraine could also open a new critical phase for Italy’s economy.

However, at this time, the results for eyewear are still encouraging, especially regarding exports.

Our industry is bearing up well under the repercussions of the global conflict, which is carrying along with it all the crises at hand: the energy crisis, inflation, increases in cost of raw materials, etc.,” stated ANFAO President Giovanni Vitaloni. “Our forecasts for this first part of the year are proving to be right on the mark, which is instilling a sense of optimism in businesses and in the whole sector. As we saw at the latest edition of MIDO, the vitality of the exhibitions and events highlights the extent to which industry
professionals are motivated by the desire to do business, and this is essential to keeping our industry and the entire supply chain alive and well. Although, to date, the figures have been positive, the situation warrants constant monitoring, given the turbulent international environment.”

"An unprecedented escalation in prices was further intensified in recent months, beginning with the explosion of the conflict in Ukraine. The European energy markets are experiencing the same trend. Price risk management is very complex; the markets are extremely volatile with price levels between four and five times higher than at the beginning of 2021," remarked Massimo Beccarello, who continued, “More and more, we see crises arising in the supply chain, not only in individual businesses. As Confindustria, we are asking for economic and structural measures to be included in the government’s provisions for dealing with the energy crisis."


Exports which, we should recall, absorb about 90% of the sector’s production, stood at 1.190 million euros, up 35.3% against the same period in 2021 and 32.3% over 2019. This acceleration involved the sunglasses segment in particular, whose January-March 2022 exports nearly doubled compared to the previous year.  

Considering the month-by-month performance of exports in the first quarter of 2022, the sharp rise in recent months is clear in comparison to the two previous years, and to 2019 as well.
When compared to 2021, exports by geographic area are all recovering. The most significant figure is the result in value achieved over the same period in 2021 by Europe (49.6%) and by America (35.7%).

Based on first-quarter results, if the trend stays constant, ANFAO forecasts 10% overall growth in exports for 2022 (vs 2021), an 8-10% rise in production and a 0.5 to 1% increase in the domestic market.

ANFAO - (Italian Optical Goods Manufacturers' Association) 30.04.22 (Z1594)-3




2021: PRODUCTION +35% (+4.5% OVER 2019), EXPORTS +39% (+3.4% OVER 2019).

H1 2022: EXPORT FORECAST +10%.

The outbreak of the pandemic, with the resulting stoppage of production activities in most economic systems, forcefully and immediately impacted the international exchange of goods. The resumption of manufacturing beginning in the Q3 of 2020, which in turn was favoured by the delivery of vaccines, provided new impetus to world trade, which achieved, by late 2021, pre-crisis levels in many production sectors, recouping previous trends.

Specifically, over 2021 the Italian manufacturing sector reclaimed the activity levels it had prior to the onset of the pandemic, becoming one of the primary drivers of Euro zone industrial growth. Despite a less drastic fall in production volumes during the most critical months of 2020, full re-absorption of the shock was much slower in Germany and France.

Not with standing these positive elements, mainly linked to international trade, significant demand-related issues and supply bottlenecks persisted during 2021. On several occasions, new virus variants, first Delta, then Omicron, undermined confidence of consumers and investors alike while supply chain restrictions led to a global jump in inflation.

Thanks to its strong international propensity, Italian eyewear adhered to the same dynamic.

Nevertheless, it was among the sectors that were able to react best in 2021, bringing its values back to pre-crisis levels. However, inflationary tensions and uncertainty in the domestic market still weighed heavily on demand, especially for sunglasses. In 2021, Italian eyewear production reached 4.17 billion Euros: up 35% from 2020 and 4.5% from 2019.

The total balance of manufacturers dropped slightly by about a dozen units, totalling 848 companies nationwide: 1.4% less than the previous year. Examining pre-pandemic levels instead, the decline was slightly more pronounced with about 30 fewer companies (3.5% lower than in 2019).

Nevertheless, ending the year on a good note from the standpoint of employment, the industry essentially closed with a workforce numbering 18,000. The negative balance was 100 workers (-0.6% compared to 2020 that benefited from the government-imposed employment freeze).


Exports of frames, sunglasses, and lenses, representing 90% of the sector’s overall production, were up by 39.2% over 2020, and by 3.4% over 2019, barely topping 4 billion euros.

