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"Buy American" Increasingly Difficult

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April 09, 2014 – Comments (2)

Board: Macro Economics

Author: imyoung

Where there is no vision, there is no hope. –George Washington Carver,
American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor, born into slavery around 1864 in Missouri, USA

When our chronologically challenged solons in Washington exhort US consumers to “Buy American,” they are obviously blind to reality. To buy American was easy eons ago, in the 1950s, early 1960s, it is not in the 21st century. We have discussed the conundrum of what is really Made in the USA here on the METAR board before: from foreign-made iPads and other digital toys, to Detroit cars that contain more than 60% foreign-made parts or are completely manufactured abroad and sold in the U.S. as “American,” to imported housing components, http://boards.fool.com/from-china-consumed-in-usa-29791365.a... to the last remaining U.S. owned tire company, http://boards.fool.com/and-then-there-was-one-30730601.aspx . When we buy “American,” frequently neither the iconic “American” brand nor the company itself is in American hands. America is on sale and few seem to notice or care.

Before our very eyes the global trend of industry consolidation has swallowed some of our most cherished and iconic brands from finance to food. Let Pacific Investment Management Company, LLC, PIMCO, manage your funds and you’ll increase German insurer Allianz’s profits. Buy a new suit at “all American” Brooks Brothers and you’ll be adding to the earnings of its Italian owner, see below. Want to ship a package via DHL, the former California company founded by UC Berkley students Dalsey, Hillblom, and Lynn? American no more. It’s been absorbed by the world’s largest logistics company, Deutsche Post. Eat your chicken dinner and the bird will most likely come from the largest chicken producer in the U.S., former Pilgrim’s Pride, now Pilgrim’s Corp, owned by Brazilian food giant JBS. If you prefer salads and bio foods from Trader Joe’s, you’ll be supporting a German owned trust set up by Theo Albrecht, deceased co-owner of Aldi. After your meal, brush your pearly whites with your trusty Sonicare electric power toothbrush, originally created by a company in Seattle, WA, now owned by Koninklijke Philips N.V. of the Netherlands. Reach for a Bud to drown your sorrow at these disconcerting developments and you’ll be contributing to the profit of a Belgian-Brazilian company, InBev, the company that swallowed brewer Anheuser-Busch. If you prefer Miller Genuine Draft, you’ll be supporting SABMiller, a multinational company with South African roots headquartered in London. In case the alcohol didn’t becalm you, take a brisk walk and be sure to don your “American” Ray•Bans or Oakleys or Foster Grants. I’ll bet you a bottle of “hand-crafted” beer from a local micro brewery or a bottle of fine California wine that they were not only manufactured abroad but that the owner of that iconic “American brand” is foreign to boot.

My “Buy American” rumination began after my last flight back to the U.S. when I left my sun-cheaters on the plane in the seat pocket right in front of me. For the first time ever, there was no need to put on my shades as I usually do by the time the plane reaches Arizona. Ominous dark clouds covered the sky from Arizona to the West Coast and it rained cats and dogs when we landed at LAX. I noticed my loss two days later when the sun reconquered the blue. Since I hadn’t bought quality sunglasses in ages, I went online to see what is new in eyewear and protective lenses and Mamma mia, was I shocked. It wasn’t that reasonably priced sunglasses are as good as a 300 dollar designer pair, given the same 99-100% UVA and UVB protection, I already knew that. The wraparounds I left on the plane were proof of surprisingly good quality –light, well-fitting, full UVA/UVB protection, polarized lenses– bought in a pinch at a Wal-Mart in tiny Salida, CO, at a very reasonable price to protect my baby blues from the blinding glare of Colorado snow.

What shocked me were the fairly recent developments in the U.S. eyewear industry: almost ALL of our famous American eyewear brands, think Ray•Ban, Oakley or Foster Grant, are neither “Made in the U.S.A.” nor are the companies American owned. Iconic Polaroid after being bought by Ponzi scam artist, Minnesotan Tom Petters, became Italian and the Kodak brand is now French. That’s not all. Virtually ALL of the famous U.S. eyewear retail chains like LensCrafters, Sunglass Hut International, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Target Optical, Cole Vision Care, ILORI Optical Shop of Aspen are foreign owned as are U.S. Medical Eye Management and Insurance companies. The few remaining U.S. owned eyewear companies often import necessary components or only design their eyewear in the U.S. and have it manufactured elsewhere.

