Italian-made eyewear lost ground in the 1st half of the year, with the sunglass sector suffering strongly. Frames for prescription eyewear actually gained some points, but not enough to compensate for the drop in sunglasses. Imports into Italy also fell, indicating a slump in domestic demand which can be attributed to a stagnating economy that may turn into a recession in a few months' time.

Between January and June of 2003, Italy's overall eyewear exports fell by 2.7 percent to €795 million, with foreign sales of sunglasses down 6.1 percent and sales of frames up 3.1 percent. Exports to other European countries were up 1.6 percent, with frames up 4.3 percent. But sales to the USA ? a major market for Italian products ? slumped by 8.5 percent overall, with sunglasses down by twice that figure at 16 percent. Imports of eyewear into Italy declined by 11.6 percent overall, with sunglasses down by 21.9 percent.

Anfao, the Italian eyewear manufacturers' association, which supplied the figures on the eve of the SILMO fair in Paris yesterday, blames the economic situation, counterfeiting of brands and patents, and the heavy import duties imposed by certain countries outside the European Union.