From here on, we will only be commenting in detail on the sector changes compared to 2019, which were more significant than those in 2020, marked entirely by lockdowns and production stoppages related to the pandemic.

Exports of sunglasses in 2021 showed a 1.6% rise in the trend coming to more than 2.6 billion euros. On the other hand, frame exports grew by 8.1%, totalling 1.3 billion euros.

Issues concerning the procurement of raw materials, delivery times and progressive backshoring already initiated affected imports, which stopped at 1.1 billion euros, down by - 4.5% compared to 2019.

The Italian eyewear industry’s trade balance continued to increase its surplus (sending the2021 export-import balance to 2.664 billion euros).


Looking closely at the two product macro-segments – sunglasses and frames – by geographic area, we can see that:

The primary market for eyewear exports in 2021 continued to be Europe (claiming just under 50% of all eyewear sector exports) for an upward growth trend of 5.6% compared to 2019 (+3.2% for sunglasses and +9.8% for frames).

In America, the Italian eyewear export share increased in 2021 to the point of absorbing more than 36% of the sector's entire exports. Exports of sunglasses increased by 13.9% compared to 2019. Driving this growth was the excellent +15.2% performance of exports of sunglasses together with +10.9% of frames.

Asia was forced to endure the reduced international mobility as well as the shipping cost increases that characterized much of 2021. Thus, the Italian share of exports to Asia was stopped at 12% (it was over 16% in 2019). Therefore, the export trend variation in2021 was negative: -22.7% compared with 2019 (-5.3% for exports of frames and -28.8% for sunglasses).

 Although Africa claims less than 2% of current sector exports, it shows good potential for growth, which is as yet untapped. In 2021, total exports of Italian eyewear to the area returned to the same levels as in 2019, increasing by just +0.1%.

 In Oceania, which is still marginal, with less than an 0.5% of market share, Italian exports of sunglasses and frames grew in 2021 by 9.4% in value compared to 2019.

The export analysis by individual country shows that:

 in the United States (which has long been the eyewear industry’s primary export market, with an almost 31% share in 2021), overall exports of frames and sunglasses increased by + 20.6% over 2019. Growth occurred in both sectors: the value of frame exports increased 15.1%, and exports of sunglasses 22.7% still compared to 2019.

 Obviously, the performance of Italian exports to the various countries in Europ performed very well compared to 2020. However, considering the 2019 benchmark, the performance was affected by the different countries’ recovery rates, which was especially penalizing in Spain. In France, 2021 exports of the sun-optical sector showed +3.5% growth over 2019 (+8.4% for frames and -0.1% for sunglasses). The outcome achieved by Italian eyewear exports to the United Kingdom went beyond expectations. Overall, exports recorded a +16.8% rise in value over 2019 (+19.8% for sunglasses and +9.7% for frames).

Germany’s overall growth came in at +5.6% compared to 2019: broken down into +6.3% for exports of sunglasses and +4.6% for frames. Italian eyewear exports to Spain were still very far from 2019 levels, where the trend variation was -20.4% compared to 2019, with an especially poor performance by sunglass exports (-27.4%) and a substandard trend for frames (-3.7%). Italian eyewear exports to Northern and Eastern European countries showed pleasantly surprising performance: Sweden (+60.1% compared to 2019), Poland (+32.1%), Croatia (+12.3%), Austria (+13.1%), Norway (+30.6%), Denmark (+7%) and Finland (+35.6%)

 Concluding with the eyewear export trends to the BRICS, where altogether in 2019, about 8% of the industry’s exports were absorbed, the share dropped to just north of 6% in 2021:

- Brazil, -38.4% (-41.2% sunglasses and -34.4% frames) compared to 2019
- Russia -3.7% (+1.2% sunglasses and -11.5% frames)
- India, -41.9% (-58.8% sunglasses and -6.3% frames)
- China, -16.6% (-22.8% sunglasses and +0.9% frames).


Based on the global export market for sunglasses and frames, which in 2021 was worth just under 18 billion euros (-1.3% compared to 2019), the Italian market share was valued at 22%, second only to China. If only high-end product exports were considered, exports to Italy would still be in first place with a share value of just over 70%.