Merger or acquisition usually mean loss of jobs as the acquired company gets absorbed and work processes get streamlined. In case of a foreign buyer, most jobs slashed will not be in the home country but in the U.S. In the eyewear industry, almost all manufacturing has left the U.S. and now takes place abroad with only a rare factory remaining stateside. One in the eye for U.S. workers. Scroll down the list below and see what is no longer owned by U.S. companies and what is no longer “Made in the U.S.A.” You may be as surprised as I was.


The World of [American] Vision – Ruled by Bella Italia and La Grande Nation!

Iconic “American” eyewear brands are now house brands or licensed brands of two Italian companies, Luxottica Group of Milano, Safilo Group of Padua, Italy, and one French company, Essilor of Paris, France. Luxottica and Safilo each have one single U.S.-based manufacturing plant. Essilor is in the midst of acquiring U.S. and Canadian companies –I was unable to dig up figures on their plants and locations. It is safe to assume that whenever we “buy American” sun-cheaters, prescription glasses, high performance glasses for sports, or protective and safety goggles, they are in all likelihood neither “Made in the USA” nor will the brand be American owned. Not that I have anything against Italians or French! Both have an impeccable sense of fashion, and supercool eyewear as worn by Johnny Depp or by other worshipped celebrities is after all a fashion statement – to be copied slavishly by the adoring masses.

At first glance, the eyewear/optical industry does not seem terribly exciting. I’ve always viewed it as a boring, slow-growth industry. I was wrong. According to French company Essilor, it is a relatively fast growing industry given global demographics: on one hand there is the rapidly aging population suffering with presbyopia (long-sightedness) as early as in their late 30s or early 40s, on the other there are children fettered to iPhone or iPad who need corrective lenses for myopia (short-sightedness) and astigmatism at an ever earlier age. Chinese as well as urban children seem especially prone to this visual deterioration.

Globally, corrective lenses are expected to grow between 2 and 3% annually. For sunglasses the figures are estimated to be more than double between 6 and 7%. Sunglasses currently make up 56.3% of Safilo’s net sales (prescription frames 37.1%, and sport products 5.8%) with tremendous worldwide growth potential. Currently only about 25% of the world population wears sunglasses according to Essilor who sees the possibility to increase it to 85% once the multitude has been persuaded that stylish sunglasses are not only for fashionistas but are, from the cradle to the grave, a necessary protection for the most sensitive part of our sun-exposed bodies.

The three major European eyewear companies employ more than 128,000 people. The number of employees working for the six small U.S. eyewear companies is considerably less at roughly a couple of thousand. Since the remaining handful of probably U.S.-owned companies are private, information is not readily available. I say “probably” because any of the six U.S. privately owned eyewear businesses may have a silent foreign partner who one day could ingest the entire company. It has happened before.


A Look at the Numbers

Below is a brief look at the eyewear and optical industry, concentrating on the three major players. Note that privately owned Dutch HAL Holding N.V.(HAL), registered in Curaçao and principal investment arm of HAL Trust N.V. (founded 1873), owns 42.2% of Italian Safilo through its subsidiary Multibrands Italy B.V., the remainder is held by three stakeholders, each holding less than 10%. The HAL subsidiary also owns a large stake in Swiss optical retail chain Visilab, Mexican optical retail chain Grupo Optico Lux, Pearle Europe, a former division of U.S. Pearle, the latter now owned by Luxottica.

