The Luxottica Group of today is the result of over 50 years of restlessly looking toward the future.
The birth of Luxottica
Luxottica Group’s beginnings date to 1961, the year Leonardo Del Vecchio set up Luxottica di Del Vecchio e C. S.a.S as a new company in Agordo, in northern Italy. Initially, the company operated as a small workshop contracted to produce dyes, metal components and semi-finished goods for businesses in Italy’s optical industry.
Del Vecchio gradually widened Luxottica’s range of capabilities until it had a fully integrated manufacturing operation able to produce a finished pair of eyeglasses.
In 1971, Luxottica presented its first collection of prescription eyewear at MIDO, the international optical-industry trade fair in Milan. The collection was an unqualified success. It marked Luxottica’s completed transition from contract manufacturer to independent producer of eyewear.
Expansion into wholesale distribution
By the early 1970s, Luxottica frames were widely available through wholesalers throughout Italy. The company’s manufacturing capacity grew significantly in the following years, convincing Del Vecchio that it was time to establish direct distribution for Luxottica eyewear. This set the company on a course toward vertical integration.
The first step was to acquire Scarrone S.p.A., a Turin-based distributor with many years of experience in the sector and vital knowledge of the Italian market.
Luxottica’s international expansion began in 1981 when the company took its first step outside Italy – creating an associate company in Germany, a world leader in eyewear production. Later that same year, Luxottica entered the United States wholesale market by acquiring Avant-Garde Optics.
The remainder of the 1980s saw rapid international growth, as Luxottica acquired independent distributors and formed new subsidiaries and joint ventures in key international markets.
Eyewear: a new frontier of fashion
In the meantime, Luxottica continued to invest in new capabilities. It acquired La Meccanoptica Leonardo, owner of the Sferoflex brand and an important flexible hinge patent, enabling Luxottica to enhance the image and quality of its products and increase market share.
For many years, eyeglasses had been widely perceived as mere sight-correcting instruments. But that began to change in the late 1980s as the fashion world embraced eyewear as accessories to define personal style. Luxottica had long been committed to improving the aesthetics of eyewear, so fashion was a natural fit. The group formed its first fashion industry collaboration in 1988, with the fashion house of the celebrated Italian designer Giorgio Armani.
Many other fashion collaborations followed, along with the acquisition of new brands, as Luxottica built a world-class brand portfolio and ramped up its commitment to research, innovation, product quality and manufacturing excellence.
Over the years Luxottica has launched collections from names such as Bulgari (1997), Chanel (1999), Prada (2003), Versace (2003), Donna Karan (2005), Dolce & Gabbana (2006), Burberry (2006), Polo Ralph Lauren (2007), Tiffany (2008), Tory Burch (2009), Coach (2012), Armani (2013) and Michael Kors (2014).
The group has also expanded its fashion and lifestyle presence through acquisition. In 1990, the group acquired the Vogue Eyewear brand. Five years later, it bought Persol, the iconic “Made in Italy” designer eyewear brand.
In 1999, Luxottica strengthened its global position by acquiring Ray-Ban, one of the world’s best-known sunglasses brands. Through this acquisition, Luxottica obtained crystal sun lens technology and added the Arnette and Killer Loop brands to its portfolio. The Ray-Ban brand itself had been waning for some years but still had enormous unexpressed potential. Luxottica successfully relaunched Ray-Ban by rapidly integrating it into the group and creating a powerful advertising campaign that restored the brand’s former prestige.
In 2007, the group acquired California-based Oakley, a leading sport and performance brand, which owned the Oliver Peoples brand and a license to manufacture and distribute eyewear under the Paul Smith name. At the time of the acquisition, Oakley had its own retail network of over 160 stores.
And then in 2013, Luxottica strengthened both its luxury brand portfolio and prescription eyewear offerings by acquiring Alain Mikli International. The French luxury and contemporary eyewear company brought with it both the Alain Mikli brand and a license to provide eyewear for Starck Eyes, the eyewear line founded by the celebrated designer, Philippe Starck.
Entering the financial markets on two continents
In 1990, Luxottica Group raised its profile by going public on the New York Stock Exchange. This made Luxottica the first Italian company to be listed on a stock exchange outside Italy without first having been listed in Italy.
The United States was a key market for the group and New York was an international financial center, so the listing brought with it valuable new visibility and the potential to further accelerate growth.
Ten years later, in 2000, Luxottica’s stock would be jointly listed on the Borsa Italiana stock exchange in Milan. The group entered Italy’s top 30 equities index, signifying its rise to become one of Italy’s largest publicly held companies.
Towards new markets: expansion into retail
In 1995, Luxottica became the world’s first significant eyewear manufacturer to enter the retail market. That year, the group acquired the United States Shoe Corporation, which owned LensCrafters, one of North America’s largest optical retail chains.
Since then, the group has strengthened its retail business by acquiring a number of other retail chains, including Sunglass Hut (2001), a leading retailer of premium sunglasses; OPSM Group (2003), a leading optical retailer in Australia and New Zealand; and Cole National (2004), which brought with it another important optical retail chain in North America, Pearle Vision, and an extensive retail licensed brands store business – Target Optical and Sears Optical.
In 2005, Luxottica began its retail expansion into China, where LensCrafters has gone on to become a leading high-end optical brand. Also that year, Sunglass Hut began its global expansion, which would see it move into high-potential markets such as the Middle East, South Africa, Thailand, India, the Philippines and Mediterranean Europe.
In 2011, the group started its optical retail expansion in Latin America by completing the acquisition of Multiopticas Internacional, a leading optical retailer in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, and by expanding Sunglass Hut’s activities in Mexico and Brazil.
And in 2012, the group acquired 100% of Grupo Tecnol, the leading Brazilian eyewear company. Tecnol’s vertically integrated manufacturing, sales and distribution platform has increased Luxottica’s service levels for Brazilian customers and expanded the group’s presence in this high-potential market.
Innovation and new distribution channels
Innovation is a central part of the culture of the Luxottica Group. It has been the driving force behind the group’s development of new, high-potential distribution channels, the strengthening of its presence in emerging markets and the steady renewal of the customer experience in its stores.
In recent years, for example, Sunglass Hut has reinforced its presence in the department store channel by initiating long-term strategic agreements with Macy’s in the United States, Myer in Australia and Edgars in South Africa. The retail brand has also been increasing its presence in markets that are on the cutting edge of fashion and are tourist centers, or “gateway cities”. In 2010, Sunglass Hut opened flagship stores in New York and London, soon followed by Miami, Santa Monica and Orlando and, in 2013, New York Times Square and Sidney.
Also in 2013, Ray-Ban launched “Ray-Ban Remix”, a new online experience that lets customers personalize their favorite Ray-Ban eyewear, order it online and have it delivered directly to home.
And in 2014, Luxottica Group acquired Glasses.com, the North American online retailer that is pioneering new e-commerce technologies and helping to expand the market for online prescription eyewear purchases to its full potential.