The Italian eyewear industry exported about 105 million pairs of eyeglasses in 2021, slightly more than in 2019 (+1.9%).
Of the total number of pairs exported, 64 million were sunglasses (61%) and 41 million optical frames (39%). In particular, the volume of exports of sunglasses decreased by 3% while exports of frames increased by 7%, compared to 2019.


Comparing the international and the domestic markets, it could be stated that Italian eyewear has returned to pre-pandemic levels only internationally. If in fact exports exceeded 2019 values, considering the domestic market, despite the great recovery over 2020, 2019 values still remain higher. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that the domestic market trends were already not especially brilliant in the years prior to the pandemic.

Consumption, monitored by GfK in the specialized optical channel, showed excellent performance trends compared to 2020 (+17%) and a slight dip compared to 2019 (-0.5%) stopping at about 3 billion euros.

Looking more deeply into the data however, it becomes apparent that the problem is linked to sunglasses, whose consumption in 2021, in the optical channel, showed a -23% drop in value compared to 2019. On the other hand, prescription eyewear components showed an excellent recovery compared to 2019: frames (+6.3%) and ophthalmic lenses (+9.1%). It should be noted that ophthalmic lenses now account for more than 56% of turnover for stores.

The pandemic changed consumer attitudes in many directions, including in the world of eyewear. The phenomena we witnessed, especially in the domestic market, in 2021, were certainly linked to increased use of digital screens (of all sizes) and greater attention to consumption linked to personal care and healthcare.

In this sense, this clarifies the greater demand for prescription eyewear, which has been more often than not, premium quality. Consumers are no longer willing to just pay the lowest price. Rather, when it comes to their wellbeing, they seem to be making more and better-quality choices that actually meet their needs.

Sunglasses have been penalized in these two years of pandemic mainly due to the reduction in outdoor life, travel, and participation in sports, all of which were often the source of sunglass purchases. It is an entirely different market where impulse counts more and where the luxury-price polarization is more marked. It is also a market where many more distribution channels come into play, made more problematic by the increasing importance of e-commerce and online purchasing.


Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine this past February 24 suddenly changed the global outlook, already marked by uncertainty linked to new variants of the Covid-19 virus.

While in fact, the world economy has continued to seek a new equilibrium after two years of pandemic, the attack, in an attempt to bring the Ukrainian people to their knees, has led to a severe recession in Russia. Significant price rises for many raw materials has resulted in tensions causing consequential trade blockages as well as appreciable uncertainty about future prospects that weighs on households and businesses.

In general, Russia was not, and has never been, a “core” market for Italian eyewear (in terms of value, its weight in terms of exports of both frames and sunglasses is less than 1%). The biggest backlash at the sector level, especially retail, will be in terms of a decrease inpurchases by Russians in Italy and in the other European countries.

Then there is the important theme of the energy crisis. The rising costs of energy and commodities, which already affected production costs in 2021, is worsening quite significantly. Because of the war in Ukraine, gas and electricity costs have doubled, which, together with increases in transport, logistics and packaging, just to mention the most important items, will weigh heavily on companies’ budgets.

Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine could open a new critical phase for the Italian economy.

Inflation (+5% in 2022) could undermine the spending of households and businesses, global supply chains could come to a halt, central banks might change their approach and implement more restrictive policies, financial markets could very well become hostages to the growing uncertainty. All of which would result in a decrease in GDP.


Based on the data available to date, ANFAO’s forecasts for exports project positive monthly results, but foresee lower figures from April onwards.

H1 of 2022 could close with around 9 to 10% more in exports than in 2021 (around 222 million more in terms of value).

Considering that H2 of 2021 was very good for exports and that currently, international conditions are very uncertain, it seems difficult to think that last year's values can be surpassed by much. H2 of 2022 could show a +0.5% increase in value for exports compared to 2021.

Overall, the forecast for Italian eyewear exports in 2022 could show growth of around 4 to 5%.

As far as the domestic market is concerned, considering the previous and current general difficulties, the forecast for the end of the year is one of substantial stability compared to 2021 (+0.5%).

Likewise, production could see growth of 4-5 percentage points.

“In terms of recovery of pre-pandemic values, we saw a particularly important 2021.
Unfortunately, we still have to deal with a great deal of uncertainty, exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, and the resulting international tensions,” stated ANFAO President, Giovanni Vitaloni. “The forecasts we have made, however, reflect a vein of optimism that seems to imbue the sector, which we hope to be a good omen for the MIDO 2022 event, and which should represent the real and definitive re-launch of the sector.”