For the three publicly traded* EU companies (Luxottica also trades on NYSE under the fitting symbol LUX), I have given the number of employee and net sales in Euros and dollars where available, exchange rate of 2014-03-01. All U.S. owned companies, midgets compared to the three Eurozone giants, are privately owned.** It means, financial information is not public. Since the Franco-Italian number of employees is about 128,000 and the U.S.’s is probably about 2 to 3% of that number, U.S. companies’ total net sales should be roughly proportionate, hence significantly lower. In 2013 the three EU companies had total net sales of €13.55 billion (US$18.70 billion) or about €105,859 ($146,094) per employee.
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* A public company went through an Initial Public Offering (IPO), is traded on a Stock Exchange and has to meet strict SEC filing requirements. In the U.S., more than 15,000 companies are public, see full definition here http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/publiccompany.asp
**In the U.S. private companies are usually companies in their infancy or family-owned and are relatively few, contrary to what some nescient denizens of these boards have proclaimed with astonishing certitude. See definition http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/privatecompany.asp

Eyewear/Optical Industry - Employment and Net Sales:

[See Post for Tables]


*Serengeti and Bollé are owned by private equity firm MidOcean Partners specializing in leveraged buyouts, see list below of U.S.-owned eyewear companies. Bollé was a French company, most of their factories and employees may still be in France.


Watch the Optical Market Grow:

Despite the economic malaise in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere, the European owned eyewear industry did quite well. Luxottica net sales increased from €5.094 billion in 2009 to €7.313 billion in 2013. For French Essilor revenue grew 5.4% between 2012 and 2013 despite economic doldrums in France and much of the world. The Safilo Group has grown at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 6% between 2009 and 2011, despite a reorganization in 2009 with Dutch HAL acquiring a minority interest and extending a tender offer for Safilo’s Senior Notes. Safilo’s 2013 figures are not yet available. I expect them lower than for 2012 since the first 9 months of 2013 were lower than the year before.

The long-term growth drivers for eyewear are:

I. Demographics: Poor vision is a growing handicap world wide from an estimate of 4.3 billion people in 2013 to 5.0 billion by 2020. Essilor estimates the demand for better vision to be 3 to 4% annually. Note that growth is higher among urban populations. Below are the estimates and Compound Annual Growth Rates (CAGR) for the optical market.

1. Visual impairment:
–– Myopia (short-sightedness) is the most common type of refractive error, expected to increase from 1.6 billion in 2013 to 2.0 billion by 2020 with a CAGR of 3.2%. [a study done in Malaysia examined 4,634 children: 9.8% of 7 year olds had myopia, 34.4% by age 15!; another study summarized the worldwide prevalence of myopia across different populations: in children it is higher in urban areas and it is high among people of Chinese ethnicity. In adult populations aged over 40 years the regional and racial difference is not so obvious. The prevalence of myopia is related to more time spent on close up work, less time outdoors, higher educational level and parental history of myopia.
–– Presbyopia (far-sightedness) from 2.0 billion in 2013 to 2.3 billion by 2020 with a CAGR of 2.3% [with a rapidly aging population in most countries, including China, this may be an underestimate, IMO]
–– Market Growth for corrective lenses by region is 0 to 1% for Europe, 2 to 3% for the U.S.A. and 10% for the fastest growing markets according to Essilor.
2. Visual Health:
–– Cataracts estimated to rise from 250 million in 2013 to 320 million in 2020 with an estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.6%
–– Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is estimated to increase from 100 million in 2013 to 120 million by 2020
NOTE: Anyone interested in the epidemiological vision studies, please email me.

II. Regional Growth
–– Luxottica’s growth was 22% in Emerging Markets, 11% Europe (25% in Eastern Europe), 14% in ‘Continental’ Europe, 3% in the Mediterranean countries.
–– Domestic growth of eyewear is fastest in Russia 89%, followed by India 17%, then China with 16% according to Essilor. Fast-growing markets make up 21% of total group revenue; sun wear makes up 10% of total revenue.
–– Safilo’s Net Sales (all optical high-end merchandise) by geographical area for the first 9 months of 2013 shows the following trend: 41.8% Europe, 41.5% The Americas, 15.5% Asia, 1.2 % the rest of the world.

