ANFAO: Cautious optimism in Italy’s eyewear sector
ANFAO’s General Assembly in Verona at the beginning of July was an opportunity to take stock of the eyewear sector and the general economic environment in Italy. President Giovanni Vitaloni and members also talked about Made in Italy, production quality and sustainability.
Guests at the ANFAO (Italian Association of Optical Products Manufacturers, Milan) meeting included Councillor for Economic Development of the Veneto Region Roberto Marcato, sent by President Luca Zaia, and Minister for the Economy and Made in Italy Adolfo Urso, who expressed the institutions’ interest in a video message.
Minister Urso recalled that “Eyewear is a model of Made in Italy, a synthesis of internationally recognised quality and excellence. We are the largest exporter in Europe, the second largest exporter in the world and a leader in the high-end sector. This industry has a historical and cultural heritage that produces highly appreciated and practical creations.”
He then went on to discuss the “Made in Italy” law, which has been approved by the Italian government and will soon start its journey through parliament. He stressed that “the dissemination of Italian knowledge and know-how, the wealth of skills and knowledge to be passed on and invested in” will be promoted. He also stressed the aspects of innovation and sustainability as strategic for the eyewear sector.
The excellence of production in the sector and Made in Italy were also the focus of the speech by Roberto Marcato, Councillor for Economic Development of the Veneto Region: “The eyewear industry is one of the most strategic industries in the region, a showcase in Italy and worldwide, thanks to its strong international orientation. This sector is an engine of economic development and employment for the entire region. Through innovation, research and design, entrepreneurs and operators keep the value of Made in Italy high and have been able to respond faster than others to recent crises.”
ANFAO President Giovanni Vitaloni thanked his guests and recalled the importance of institutional support for the sector.
Looking back to the end of 2022
Before announcing the first figures for 2023, a review of the end of 2022, previously published as a preliminary final statement, was given. According to the report, the Italian eyewear industry achieved excellent results in international markets, but inflationary tensions and uncertainty weighed on the domestic market and margins.
In the 2022 accounts, Italian eyewear production was €5.08 billion, 22% higher than in 2021, while exports of frames, sunglasses and lenses, which account for about 90% of trade production, increased by 21% compared to 2021, reaching about €5 billion (€4.88 billion). The total number of manufacturers nationwide fell by about 2 % to 830 companies. On the employment side, the industry closed with 18,250 employees, a situation that was essentially stable compared to 2021.
ANFAO: Positive first quarter 2023
In the first quarter of 2023, according to ANFAO, the industry’s exports again increased by double digits compared to the first quarter of 2022: +16.7% in value, to €1,388 million.
Exports of spectacle frames had performed very well (+20.4%), with the upward trend in exports of sunglasses from 2022 also confirmed (+15.9%).
In terms of geographical areas, all exports continued to grow compared to the same period in 2022: Europe +15.1%, Americas +10.9% and Asia +39.1%.
The ANFAO analysis of exports by individual country showed the following:
In the United States, which has always been the most important market for the industry, total exports of spectacle frames and sunglasses increased by +9.1% compared to the first quarter of 2022, with growth in sunglasses (+1.1%) slowing down compared to exports of spectacle frames, which continued to grow very fast (+35.7%).
In the major European countries, the evolution of Italian exports continued well compared to the same period in 2022: France +18.1%, Germany +5.1%, Spain +21.7%.
Outlook for the rest of the year
“Despite these good results in the first quarter of 2023,” Vitaloni says, “it is very likely that the rest of 2023 will be less brilliant for our exports, even if we will still be able to increase the value by taking advantage of the weak euro. We note that our companies are generally less optimistic about the outlook for orders. The core element of this slowdown is mainly due to general cost increases that companies can no longer absorb internally.”
Exports are currently forecast to grow by around 8% in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.
World Economic Outlook with global forecasts
According to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook, global growth forecasts for 2023 have been revised downwards to 2.8% from 3.4% in 2022.
Even more worrying, according to ANFAO, is that the growth rate in advanced economies, which remain the main market for all major industries, is not expected to exceed 1.3% in 2023.
The European region is particularly important for the eyewear sector: it alone absorbs about 50 % of the industry’s exports and, according to the latest forecasts, will have the lowest growth rate of all in 2023: 0.8 %.
“Certainly, exports are the best tool to measure the health of the eyewear industry and this gives us strength and confidence when we look at the evolution in the first quarter of 2023. However, given the general economic forecasts, we have to be extremely cautious,” Giovanni Vitaloni concluded, commenting on the latest data released by the International Monetary Fund at the end of the meeting.