Processed by ANFAO and Confindustria Moda for ANFAO using data from ISTAT, Coeweb, Global Trade Atlas, INPS and CCIAA.
ANFAO - (Italian Optical Goods Manufacturers' Association) 20.05.21 (Z1493)-4

Milano, September 30, 2021

The first half of 2021 has raised the confidence of Italian eyewear players: ANFAO data from the January-June period improve expectations and anticipate a complete return to 2019 levels as early as year’s end.

Key features:

  • Above all optical frames for exports and ophthalmic lenses in the domestic market are leading the recovery.

  • The main export markets for Italian eyewear are all showing revival. For some of these, eyewear sales have already returned to pre-covid levels.


2021 is likely to be crucial for the recovery for global economies, also due to the massive influx of Covid vaccines.
China and the United States were able to react immediately to the crisis and were the first to meet the recovery head on, as early as last year.
In terms of infections and resumption of business as usual, the vaccine has certainly played a key role in Italy. Confidence among households has taken a positive turn while spending levels have also risen. Investments, production and exports, especially in the manufacturing sector, have shown fast reaction times and are on their way to a strong recovery. Even the outlook for public accounts appears to be better than expected.

Nonetheless, there are still some critical factors that could undermine this general recovery, starting with the substantial uncertainty instilled by variants of the virus and by the course of the pandemic and vaccination campaigns.
In Italy, inflation trends and the announced increases in energy prices, the boost to the recovery given by the construction sector (will this be sustainable over the medium- to long-term?) and, above all, compliance with the conditions imposed by Europe for Italy’s Recovery and Resilience Plan, will all require close monitoring.

In this general setting, Italian eyewear is also following this track, with a recovery that appears to be exceeding forecasts for early 2021.

2020 was an extremely challenging year for the sector and for our entire ANFAO System - both for the Association and for our industry-leading trade fair: MIDO,” stated President Giovanni Vitaloni.“We had anticipated that 2021 would be a somewhat subdued transition year, as we waited to see a recovery of pre-Covid values only in 2022. The first half year’s data, from both domestic consumption and above all from exports, have instead allowed us to adjust our forecasts for the better, to the point of believing we might just reach 2019 levels by the end of this year.

Even at the trade fairs that are finally popping up again on the markets: take for example, DaTE or SILMO, held just a few days ago, where there were clear signs of recovery and a strong desire to start back anew. From this standpoint, I am viewing the next MIDO with great optimism. Even though there is still an atmosphere of having to coexist with the pandemic, this trade fair truly offers an invaluable opportunity for relaunch.”



Exports, which we should recall make up around 90% of the sector’s production,stood at €2,034 million, up over 52% against the same period in 2020, and only 4 percentage points below 2019 levels.

This acceleration was more markedlyobserved in the frames segment, whose exports in the January-June 2021 period surpassed the levels of the same period in 2019
Less enthusiastic were the exports of sunglasses, which recovered nicely over 2020, but which still remained negative compared to 2019 (-6.7%).

Encouraging data come from the monthly export trends for the first half of 2021 that were actually very similar to those from 2019 and even exceeded those levels in April and June.

However, by far the most interesting and encouraging analysis for Italian eyewear is by geographical region and country.
Exports recovered nicely in all geographical areas compared to 2020.
The most significant figure, however, was the result in value achieved compared to the same period in 2019 for exports to Europe and America, which together claim well over 80% of the sector's total exports:

  • exports to Europe +55.6%
  • exports to America -4%.

Even greater optimism arose from the export analysis to individual countries, which shows that among the main markets for Italian eyewear the gap compared to 2019 was either partly or totally closed, except for Spain.


In the first half of 2021 there were encouraging signs even on the domestic market for Italian eyewear.

Though the recovery was clear compared to 2020, where sales in the eyeglass channel for the first half of 2021 grew by more than 30 percentage points, they were still about 4% below the levels of the same period in 2019.

This dynamic seems to be following the general Italian eyeglass market trend from recent years: growth propelled by ophthalmic lenses (and within that, moved by the segment with the highest added value - progressive lenses) and partly by frames. Sunglasses, which recovered well from 2020, remained somewhat sluggish and still far from 2019 levels.

