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Fashion big factor in determining what sells. (Sun Glasses).

NEW YORK--Whether the subject is purchasing sun protection or contraceptive products, the "fun" factor always seems to override the "fear" factor--and the sunglass category is a prime example of that tendency.

While more and more consumers are aware of the importance of protecting their eyes from the harmful effects of the sun's rays, the key factor driving sales in the category remains fashion.

"The first question shoppers ask when trying on a pair of sunglasses is How do I look?,' not How well do these protect my eyes?'" observes a category manager at a major drug chain.

Members of the trade class should take advantage of the fact that many consumers see drug stores as destinations for such fashion-oriented items as cosmetics and hair care products, he notes.

Suppliers are well aware that fashion and style rule in the sunglasses category.

"Sun protection is the cost of entry into the category, and most items provide adequate shielding from UV rays--but what drives this business is most certainly fashion," maintains Tom Fourt, vice president of marketing at AAi.Foster Grant Inc.

Currently there is strong interest in rimless designs and dual-tone lenses, notes Michael Nadel, vice president of sales for the Today's Optical division of Sun Ban Fashions Inc.

Rimless sunglasses have grown in popularity in all their variations, as have products with thinner and tighter frames. Sports-oriented sunglasses targeting active consumers are also rapidly growing in popularity.

"In the sports arena the combination of spring hinge and multicolor antireflective lenses is very hot for us," Nadel remarks.

The supplier's Sport XT Eyewear offers multiple sports lens coatings, contour-fit nose pads and flexible springhinges, as well as 100% UVA/UVB protection.

As tastes change rapidly, suppliers continually upgrade their lines to reflect the latest trends that consumers demand. Research indicates that 75% of sunglass users own more than one pair of sunglasses.

"In the sunglass category a $10 to $25 investment allows consumers to purchase a relatively inexpensive accessory item and change their look simply by exchanging their sunglasses for a different style," observes Fourt.

AAi.FosterGrant constantly analyzes point-of-sale data to determine which style sells best in which retail venue, he notes.

The cempany recently introduced a line of sunglasses called Club Med From Foster Grant.

"We perceived a consumer need for high-quality beachstyle sunglasses with contemporary, fashion-forward styling," explains Fourt. "We worked closely with the Club Med people to develop this wonderfully playful, colorful line of stylish items."

For its part' Today's Optical is doing well with its Look A Likes line of sunglasses, which invites consumers to compare Look A Likes' prices to those of Gucci, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and other well-known, high-end brands.

In addition, the supplier continues to expand its successful Shades of Britney collection. Nadel says that working with pop sensation Britney Spears has created an instant demand among young women for the stylish sunglasses, again proving the value of the right license.

"Britney Spears is still a hot name, he remarks. "You see her face and name virtually every day in the media."

Carrying the Shades of Britney line helps boost chain drug retailers' teen and young adult business, which has not been a strength of the trade class, adds Nadel.

Similarly, FosterGrant continues to maximize the clout of its celebrity spokespeople, weaving model Cindy Crawford and race car driver Jeff Gordon into its advertising while arranging public appearances by the celebrities to promote the brand.
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Author:Vogel, Mike
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 14, 2002
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