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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Interesting Article in the Wall Street Journal

Are you in the market for a new pair of designer sunglasses this summer?

It's the season for it, and you can spend hundreds of dollars on your next pair of shades. Some Prada and Bulgari pairs will run you nearly $500, and that's if you don't need prescription lenses. Even more moderate design labels like Ray-Ban or REVO can cost a couple of hundred bucks.

Brett Arends, WSJ's ROI columnist, tells colleague Adam Najberg that those $200 designer shades you're wearing may be just like the $20 ones you buy at a Lens Crafter store.Designer shades are big business, even in this economy. I keep hearing about the new age of frugality, but I'm not seeing much of it at the mall. Sunglass Hut's same-store sales in the U.S. rose 10.8% in the first quarter, pretty much erasing the slump in early 2009.But are these expensive brands worth it? How much better are they, really, than the $25 pairs you can get in your local pharmacy? Before you spend big money on your next pair of designer shades, here are six things you should know.

Most sunglasses are made by the same company. Do you prefer the "quality" of Ray-Ban to Oakley? Do you think Bulgari is better than Dolce & Gabbana, or Salvatore Ferragamo is better than Prada? Wake up. They're all made by one company, Italian manufacturer Luxottica–one of the biggest consumer companies that consumers have never heard of. Luxottica also makes sunglasses branded Burberry, Chanel, Polo Ralph Lauren, Paul Smith, Stella McCartney, Tiffany, Versace, Vogue, Persol, Miu Miu, Tory Burch and Donna Karan.

"We manufacture about 70% of those brands in our factories in Italy, and the balance in America and China," says Luxottica spokesman Luca Biondolillo. "We do the design, the manufacturing, and the marketing," he adds. The company makes most of those brands under license, working closely with designers at the relevant fashion houses. But it owns several brands itself, including Ray-Ban, Oakley, Oliver Peoples and REVO.

2. In many cases, the same company is also selling you the glasses. Luxottica also owns LensCrafters, Pearle Vision and Sunglass Hut. This is extreme vertical integration. The eye doctor telling you that you need a new pair of glasses, the sales people helping you choose them and the people who design and make the glasses all work for the same company. Make of it what you will. But if your financial advisor was actually employed by the mutual fund company that he recommended for your portfolio, you'd at least want to know.

It is true these brands are all made using the same technology and manufacturing process and made on an industrial scale by machines spitting out glasses as fast as they can. The image and brand is worth more than what you are paying for.

At Erker's We do not carry any items made by Luxottica, we carry true quality frames that are handmade by people not machines. We have offered the latest in eyewear or over 131 years and continue to do so. If you are looking for something different and are trying to set yourself apart from the masses come to Erker's Fine Eyewear in Ladue and see the difference for yourself.

If you go to Pearl, Lenscrafters, Target, Sears, Sunglass Hut it may look the same because they are all owned by the same company. Come to Erkers and See the difference for yourself.

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