In this context, it will also be necessary to monitor the online channels, which are seeing significant growth for the sunglass sector, also due to advanced digitalization, greater familiarity with digital tools and almost immediate availability.


Based on the first half year’s results, ANFAO revised its forecasts for 2021 upwards. If the trends were to remain constant, the sector would close the year at a slightly higher value (between 0.5% and 1%) than in 2019, both for exports and for production.

ANFAO - (Italian Optical Goods Manufacturers' Association) 20.05.21 (Z1493)-5


The ailing Italian eyewear industry is looking towards the early signs of 2021 to relaunch itself: this is revealed by ANFAO data referring to 2020, presented today at the press conference of MIDO Digital Edition, the world eyewear show, this year with an exceptionally virtual format.

Some highlights:

  • Exports of frames, sunglasses, and lenses, representing around 90% of Italian production in the sector, plummeted by 26% compared to 2019, with the sunglasses segment suffering the most (-27%). 
  • Sharp drop in production of 22.6% compared to 2019.
  • The number of companies and employees working in the sector remains stable, but this should be reassessed in 2021, taking into account the effects of the Italian Law Decrees on economic restoration.
  • In the early months of 2021, only a few signs of recovery are expected, with more encouraging signs to come only during the second half of the year.


The year 2020 saw significant impacts of the pandemic on the global economy, with China partly involved as early as late 2019 and countries in the rest of the world progressively implicated in parallel with the worldwide spread of the contagion, for the duration of at least 10 out of 12 months.
Therefore, on a global scale, the impact has been strongly asymmetric both geographically and on the different economic and production segments based on their position within the essentiality chain.

If at the onset of the global health emergency, the two economies driving the growth were the US and China, the spread of Covid-19 has marked the gap even further and has, for example, widened the growth gap between Europe and the US. At the same time, significant differences emerged between all the players in the manufacturing sector in particular, based on their ability to integrate cross-cutting transformations, from digital to automation, from health protection to environmental sustainability.

In Italy, 2019 already showed a critical downward trend in global economic growth, and 2020 saw the emergence of further difficulties: manufacturing activities suffered a sharp slowdown and an immediate and violent impact from the pandemic.

In particular, the situation has been erratic in the industrial sector, with a V-shaped trend and the hope of recovery only in the second half of 2021; instead, the expectation of returning to pre-Covid levels is currently stretching to 2022.

In this troubling scenario, the eyewear sector is no exception, where production and exports 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 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.


By focusing on the two product macro-segments as a whole, sunglasses and frames, in relation to the geographical areas in detail, we can observe that:

  • The reference area for eyewear exports is still Europe (in 2020, it accounts for 51% of all exports in the sector), and in the Old Continent, the sector has seen an average drop of 23%, with a higher impact on sunglasses.


  • By 2020, exports to America (the target market for about 33% of Italian eyewear) dropped more than 26%, with even greater loss frames.
  • In Asia, reached in 2020 by more than 14% of Italian exports, the decrease was about 34%, with the most severe impact on the sunglasses segment.


  • Africa remains a small market for the sector, with 1.3% of exports, although in 2019 it proved to be a growth area with good potential.
  • In Oceania, which is still a very marginal area with a 0.5% share of the Italian market, exports in 2020 reveal a slightly bigger drop compared to the previous year (-14.5%).

The analysis by individual countries of export shows:

  • The United States accounted for the largest market share (over 28%), but overall exports fell by over 21%.


  • Next in line, among the largest market shares, are two European countries: France, where exports decreased by around 23%, and Germany, where Italian exports dropped by 15.6% in 2020. Other European countries followed with major decreases: The United Kingdom (-29%) and Spain (-40%).
  • Finally, we conclude with the trend in eyewear exports to the BRIC countries, which together account for over 10% of the sector's exports, with one country, China, alone representing 4.3% of the market.  In 2020:
  • Brazil -49%
  • Russia -22,7%
  • India -49,5%
  • China -35,4%.


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.
At that point, we will be able to continue to reaffirm and consolidate what have always been the records of the Italian eyewear sector:

  • Europe leading manufacturer of sunglasses and frames
  • Europe leading exporter of sunglasses and frames
  • the World second-largest exporter of sunglasses and frames
  • the World leading manufacturer and exporter of high-end sunglasses and frames.


