Cost increases have been experienced by 84 percent of the vendors of ophthalmic optic products over the past 12 months, and 64 percent of them have decided to reflect them in one way or another in the prices that they are charging to retailers for their autumn/winter 2011-12 a collections, according to a survey conducted among the subscribers to EyeWear Intelligence .
More than 50 percent of the respondents said they were sourcing their products from China. Less than 20 percent of the vendors and 50 percent said that the majority of their products were coming from European sources.
For products sourced in China, cost increases have varied considerably from one company to another. One company said that wages at its factories had risen less than those of others because their workers had been treated better than the average in China.
While the majority charged higher prices to distributors and retailers, only 21.4 percent of the companies that raised their prices for fall/winter products did so for all the items across the board, and 32.3 percent said they tried to avoid breaking psychological price barriers at retail.
Curiously, these results were very similar to those that we have obtained in separate polls conducted among vendors of footwear and sporting goods products among the readers of two other publications of ours, Shoe Intelligence and Sporting Goods Intelligence Europe.
Out of the six eyewear companies that raised their prices across the board, three said they had increased them by between 3 and 5 percent, and the others by between 5 and 10 percent.
Only 7.1 percent of the respondents said they had changed materials or components to preserve the same pricing as before, and only 3.5 percent said they had kept their prices unchanged.
With regard to the pricing of the spring/summer 2012 collections at wholesale, only 2.8 percent of the vendors of eyewear products said they were not raising their prices. Selective price increases were mentioned by 36.1 percent of the sample, and a full 44.4 percent said ere careful to avoid breaking psychological price barriers. Only 16.7 percent said they were raising prices across the board, with most of them passing them on in a range of between 5 and 10 percent.
The chief executive of a major producer of licensed eyewear frames based in Hong Kong said his company was paying more attention to “price banding,” staggering price increases in order to differentiate lower-cost products more from a higher mid-tier and an un upper tier.
Significantly, 38.7 percent of the vendors admitted that they had lost some sales because of the higher prices that they had charged for their fall/winter collections, and 25.8 percent said they had gained some turnover on sales of products where they had kept prices unchanged. The losses in the eyewear sector were proportionately higher than those experienced by vendors of footwear or sporting goods products.
Overall, 35.5 percent of the vendors who responded to our survey said they were going to look for new sources of production because of the higher costs that they were facing.
Moving over the optical retailers' responses, which were fewer than we had expected, one-third of those who have experience higher purchase costs for the imminent autumn/winter season said they would pass on at least some price increases. However, half of them said they would try not to break some psychological price barriers in order to avoid alienating consumers.
One retailer said it had decided to reduce its own profit margins for the season, while two others said they were going to work less with suppliers who were charging higher prices. Retailers who source some private label items said they were planning to change their sourcing methods.
In general, suppliers and retailers are still in a phase where they are “testing” new price points for certain products, and these tests are proving often successful with good branded products. In several cases, suppliers said they were surprised by the retailers' general acceptance of the inflationary trends, especially on branded and highly publicized or innovative and unique products.