This small French sports eyewear company, best known for its plastic injected children's sunglasses, which represented about one-quarter of its total volume of 675,000 units in 2002, is venturing into new ground by introducing its first snow goggles as well as its first line of sunglasses with metal frames. To surprise the market and make a difference with the bigger established brands, Julbo has adopted aggressive designs and novel features for these items, which will be first presented at the upcoming SILMO eyewear fair in Paris..

For Julbo, a company born in the Jura region in 1888 as a supplier of safety glasses for stone cutters, the strategy consists of being perceived as a specialist in certain niches of the broad sports eyewear market at more affordable prices as big generalists like Oakley or Bollé. In 1998, it had launched a rather unique line of glasses with polarized lenses for nautical pursuits. It recently came up with a young new logo.

While entering new product categories, Julbo is taking over the distribution in certain countries, with a relatively lean structure. A few months ago it set up its own sales subsidiary in the USA and Switzerland, as it had already done in Spain, replacing former distributors. In the USA, sales have been higher than expected after the move.

Run by the Beaud family, which took over the company in 1979, Julbo remains profitable in spite of relatively low prices, generally 25 percent below those of the global brands, and investments in R&D and marketing that are both at around 12 percent of sales. All its new models are made in France by factories in the Jura region. The company's sales have doubled in the past 4 years and they are expected to grow by another 15 percent in 2003 to about €10 million, with an export ratio of about 50 percent. In France, Julbo claims a market share of 8.3 percent for its sunglasses in the optical store circuit, which represents two-thirds of its domestic sales.