ANFAO - (Italian Optical Goods Manufacturers' Association) (Z1412)-6


2019: PRODUCTION +3.3%, EXPORTS +3.9%, JOBS +2.3%



The global economy experienced an overall slowdown in 2019. Trade tensions with China, lackluster performance from the United States and Germany, and exhausting Brexit-related concerns led to a downward trend in global economic growth; the weakest in recent decades.
In Italy, 2019 unfolded against the backdrop of an ailing domestic market and a sluggish economy.

Despite these difficulties, 2019 was a fairly decent year for Italian eyewear, with reassuring results.

Indeed, Italian eyewear production in 2019 totaled 3,991 million euro, 3.3% higher than in 2018.

The number of companies stayed fairly constant with 879 businesses nationwide, up 1.4% compared to the previous year.

In terms of jobs, the year ended on a good note, although the first signs of trouble from some of the large groups appeared ominous: at year-end 2019, jobs numbered 18,082, a 2.3% increase over 2018.


Representing 90% of the sector's overall production, exports of frames, sunglasses and lenses grew by 3.9% over 2018, for a total value of 3,876 million euro.
In 2019, exports of sunglasses increased 2.8%, valued at about 2,584 million euro
On the other hand, frame exports grew 6%, totaling approx. 1,201 million euro.

Imports experienced a similar upward growth trend of 6.7% equal to about 1,347 million euro, substantiating the industry’s vitality.

The Italian eyewear industry’s trade balance continues to be largely in surplus (putting the 2019 export-import balance at 2,530 million euro).  


Looking specifically at the two product macro-segments – sunglasses and frames – by geographic area, we can see that:

  • The primary market for eyewear exports in 2019 continued to be Europe (claiming just under 50% of all eyewear sector exports) for an upward growth trend of 2.2% (+3.2% sunglasses, +0.4% frames).

  • In America (area to which about 33% of Italian eyewear exports are shipped), 2019 saw a 6.7% increase in sun-optical sector exports, compared to 2018. Driving this growth spurt was the outstanding +12.3% performance of frame exports along with a healthy +4.6% jump for sunglasses.

  • In Asia, the continent that claims more than 16% of Italian frame and sunglasses exports, 2019 export growth trended upward by 3.4%, and turned 2018 performance on its head with a drop in exports of sunglasses (-0.7%) and a major increase in frames (17.4%).

  • Africa is an area that claims less than 2% of current sector exports; although still untapped, it shows good potential for growth. In 2019, frame exports grew in value by 12.8%, while sunglasses remained basically unchanged (+0.1%).

  • In Oceania, a still marginal area with a less than 0.5% share, Italian exports of sunglasses and frames in 2019 decreased 14.5% in value compared to 2018.

  • As regards imports, Asia was, once again, the primary supply market in 2019 with a nearly 75% share, concentrated almost exclusively in East Asia.

The export analysis by individual country shows that:

  • In the United States, (which has long been the eyewear industry’s primary export market, with an almost 27% share), overall exports of frames and sunglasses increased 6.7%over 2018. Growth occurred in both sectors: the value of frame exports increased 12.8%, and exports of sunglasses 4.6%.

  • In Europe, the performance of Italian exports to the various countries was impacted by the general economic situation, Brexit concerns, the reorganization of healthcare reimbursements in France and the general slowing of domestic consumption. Against this backdrop, our exports encountered even stronger headwinds in France and the UK. In France exports for the sun-optical sector in 2019 decreased 3% in value (-4.4% for frames and -2% for sunglasses). The outcome achieved by Italian eyewear exports to the United Kingdom once again reflected Brexit-related concerns: thus, exports lost 7.9% in value overall, compared to 2018 (-9.8% for sunglasses, -3.1% for frames). Eyewear exports performed a bit better in Spain, where the growth trend fell just 0.3% compared to 2018, with exports of sunglasses making positive gains (+1.6%) that offset the negative frame results (-4.7%). Instead, in Germany, Italian eyewear exports fared very well: with an overall growth rate of 8%, up 10.1% in sunglasses exports and +4.9% in frames.

  • Rounding out the list, eyewear exports to the BRIC countries which, taken together, claimed about 8% of the industry’s exports. For a bloc of countries this size, it is still a fairly meager share; nonetheless, it is a bloc with enormous potential (China alone claims 5% of eyewear exports):
  • Brazil +6.9% (+2.1% sunglasses +14.3% frames)
  • Russia +19.4% (+23.3% sunglasses and +13.7% frames)
  • India +7.1% (+6.4% sunglasses and +8.9% frames)
  • China +2.4% (-1.2% sunglasses and +13.9% frames). 


