A new type of survey conducted in behalf of the Mido trade show in Milan indicates that the players in the eyewear industry are more optimistic about the future of the sector for the next three years as compared to the current situation.

Called Mido Outlook, the research was carried out in February by an Italian research institute, GRS, and involved 1,884 operators in the sector, 55.4 percent of whom are located in Italy and the others abroad. Overall, 46.2 percent of the respondents were positive about the current situation, while 45.2 percent were cautious or neutral. Foreign companies were more positive than Italian ones, but they were more worried than them about pricing trends.

Out of the four major Continental European markets, Italy had been singled out as the worst market for eyewear in 2017, with a drop of 1.6 percent, due in part to declining prices. Consumption fell by 1.4 percent in France. It rose by 0.6 percent in Spain and by 3.2 percent in Germany (Eyewear Intelligence Vol. 19 N° 4+5).

In the more recent Mido Outlook, service providers were the most upbeat segment of the industry, as they expect to benefit from growing investments in e-commerce and other operations related to information technology. On a scale of 1 to 9, their level of confidence regarding the current situation and the medium term stood at 6.4 points, rising to 6.7 when looking at the long term.

Conversely, retailers were the most downbeat category, with the level of satisfaction for the current situation at 6.0, rising to 6.2 for the medium and long term. Wholesalers and producers had similar levels of confidence for the current situation and the near term, at 6.1 and 6.3 points respectively, but wholesalers were slightly more optimistic about the long term with a score of 6.6 against 6.5 for producers.

Wholesalers were the most upbeat about future sales, with 45.6 percent expecting an increase in revenues, 43.3 percent forecasting stability and 11.2 percent a decline.

Among the producers, 41.9 percent forecast an increase, 46.0 percent anticipated stability and 12.0 percent a drop in revenues. Meanwhile, 36.2 percent of the service providers expected a rise in sales, 51.5 percent stability and 12.3 percent a decrease, while 31.7 percent of retailers forecast a rise, 50.1 percent foresaw stability and 18.2 percent predicted a decline.

China is expected to become the main export market for the producers in the future, overtaking the U.S.

The respondents indicated that they expected a strong development of proprietary e-commerce platforms, but with variations between sunglasses and prescription frames. For sunglasses, proprietary e-commerce sites are forecast to raise their market share to 30.3 percent in the future from 14.9 percent currently, while every other channel is seen losing market share.

Direct sales are seen dropping to 22.1 percent from 23.7 percent, optical stores to 24.6 percent from 29.9 percent, third-party e-commerce to 11.3 percent from 12.0 percent, department stores to 8.2 percent from 11.6 percent and mono-brand stores to 9.2 percent from 9.5 percent. The share of other channels is seen at 5.6 percent against 7.5 percent.

For prescription frames, proprietary e-commerce is seen rising to 28.2 percent of the market in the future from 11.2 percent currently, direct sales to 20.5 percent from 18.3 percent and third-party e-commerce to 10.3 percent from 10.0 percent. All other channels are expected to decline, with optical stores going down to 21.5 percent from 31.1 percent, department stores to 7.2 percent from 12.9 percent and mono-brand stores to 8.2 percent from 11.6 percent.

The product and service categories that obtained the highest consensus for revenue growth were information technology and optical services, followed by ophthalmic lenses and sun filters, and by contact lenses and eye drops for lenses. Just off the podium were prescription frames and pre-assembled readers.

The segments that are seen most likely to register a negative sales trend were sunglasses, eyewear cases, accessories, furniture and other fittings for stores and workshops.

Facebook is the most widely used social network in the eyewear industry, according to the survey. It was used by 79.9 percent of respondents, followed by Instagram at 57.9 percent, YouTube at 38.1 percent and LinkedIn at 37.2 percent. Twitter trailed at 15.9 percent, followed by Pinterest at 14.4 percent, WeChat at 6.0 percent and Snapchat at 2.9 percent.

Mido's organizers noted that their show was confirmed as the top event for the eyewear sector, with a participation rate of more than 96 percent among the respondents. The other four major events are Silmo, Opti München, DaTe and the Hong Kong Optical Fair, according to the survey.

The next Mido Outlook survey is scheduled to be carried out in September and presented in the autumn.