III. Change in Consumer Demands and Future Evolution of the Optical Industry
1. Increased Fashion awareness and ubiquitous advertisement using celebrities –note the drastic change in fashionably cool eyewear styles most people have succumbed to over the last couple of years whether it looks good on them or not
2. Increased awareness and need for U.V. and glare protection from childhood through old age
3. online revenue growth is the way of the future believes Essilor currently in the process of absorbing the largest North American online retailer, Canadian Coastal Contacts, Inc. (Coastal.com).
4. Innovation: Essilor’s focus on its business, expansion and innovation is laser sharp. The company filed more than 100 patents in 2013 alone. 40% of their sales were generated by products launched within the last four (4) years according to their presentation of February 27, 2014.

Investment Opportunity?
Essilor and Luxottica are investment possibilities that warrant further study. Both pay a dividend. While Essilor will benefit from their emphasis on innovation and online retail by acquiring the largest North American online retailer, Luxottica will most likely benefit from their recently entered strategic partnership with Google to develop “innovative iconic wearable devices.” I would not consider owning a stake in Safilo because nearly 42% of the shares are controlled by a single major holder, see lists below for details.


THE FUTURE THROUGH GLASSES DARKLY:

The trend of global consolidation of various industries will continue inexorably as I see it, the eyewear industry is just another example of the trend. As long as the dollar is cheap, foreign companies will be tempted to buy U.S. assets that not only include U.S. companies but also landmark buildings and turnpike leases as reported by the New York Times: the Chrysler Building in NYC is owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council and a Spanish-led investor group bought long-term leasing rights to the Pennsylvania Turnpike for a reported $12.8 billion. Visualize cruising down the PA Turnpike and dutifully paying your toll...to a Spanish hedge fund, probably as unregulated as those in the U.S.! Somehow I find the thought revolting and cannot help but be disturbed by this trend away from U.S. ownership and manufacturing. Several of the acquisitions mentioned above or listed below occurred within the first few years after the burst of the dot.com bubble in 2000 and again after the 2008 collapse of the housing market that spawned a full-blown credit crisis and a depreciating dollar.

In the first half of 2008 international takeovers represented 22% of all U.S. mergers and acquisitions (M&As), up from 17% in 2007 according to the New York Times. 2008 saw the following large U.S. companies fall into foreign hands: Anheuser-Busch to InBev, Barr Pharmaceuticals to Teva Pharmaceuticals of Israel, eye care company Alcon to Novartis of Switzerland, Genentech to F. Hoffmann-La Roche (Roche) of Switzerland. Most of the former U.S. eyewear companies listed below changed to foreign ownership within the last eight (8) years except for Ray•Ban. It was acquired by Luxottica in 1999.

There were a total of 464 U.S. companies swept away by a foreign wave of acquisitions during the first half of 2008 alone, according to Thompson Reuters. Of the 464 M&As reported, 314 deals (68%) were negotiated by European companies, 117 (25%) by Asian acquirers and 33 (7%) by Middle Eastern and African buyers. It is quite possible that lack of dependable access to capital drove some U.S. companies into the arms of a foreign parent. I do remember reading that many small and medium sized U.S. companies complained bitterly about not being able to obtain loans or refinance them to tide them over during the economic downturn while our too big to fail banks hung on to their financial care packages graciously handed out by our Federal Reserve. Some of these smaller companies, not yet in a position to bribe their way to riches, publicly accused our solons of having abandoned them. But...

THERE IS HOPE! As I labored over this post growing increasingly gloomy over M&A trends, loss of U.S. manufacturing and ownership, and the all pervasive general apathy, I received an e-mail from a youngster in Congress, 30 year old Joe Kennedy, entitled “Behind the Scenes in Washington,” https://iqconnect.lmhostediq.com/iqextranet/view_newsletter.... . Beats me how I got on his mailing list, possibly from one of the agencies or committees on whom I’ve bestowed unwanted advice and suggestions in the past. Congressman Kennedy and his youngish Republican colleague, Tom Reed, N.Y., introduced Bill H.R. 2996 called Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI),
see http://kennedy.house.gov/reed-kennedy ,
track the bill here http://dyn.realclearpolitics.com/congressional_bill_tracker/... .
See also Senate companion bill, S.1468 (PDF), http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113s1468is/pdf/BILLS-113s... . I haven’t had time to study it yet but am pleased to see a few of our legislators have finally opened their eyes and try to stem the worrisome tide.

im

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ITALIAN AND FRENCH COMPANIES AND THEIR U.S. BRANDS/LICENSES

I. Luxottica Group, S.p.A., Milano, Italia http://www.luxottica.com/en/company/about-us/company-profile...
over 70,000 employees, founded 1961 by Leonardo Del Vecchio, is the world’s largest eyewear company with net sales exceeding €7.3 billion in 2013. The Group has approximately 7,000 optical and sun retail stores in North America, Asia-Pacific, China, South Africa, Latin America and Europe, and a strong, well-balanced brand portfolio.