Based on the global export market for sunglasses and frames, in 2019 worth just under 19 billion euro (+5%), the Italian market share is valued at more than 20%, second only to China. If only high-end exports were taken into account, Italy would still be in first place with a nearly 70% share in value.  


The Italian eyewear industry exported about 103 million pair of eyeglasses in 2019, slightly more than in 2018 (+1.9%).

Of the total number of pairs exported, 66 million were sunglasses (64%) and 37 million optical frames (36%). Specifically, sunglasses exports (+0.6%) were fairly stable, while optical frame exports grew by 4.3% compared to 2018.


Between exports and the domestic market, it could be said that the Italian eyewear industry ended 2019 on split levels: excellent performance in international markets collides with the weakness of the domestic market.

Consumption, monitored by GfK on the specialized eyewear channel, decreased slightly and remained stagnant compared to the two previous years: -0.2% for an overall value of approximately 2.9 billion euro.

There was no relief from the negative trend in sunglasses (-2.4%) and frames (-2.6%), unlike the performance of ophthalmic lenses (+2.5%) which, in terms of revenue now account for more than 46% for point of sale outlets (thanks to high-added-value segments like progressive lenses that manage to sustain a positive trend).

As in 2018, also in 2019, the upward market trend for frames and sunglasses remained focused on high-end (luxury), and low-end (i.e. private label) products, to the detriment of mid-high range offerings. Also, with regard to sunglasses, the market share of traditional optical channels continued to decrease, shifting in favor of online sales channels.


The first part of 2020 was certainly challenging for the eyewear industry, in several ways.

President Vitaloni’s analysis: “Undoubtedly, the cancellation of the trade shows did enormous damage to our companies, consistently focused on exports, who view the fairs themselves as a means of internationalization. Furthermore, cancelled meetings and contracts, aborted travel plans, the impossibility to fulfill orders and the cancellation of previous purchase agreements were the order of the day in the first part of 2020. Regardless of these direct effects, we cannot overlook the increased costs tied to managing fallout from the pandemic: the inability of agents to call on clients, adaptation to remote working for office staff, implementation of safety procedures and protective measures for employees, adaptation of the workplace, along with implementation of new ways to present products – ranging from digital showcases to the production of new samples to be shipped at increased logistic costs.”

ANFAO forecasts for exports, based on currently available data, estimate negative monthly results (with peaks from April to July 2020) up to year-end. Also considering that export levels in 2019 were moderate and unlikely to be repeated under the current conditions.

The first half of 2020 could close with 40% fewer exports (in terms of value, more than 850 million less than in 2019).

Based on a recovery in the second half of the year, compared to the first half, without factoring in possible new outbreaks of the crisis, the second half of 2020 could suffer a -7% in value (about 130 million less).

Overall, the forecast for Italian eyewear exports in 2020 could suffer a 25% loss, equal to nearly 1 billion euro.

As regards the domestic market, considering the previous and current difficulties that have significantly aggravated the situation, the forecast for year-end is for at least a 10% loss in value.

Likewise, production could decrease by about 15 percentage points.

“We were very cautious in making these forecasts – confirms the ANFAO President – After all, the feeling we get from our member companies doesn’t allow for any more optimism than that. We know the situation is dire for the entire country and that is why we joined the move to ask for truly effective measures to support the economy and consumption. Among these, I am pleased to mention our own request, made under the aegis of the Eyecare Commission, for a voucher to purchase prescription eyewear, to at least lend a minimal boost to consumption and, at the same time, focus attention on the importance of vision, that could take a back seat in times like these. Another key aspect is for the export machine to get back into operation again as quickly as possible, and that the highly publicized export agreement becomes a concrete reality. Thanks to the reopening of the trade shows that are vital to our companies. I am still optimistic about that and we continue to work with all our might to make sure that DaTE first and, above all, MIDO, can mark the true relaunch of our sector.”

Computations by ANFAO and Confindustria Moda for ANFAO based on data from ISTAT, Coeweb, Global Trade Atlas, INPS and CCIAA

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