Vuarnet, the French specialist in mineral sunglasses, raised its US sales by 19.5 percent to $5 million last year, and it's projecting to take them to $7 million this year thanks to new contracts with major department stores, such as Nordstrom and Macy's, and the resumption of advertising in the USA. In the late ?80s, Vuarnet glasses had reached sales of over 1 million pairs at $30 million a year.

This relative comeback follows the hiring of a completely new US sales force 2 years ago, which is coordinated by an industry veteran, Harold Page. It's partly due to the design of new Vuarnet models that are more adapted to the North American market under the direction of Joseph Hatchiguian. A newly introduced model with a titanium frame made in Japan generated a lot of interest at the recent Vision Expo fair in New York.

Meanwhile, Vuarnet has signed a licensing agreement with Noble Time, a company owned by the Sungold Downunder group, which distributes other brands as well.

Vuarnet's total sales increased last year by 12.7 percent to 115 million French francs (e18m-$15m). France remains the largest market, representing half of the total turnover. Vuarnet claims to be still the number two brand of sunglasses in France after Ray-Ban, with a market share of between 12 and 15 percent.