The Group's products are designed and manufactured at its six manufacturing plants in Italy, two wholly-owned plants in China, one plant in Brazil and one plant in the United States [Oakley’s Eye Safety Systems] devoted to the production of sports eyewear.

Luxottica Eyewear Brands: http://www.luxottica.com/en/eyewear-brands

A) Luxottica HOUSE BRANDS - FORMERLY U.S. OWNED:

1. OAKLEY, Inc., Foothill Ranch, CA, http://www.oakley.com
Established in 1975 and acquired by Luxottica for USD 2.1 bln in 2007, Oakley is one of the world’s leading sports performance brands with High Definition Optics (HDO) incorporated into all of its sun and prescription eyewear as well as ski goggles. It holds over 500 patents. Double digit growth in Europe and emerging markets.

2. Eye Safety Systems (ESS), ( http://www.esseyepro.com ), is a subsidiary of Oakley, Foothill Ranch, CA. The only US-based Luxottica manufacturing plant is located here (with opthalmic laboratories in Dallas, TX, Memphis, TN, and Lockbourne, OH). ESS has revolutionized the way military personnel view eye protection and offers a wide spectrum for all military and law enforcement applications.

3. Ray•Ban, http://www.ray-ban.com/usa .
Founded 1937, created the Aviator model for American Air Force pilots, acquired by Luxottica already in 1999 with 11 years of double-digit growth. A favorite brand for movie celebrities, global trendsetters, and wannabees.

4. Oliver Peoples, http://www.oliverpeoples.com
Founded 1986, Los Angeles, CA, aquired by Oakley, subsidiary of Luxottica, for $55.7 million in 2006.

5. Arnette Optic Illusions, Inc, http://apac.arnette.com/heritage (Only their Australian website works at this point, it may be their HQs now.) Link of parent: http://www.luxottica.com/en/eyewear-brands/arnette
Founded 1992 by Greg Arnette, in a car garage in Orange County California, gained cult status with the junior surf crowd and offers sunglasses, goggles, prescription glasses.


B) Other Luxottica Proprietary Brands:
K & L (formerly Killer Loop), Persol, Sferoflex, Vogue Eyewear, Oliver Peoples, Alain Mikli.


C) U.S. BRANDS UNDER Luxottica LICENSE:

Brooks Brothers Clothiers, Italian owned
founded 1818, Manhattan, first acquired by the British firm, Marks and Spencer plc, in 1988. They sold it to Retail Brand Alliance ("RBA") in 2001, now known as The Brooks Brothers Group, privately owned by Italian billionaire Claudio del Vecchio (son of Luxottica founder Leonardo del Vecchio).
Chaps
Coach, founded 1941, New York
DKNY, founded 1989 as more affordable fashion, parent LVMH (Louis Vuitton SA, Moët, Hennessy)
Donna Karan, founded 1984, New York, parent LVMH
Polo Ralph Lauren, founded 1967, New York
Ralph Lauren Purple Label
Reed Krakoff formerly with Coach, now has own label
Tiffany & Co., founded 1837, New York
Tory Burch, US fashion designer, New York


D) Non-US Brands under License:
Giorgio Armani, Bulgari, Burberry, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Miu Miu, Paul Smith Spectacles, Starck Eyes, Prada, Stella McCarney, Versace, Versus


E) FORMER U.S. RETAIL BRANDS owned by Luxottica
Luxottica Retail has more than 7,000 retail stores worldwide with its headquarters in Mason, Ohio, USA, the birthplace of LensCrafters.

