A survey carried out by the European Sunglass Association (ESA) on a sample of 4,988 people in France, Germany, the UK, Spain and Italy found that European consumers are not particularly sensitive to the prestige of well-known sunglass brands. In the latest pan-European survey, only 47 percent of those interviewed can recall the brand of their own sunglasses or know of one particular brand, but apart from Luxottica's Ray-Ban, which is recognized by 7 percent of the sample, no other brand achieved more than 1.1 percent recognition.

About 40 percent of European consumers don't know the brand of their own sunglasses, and the proportion is even higher than that in France and Germany. Brand recognition is low also among the British, who tend to buy many of their sunglasses in the supermarkets. Italians are most sensitive to the fashion brands, while the Spaniards are more attracted to the private labels offered by opticians and sporting goods stores.

Overall, 2 Europeans out of 3 own or wear sunglasses. On average, European consumers own 2 pairs, but with big differences from one country to the other. While Frenchmen generally own only one pair, the Italians and British have more than 2 on average. In spite of their climate, the Spaniards are the least equipped. As for Germany, a full 41 percent of the population has no sunglasses at all, but those that do tend to have more pairs in stock than other Europeans.

Europeans usually buy their sunglasses from an optician, especially in Italy where it's the case for 3 out of 4 people questioned, and the alternative sales channels vary from one country to the other. The French get them more frequently than the others from supermarkets and sports shops, and the Spaniards from specialized sunglass outlets. The British purchase their sunglasses in department stores, fashion boutiques and pharmacies more frequently than at the optician.

In terms of frequency of purchase, on average Europeans change their sunglasses less than once a year. More precisely, one-third of those interviewed buys at least one pair a year, and another third buys a pair every 2 or 3 years, while the remainder does it even more infrequently. The British renew their sunglasses most often, whereas the French and the Germans tend to wait a few years before making a new purchase.

With around 1,000 interviewees per country, this year's survey, which was conducted by TNS Sofres was more wide-reaching in terms of the sample than those carried out by ESA before on 411 people in Italy, 588 in Spain and 600 in Germany (for more information and to become an ESA member, contact Daniel Popesco at the following e-mail address: esa.mail@wanadoo.fr).