Marchon is predicting a double-digit sales increase for this year. The big US company's sales rose by between 15 and 20 percent on a global basis in the first quarter, following a relatively difficult year in which is still managed to grow to a new record, in spite of erratic weather conditions and other factors. Sales have risen lately for every brand in the company's rich portfolio including Calvin Klein, which is now branching out from sunglasses into ophthalmic frames, but while growth has slowed down in certain parts of Europe, it has shown a strong improvement in the USA, which still represents about 57 percent of Marchon's total sales of about $400 million a year.

The management attributes the uptick mainly to a better economic climate in the USA. The introduction of licensed Coach frames has given a boost to the whole business. Nike eyewear is still going strong, with an expanding product range. Marchon is also taking its colorful XGames line for children internationally.

While competition is said to be still very high in the USA, with many smaller players complaining about flat or downward market conditions, particularly in the sunglass market, Marchon's statements about the US economy are backed up by recent new sets of data that are showing signs of a possible improvement in local market conditions. According to the latest consumer barometer report of Vision Council of America, the number of US consumers who are plan to buy prescription eyeglasses rose by 1.7 percent in April, as compared to March. While remaining 15.1 percent below the level of April 2003, this is the first monthly increase since the beginning of the year. On the other hand, their plans to take an eye exam have increased.

The VCA has also reported that its members' frame shipments fell in the 1st quarter of 2004 by 0.2 percent in volume, while rising in value by 0.1 percent, but the situation at the retail level seems to be better. According to a poll carried out among US opticians by Vision Monday, the US publication, their business improved considerably in the 1st quarter as compared to the same period of 2003. In that survey, 34 percent of respondents said business was ?up significantly? and almost another third said it was ?up slightly.? Just 7 percent said business was ?down slightly? and 11 percent said it was ?down significantly.?