The Oakley brand is expected to continue underperforming this year as compared to the rest of the Luxottica group but will nevertheless improve its growth rate from the pace reached in 2015. Oakley's revenues are due to rise by 3-5 percent at constant currency rates, against a predicted increase of 5-6 percent for the Luxottica group as a whole and 8-10 percent for the group's leading house brand, Ray-Ban.
Luxottica's management disclosed that the two brands account for a combined share of about 40 percent of its entire business. A spokesman for the group said that Oakley and Ray-Ban last year represented 11 percent and 27 percent of the group's turnover of around €8.8 billion, respectively.
That includes sales of their products through Sunglass Hut and other retail operations controlled by the group, eliminating inter-company sales. The gap between the two figures, which indicate annual sales of around €970 million for Oakley and €2.4 billion for Ray-Ban - is one of the reasons why Luxottica has taken more direct control over Oakley's operations.
Luxottica did not disclose Oakley's performance in 2015 but pointed out that the 2016 outlook indicates a likely rebound from a “challenging 2015,” with the brand's optical activities affected by its merger into the group's wholesale division. The integration started in the second quarter of 2015. It has taken longer than expected, but the group claims that it is now completed.
The group admits, however, that it is still facing some challenges with Oakley's sports division and that it is revisiting the brand's apparel and retail strategies. These operations are no longer steered by Colin Baden, who continues to take care of design and product development out of California. They are led by a veteran of Luxottica, Andrea Dorigo, who most recently served as president of wholesale operations in North America.
Oakley's former offices in Zurich and Dublin have been shut down. The brand's sales in Europe are run since last year by Antonio Nemola, who has been with Luxottica since 2001. He became part of the Oakley team in 2011, serving as business planning director for the region.
Pending its review of Oakley's strategy in the sports segment, Luxottica is not commenting on a report that the company has taken over an Italian design studio in Modena to help give a more European touch to Oakley's apparel collection.
In outlining the group's results for the last year, Luxottica noted that its total wholesale revenues in North America rose by 6 percent in local currencies, missing its target of a 9-11 percent increase. It attributed the shortfall to Oakley's integration, adding that the related costs knocked €66.4 million off the group's operating income in 2015 and trimmed the net income by €49.8 million.
Including its big retail operations, which generated sales of €5.2 billion, Luxottica posted global sales of €8,837 million for 2015, up by 15.5 percent. Its operating income grew to €1,376 million, up by 18.9 percent, and its net profit reached €804 million, up by 25.1 percent. On an adjusted basis, the top line was €9,011 million, up by 17.0 percent, the operating profit €1,443 million, up by 22.5 percent, and the net profit €854 million, up by 24.2 percent.
Meanwhile, the company is strengthening its sales and marketing efforts around the brand. For the first time this year, Oakley was present at Luxottica's wholesale convention in New Orleans. The optical part of its collection featured prominently at the Mido eyewear show in Milan earlier this month, where it took the place previously occupied by the whole group or another house brand of sunglasses, Persol.
In the past few months, sales of Oakley optical frames sold through Luxottica's wholesale division picked up sharply, passing from being flattish to growing by a double-digit rate, underpinned by more than 1,000 doors added to its distribution network.
Thanks to the overhaul, Oakley now has a single “market-facing” sales force for the optical channel in North America and Europe and has streamlined its back-office, shared services and corporate funds. Luxottica estimates that the brand is on track to lock in cost synergies this year and reap the benefits of revenue synergies.
The group is scheduled to close this year Oakley's distribution center in Ontario, California, and transfer its activities to Atlanta, which will become the only distribution hub for North America and Mexico.
In terms of product innovation, the highlights for Oakley this year are going to be its smart glasses - Radar Pace and Oakley Prizm - a contrast-enhancing lens destined to winter sport goggles as well as to cycling, plus new glasses for golf, fishing and running. Radar Pace is the result of Luxottica's partnership with Intel. The product is experimental and the hardware and software employed to develop it might be the base on which Luxottica could build other future wearable electronic devices.