In the full 12 months of 2007 Italian eyewear exports confirmed the growth trend of the previous months, according to ANFAO, the Italian optical industry association. The year ended with export sales up by 11.6 percent to over €2,315 million, compared with a mere 2 percent increase for the overall Italian fashion industry. In volume terms Italy exported more than 82 million pairs of eyewear, of which sunglasses counted for 63.5 percent at 52 million pairs and prescription eyewear for the remaining 36.5 percent or 30 million pairs.

The sunglass sector raised exports by 12.7 percent in value year-on-year, to €1,529 million. Prescription frames also put up a strong performance with an increase of 9 percent, to over €738 million. However, the strong euro and the slowdown of the American economy took their toll, ANFAO found, producing slower growth in the second half, particularly in the third and fourth quarters when the growth was down to single-digit figures.

Europe remains Italy's main export market for eyewear, taking 58.5 percent of deliveries, with sales to the 15 countries that belonged to the European Union prior to its recent enlargement rising by 13.1 percent over 2006. The increase in Italian eyewear exports to all the main EU countries was in double digits, with prescription and sun eyewear at more or less the same level: The U.K. was up by 21.4 percent, France by 17.5 percent, Spain by 12.7 percent, Germany by 11.6 percent and Greece by 8.3 percent.

The Americas represented 31.4 percent of exports in 2007, up by 8.9 percent year on year. This growth was mainly because of the performance of the Central and South American markets, up by a full 45 percent, which now account for around 5 percent of Italy's total exports of sunglasses and frames.

The U.S. market, which has always been Italy's leading customer, also held up well, representing 25 percent of total exports in 2007 although the growth there was limited to 3 percent. Italian frames were up by just 0.9 percent in the USA while sunglass exports rose by 3.9 percent.

Among the emerging markets, Mexico now represents 2.1 percent of Italy's total exports with growth of 56.3 percent, while Brazil, which takes 1.7 percent, increased by 33.7 percent. Though Russian consumers have a passion for Italian products (see previous issue of EWI), Italy's eyewear exports to Russia grew by a feeble 1.4 percent in 2007, though the rise for sunglasses was 6.4 percent. The Russian market is expected to grow strongly in 2008, however, from the 1.4 percent that it represents today. The United Arab Emirates also performed well: With growth of 31.4 percent this market represents 1.9 percent of Italy's total exports. The increase in Saudi Arabia was stronger, at 46.8 percent. China takes 1.2 percent of Italy's eyewear exports and is growing, but not proportionately to the size of this vast market.

Sales on the Italian market were up by around 6 percent to €1,148 million, up by around 6 percent year on year, a much lower increase than for 2006 over 2005.