While preparing the launch of a line of prescription frames under its name later this year, the French brand of sunglasses is starting a partnership with a brand of children's clothing, Finger in the Nose. A line of co-branded children's sunglasses will be available at €114 a pair at selected optical retail stores and through the network of Finger in the Nose stores.
Finger in the Nose is a rock-inspired line of children's wear launched about 10 years ago. The new sunglasses will be basically downsized versions of Vuarnet's famous Cateye and Surfer styles, with two sizes to fit the 4-to-8-year and 8-12-year age groups. They will be manufactured in France.
The new project is conducted by the Vuarnet division of Alain Mikli International, which took over the Vuarnet license just over one year ago, providing additional support to the legendary French sunglass brand in terms of financing, design and distribution.
Meanwhile, the Swiss-based company that runs this and other Vuarnet licenses is taking new initiatives, especially in the sports sector, to give a new impetus to the brand, whose sunglasses became more famous than those of Ray-Ban when it sponsored the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The company is managed by Alain Vuarnet, the son of the ski champion who gave his name to the brand.
Among other feats, Vuarnet has obtained the endorsement of ski instructors in Kitzbühel. Vuarnet is also an equipment partner of the Russian ski federation until and including 2014, when the Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi.
Just over two years ago, Vuarnet attributed a license for Vuarnet ski equipment to Innovaski, a French company partly owned by Bernard Liatti, a former executive of the Rossignol ski group. Covering skis, helmets and other accessories, the license agreement led to the launch of the first range of Vuarnet skis early last year.
The license is formally in the hands of a French company, Vuarnet Sport, and it was extended last July to include Vuarnet activewear, consisting of apparel for skiing and sailing. This range was previously licensed to Sport Gear in Italy, where Vuarnet active sportswear has been strongest, but the new initiatives should help broaden its international distribution.
On the back of its expanded partnership with Vuarnet Sport, Vuarnet just inaugurated its first European mono-brand store in Val d'Isère, the French ski resort. For the last two years, the brand had an exclusive space of about 60 square meters within a larger sports store, but the new single-brand outlet of 120 square meters is a stand-alone store. Other such stores, featuring the whole range of products sold under the brand, may be established elsewhere.
Until last week Brazil was the only country where Vuarnet had mono-brand stores, due to the fact that its licensee in the country has turned Vuarnet into a lifestyle brand with a wide range of sportswear. The licensee, Setor Participações, runs 18 Vuarnet stores in Brazil, which were all entirely revamped five years ago. Vuarnet regards this as an example of what could be done with sportswear and retailing in Europe.
Alain Vuarnet estimates that the Vuarnet brand reached wholesale-equivalent revenues of about €40 million in 2011. About 80 percent of that was generated in Europe, where Vuarnet products reach about 1,500 stores. Some 60 percent of the turnover comes from apparel, against 30 percent for eyewear and the rest for equipment and a flurry of other licenses (more in SGI Europe, our publication on the sporting goods market).