Italian eyewear exports enjoyed strong 18.2 percent growth in 2006, according to the final figures for the year released by ANFAO, the Italian industry association. Out of their total value of €2,070 million, €1,350 million was generated by sunglasses and €675 million by frames for prescription eyewear. The growth rate for the sunglass sector was 23 percent, still much higher than the 10.5 percent increase recorded for prescription frames.

Eyewear thus outperformed exports of clothing and fashion accessories in general. Altogether, the components of the so-called ?Italian Style? sector booked an increase of 5.6 percent in export markets, ending up flat in the USA.

Europe took in 49.1 percent of Italy's eyewear exports, with growth of 18.9 percent in 2006, the same as the previous year. The Americas came in second place with a 32.2 percent share, up by 17.7 percent. Third was Asia, with 13.9 percent and strong growth of 25.9 percent.

Italy's eyewear sales to USA, which alone takes over one-quarter of Italy's total eyewear exports, increased by 13.2 percent and consisted almost exclusively of sunglasses, whose sales grew by 20 percent year on year. Frames remained stable, up by 0.4 percent.

In Europe, Italy's major customers in order of magnitude are France, Spain, Germany and the UK. France took 13 percent more frames and 18.7 percent more sunglasses. Spain took 13.9 percent more frames and 33 percent more sun eyewear. Exports to Russia increased by 22.3 percent, with frames and sunglasses roughly even.

Certain geographical areas that had previously been marginal enjoyed particularly high growth, with Mexico up by 120 percent, Hong Kong by 40.3 percent, the United Arab Emirates by 29 percent and Brazil by 17.8 percent.

Italy's eyewear imports grew overall by 34.3 percent last year to €657 million. About 70 percent of the eyewear imported into Italy came from the Far East, which was up by 45.9 percent. Another 27.4 percent came from other parts of Europe, growing by 23.7 percent.