talian eyewear exports enjoyed strong growth in the first nine months of 2007. According to the figures announced by the Italian eyewear industry association, ANFAO, exports were up by 14.2 percent overall to over €1,720 million. Compared to the 5.4 percent rise for the Italian fashion system as a whole, the performance of the eyewear sector was highly significant. In volume terms, sales increased by 10.9 percent year on year, reaching a total of 61 million pairs.

The sunglass sector again led the way, with 15.6 percent growth to €1,136 million. Yet, exports of frames also went up substantially this time, rising by 11.1 percent to €548 million.

The Asian market performed particularly well, representing some 13.5 percent of Italy’s total eyewear exports, up by 11.5 percent to €226 million. Italy’s exports to China for the 9-month period represented €20 million of this figure, equivalent to 1.2 percent of its eyewear exports. The growth in sales to China was enormous, thanks to the strong emphasis the major Italian players have put on this emerging market: the overall increase in Italy’s eyewear exports to China was 459 percent, and it was relatively well balanced between prescription eyewear and sunglasses. Exports to Central Asia grew by 36.8 percent.

Europe accounted for 51.5 percent of Italian exports, recording growth of 19.4 percent. Exports of frames were slightly higher than those of sunglasses, at 20 percent compared to 19.1 percent. The increase in sales to North America was much more moderate at 3.2 percent, largely due to the unfavorable euro-dollar exchange rate. In particular, the 2.7 percent increase for the USA was achieved thanks to the 7.1 percent rise in sales of sunglasses, while frames fell by 6.6 percent. Exports to Central and South America grew by a strong 42.7 percent, though the actual turnover is much lower than that generated in the USA. Overall the Americas represent some 30.9 percent of Italian eyewear exports, up by 7.9 percentage points from the first nine months of 2006.