A study commissioned by the European Sunglass Association for its members shows that consumers in five European countries owned an average of two pairs of sunglasses this year, or the same as in 2003, with the French recording the highest scores. Germans and Spaniards had the lowest proportions of ownership.

On the other hand, while the French are least aware of the brand that they are wearing, Italians are most conscious about it, particularly for fashion models. In general, the brand doesn't appear to be an essential criterion for buying sunglasses in Europe, but 40 percent of sunglass owners are aware of the brand they bought.

In another finding, one out of two sunglass owners bought his or her last pair in an optical retail shop. That's the case for 70 percent of the purchases made in Italy and 75 percent of those made in Spain. The French have more tendency to shop for sunglasses at supermarket stores and sports shops. The British go more for department stores, fashion stores and drugstores.

Like in 2003, Europeans spend on average €63 for their latest pair of sunglasses. Germans still tend to pay the lowest possible price. Spaniards and Italians are the biggest spenders, while the French and the British are in the middle.

The British and the Italians are the sunglass wearers who are most interested in styles and looks. However, almost 9 out of 10 respondents indicate sun protection as the main reason for using sunglasses. The study, which is free for ESA members, analyzes also buying frequency, individual brand names, retail prices, distribution channels and other aspects of the market (for information, check the esa-sunglasses.com website).