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Elton John/Walmart Deal Highlights Eyewear Moves image

Elton John/Walmart Deal Highlights Eyewear Moves

Recent eyewear deals involving Elton John and Paw Patrol – as well as a spate of developments in the fashion brand segment  — are shining a spotlight on a category that’s heavily licensed.

The Elton John deal involves both Walmart and its Sam’s Club subsidiary – each will carry distinct SKUs from a “Foundations” collection, and Sam’s will carry two other collections later in the year.  There’s a cause-related element to the agreement — Walmart will donate a minimum of $1 million annually from the Elton John Eyewear collection to support the Elton John AIDS Foundation to increase HIV education and awareness and encourage individuals to take the first steps toward a healthier future.

Walmart also says plans are in place for the Elton John brand “to expand its reach to additional locations across Walmart Inc. retail stores globally.”

Major fashion realignment
Meanwhile, the licensed fashion segment  has undergone rapid changes this year, due in part to LVMH parting with Safilo on a series of licensing agreements (Dior, Fendi and others) expiring at various times through 2024. LVMH’s decision to take its eyewear business in house after working with licensee Safilo for 20 years, was an outgrowth of its Thelios joint venture with Italian eyewear maker Marcolin, which now produces for its brands as well as for Stella McCartney.

Safilo reported a 2.5% revenue increase in the third quarter ended Sept. 30,  benefitting from the addition of an Under Armour license (for sunglasses and ski goggles) gained through its acquisition of Blenders Eyewear. It also reported strong sales of Kate Spade, Tommy Hilfiger and Jimmy Choo-licensed products, offset by a decrease in revenue from Polaroid items, which haven’t recovered to “pre-pandemic” sales levels in core markets like Russia, Safilo CEO Angelo Trocchia said.

Among new developments:

  • LVMH’s move to take back its licenses is the most recent in a series of deals that have roiled the eyewear business. Ray-Ban owner Luxotica and Varilux lens manufacturer Essilor reached a power-sharing agreement earlier this year to form EssilorLuxotica, capping three years of discussions. The combined company has Armani, Versace, Burberry, Channel, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana licenses for eyewear, operates the Sun Glass Hut (1,858 stores) and LensCrafters (1,158) retail chains and recently completed the $8.5 billion purchase of Dutch eyewear retailer GrandVision (7,200). It also extended a 5-year license for Coach prescription frame and sunglasses through 2026.
  • The global eyewear market hit $147.6 billion last year and is expected to increase 8.5% annually through 2028, according to Euromonitor.
  • In the most recent in a series of licensing agreements, Safilo signed a pact with Chiara Ferragni for the Italian fashion designer’s first eyewear collection. It also has licensed the fashion brand Dsquared2 for eyewear that will hit the market in January and will take over the license for the Caroline Ferrara label when its 10-year agreement with Del Rigo Vision ends late this year. The signing with Ferrara along with the other deals “represents a crucial step in effectively counterbalancing the recent brand exits.”
  • Marchon Eyewear recently reached a “multi-year agreement to renew its license for the Lacoste brand, which it first signed in 2011. It also recently added a new agreement to license precision optics supplier Zeiss Vision Care’s
  • The lead characters from Minions films (eyeglass frames) and the Gibson Guitar brand (unisex sunglasses) are moving into the eyewear business. The GLBL Eyewear Group, which also has a Formula 1 license, is readying Minions frames, select models of which have a Minions collector’s charm attached to the temple.  In the case of Gibson, the sunglasses are based on guitar designs ranging from Les Paul to acoustic models with an aged patina. There also is a model inspired by sunglasses worn by late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in the 1990s.
  • The Gap brand, which began a move into licensing last year, signed an agreement with De Rigo Eyewear for eyeglass frames and sunglasses, with the first models expected to ship in 2022. De Rigo also has licenses for Fila, John Vavartos, Jones New York, Lucky Brand and Tumi.
  • UK luxury eyewear brand Linda Farrow launched a holiday sunglasses collection with Pakistani artist Sara Shakeel, who is known for her use of glitter and Swarovski crystals to create collages for photography and 3D art objects. Made from recycled black acetate, the sunglasses feature a gold-plated titanium eyelet that’s set in the glasses’ temple and monogrammed with “1970” to mark Farrow’s founding and with Shakeel’s crystal design in the handles.

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