Luxottica Group originated in 1961, when Leonardo Del Vecchio set up Luxottica di Del Vecchio e C. S.a.S., which subsequently became a joint-stock company under the name of Luxottica S.p.A. Having started out as a small workshop, the Company operated till the end of the ‘60s as a contract producer of dyes, metal components and semi-finished goods for the optical industry.
Leonardo Del Vecchio gradually widened the range of processes until he had an integrated manufacturing structure capable of producing a finished pair of glasses. In 1971 Luxottica’s first collection of prescription eyewear was presented at Milan’s MIDO (an international optics trade fair), marking Luxottica’s definitive transition from contract manufacturer to independent producer.
Expansion in wholesale distribution
In the early ’70s, the Company sold its fames exclusively through wholesale dealers. In 1974, after five years of sustained development of its manufacturing capacity, Del Vecchio understood the importance of direct distribution and started to pursue a strategy of vertical integration, aimed to distribute frames directly onto the market. The first step was to acquire Scarrone S.p.A., a Turin-based distributor with many years experience in the sector and vital knowledge of the Italian market.
International expansion began in the ‘80s with the acquisition of independent distributors and the formation of subsidiaries and joint-ventures in key international markets. Having started with its first associate company in Germany, in 1981, Luxottica’s international wholesale development culminated in the acquisition of Avant Garde Optics Inc., a wholesale distributor on the United States market.
Eyewear: a new frontier of fashion
In the meantime, Luxottica continued to invest in its products. The acquisition of La Meccanoptica Leonardo, owner of the Sferoflex brand and an important flexible hinge patent, enabled the Company to enhance the image and quality of its products and increase its market share.
From the late ’80s eyeglasses, till then perceived as mere sight-correcting instruments, began to evolve into “eyewear” and accessory to define your personal style. Continual aesthetic focus on everyday objects and designers’ interest in the emerging accessories segment led Luxottica to embark on its first collaboration with the fashion industry, in 1988, by entering into a licensing agreement with Giorgio Armani.
The Company followed up that initial collaboration with numerous others and with the acquisition of new brands, gradually building the current world-class brand portfolio and thereby increasing its commitment to research, innovation, product quality and manufacturing excellence.
Over the years Luxottica has launched collections from names like Bulgari (1997), Chanel (1999), Prada (2003), Versace (2003), Donna Karan (2005), Dolce & Gabbana (2006), Burberry (2006), Polo Ralph Lauren (2007), Tiffany (2008), Stella McCartney (2009), Tory Burch (2009), Coach (2012), Armani (2013) and Michael Kors (2014).
In 1990, Luxottica acquired the Vogue brand, followed by the iconic Persol five years later.
In 1999, Luxottica significantly strengthened its global position with the acquisition of Ray-Ban, one of the world’s best-known sunglasses brands. Through this acquisition, the Company obtained crystal sun lens technology as well as the associated manufacturing capacity and added to its portfolio the Arnette and Killer Loop brands. The Ray-Ban brand had been waning for some years but still had enormous unexpressed potential. Luxottica successfully relaunched it through a rapid integration and a powerful advertising campaign that restored the brand’s former prestige.
In 2007, Luxottica 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. Oakley also had its own retail network at the time of over 160 stores.
In 2013, Luxottica strengthened both its luxury brand portfolio and prescription offerings through the acquisition of Alain Mikli International, a French luxury and contemporary eyewear company, which owns the Alain Mikli brand and the Starck Eyes license.
In 1990, Luxottica obtained ADS (American Depository Shares) listing on the New York Stock Exchange, thus raising its public profile and speeding up its growth. In 2000, Luxottica’s stock was listed on the Borsa Italiana’s electronic share market and admitted to Italy’s top 30 equities index.
Towards new markets: expansion in retail distribution
Oakley brought with it a large retail chain, but the expansion of Luxottica in this direction had already begun in the ‘90s.
In 1995, Luxottica became the world’s first significant eyewear manufacturer to enter the retail market, through the acquisition of the United States Shoe Corporation, which owned LensCrafters, one of North America’s largest optical retail chains.
Since 2000, Luxottica has strengthened its retail business by acquiring a number of 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, the Company began its retail expansion into China, where LensCrafters has become a leading brand in the country’s high-end market. In the same year, the Group also started to expand Sunglass Hut globally in high-potential markets like the Middle East, South Africa, Thailand, India, the Philippines, Mexico, Brazil and Mediterranean Europe.
In 2011, Luxottica started its optical retail expansion in Latin America by completing the acquisition of Multiopticas Internacional, a leading retailer in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia operating under the Opticas GMO, Econópticas and Sun Planet retail brands and by expanding Sunglass Hut’s activities in Mexico and Brazil.
In 2012, Luxottica acquired 100% of Grupo Tecnol, the leading Brazilian eyewear player, and its excellent, vertically integrated manufacturing, sales and distribution platform. As a result of this acquisition, Luxottica increased service levels to customers and its presence in the high-potential Brazilian market.
Innovation and new distribution channels
Innovation is a central part of Luxottica’s DNA. It is also expressed in the development of high-potential distribution channels (department stores, travel retail, e-commerce, gateways and mega-cities), in the strengthening of its presence in emerging markets and in the renewal of the purchasing experience.
In recent years, Sunglass Hut has reinforced its presence in the department store channel through long-term strategic agreements with Macy’s in the United States, Myers in Australia and Edgars in South Africa. Following a strategy to strengthen the brand by increasing its presence in markets that are on the cutting edge of fashion and are tourist centers, or “gateway cities”, in April 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.
In 2013, Luxottica launched the “Ray-Ban Remix” project, the new online experience that lets customers personalize their favorite Ray-Ban eyewear, order it online and have it delivered directly to home. In 2014, Ray-Ban Remix is launched in the United States.
In March 2014, Luxottica and Google announced a strategic partnership for Glass to develop innovative iconic wearable devices in the new market of smart eyewear.
Onesight and the Corporate Welfare programme
It is the ability to look at things from a different perspective that in 1988 led to the creation of OneSight, a Luxottica foundation whose mission is to improve the vision of millions of children and adults suffering from optical diseases through a series of outreach programs and activities. To date, these efforts have provided free vision care and eyewear to more than 8 million people in need across 40 countries, involving thousands of volunteers employees. Onesight has also granted millions of dollars towards optical research and education.
In 2009, Luxottica launched an innovative Corporate Welfare programme in Italy, marked by a deeply-rooted bond with the local territory and the desire to involve employees and trade union representatives. Renewed in 2013, the program envisages a series of initiatives for employees in health care, education, support for young people, mobility and social assistance.