1. Sunglass Hut International
founded in Miami, FLA in 1971, acquired by the Luxottica Group in February 2001 for US$653 million including debt. As of December 31, 2012, it had 2,713 retail stores worldwide. http://www.luxottica.com/en/company/our-way/our-business-mod...

2. LensCrafters
founded 1983 in Mason, Ohio, about 850 stores in U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong.

3. Pearle Vision
founded 1961, Savannah, GA, by Stanley Pearle. He also founded Pearle Optical, an American chain of eye care stores and its express store, Pearle Express.

4. Sears Optical

5. Target Optical

6. Cole Vision Care

7. ILORI Optical Shop of Aspen


F) Luxottica Non-US Retail Brands:
–– David Clulow, U.K., http://www.davidclulow.com/our-stores
–– Asia-Pacific: OPSM (Optical Prescription Spectacle Makers of AU & NZ with locations in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia); Laubman and Pank, Bright Eyes Sunglasses, both Australian, the latter acquired by Oakley, Inc (itself purchased by Luxottica),
–– Grand Optics LLC, Dubai
–– GMO, Chile, http://www.gmo.cl/


G) U.S. EYE MEDICAL MANAGEMENT COs. owned by Luxottica

EyeMed Vision Care Centers, HQ in Mason, OH, includes EyeMed Insurance Co. and the EyeMed Vision Care HMO of Texas, Inc. in Houston, TX.

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II. Safilo Group, Padua, Italy http://www.safilo.com/en/1-safilo-in-brief.php
–– NOTE: Retail investors own only a 44.1% stake, Curaçao based HAL Holding N.V. owns 42.2% through its subsidiary Multibrands Italy B.V., the remainder is held by three stakeholders, each holding less than 10%.
–– 8,108 employees, founded 1934, second-largest manufacturer of eyewear products worldwide; world leader in the premium eyewear segment and one of the top three sports eyewear manufacturers and distributors, their products are marketed in 130 countries worldwide. Safilo’s non-US brands include Safilo, Carrera Sunglasses (formerly Austrian), Oxydo.
–– Safilo’s products are primarily manufactured in three Italian facilities with an additional plant in Slovenia, one plant in the U.S.A and one in China.

A) U.S. BRANDS owned by SAFILO: http://www.safilo.com/en/2-brands.php

1. Polaroid Eyewear
founded 1937 by Edwin Land in Cambridge, MA, who invented Polaroid, the world’s first polarizing material for commercial use. After Polaroid company’s bankruptcy, it changed hands several times: brand name first acquired by Petters Group Worldwide (the Petters of Ponzi scheme notoriety), sold Polaroid Eyewear to specialist eyewear company StyleMark, Zürich, Switzerland, a global distributor of fashion, sport, and children’s sunglasses, in March 2007; the latter was sold by parent StyeMark Group to Safilo in November of 2011. Polaroid Eyewear operates as an autonomous business and manufactures its polarizing lenses at its European Research Centre in the Vale of Leven, Scotland.

2. Smith Sport Optics, Inc., Ketchum, ID, operates as a subsidiary of Safilo S.p.A. In the 1980s, Safilo developed designer collections, gained full control of American eyewear company Starline Optical Corp, then sunglass-maker Friuli-based Oxsol and was listed on the Milan Stock Exchange.


B) U.S. BRANDS UNDER SAFILO LICENSE:
Bobby Brown (since 2014)
Juicy Couture
Marc Jacobs
Marc by Marc Jacobs
4. Tommy Hilfiger


C) U.S. BRANDS LICENSED for US Market only:
Fossil
J.Lo by Jennifer Lopez
Kate Spade
Liz Claiborne
Saks Fifth Avenue
6. Banana Republic


D) Non-US Brands under License:
Alexander McQueen, BOSS, BOSS Orange, Bottega Veneta, Céline, Dior, Fendi (as of 2014), Gucci, Jimmy Choo, MaxMara, Max&Co, Pierre Cardin, Saint Laurent.


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III. ESSILOR INTERNATIONAL S. A., Paris, France, http://www.essilor.com/en/Investors/Pages/Home.aspx
Over 55,000 employees (2013), revenue €5.07bn in 2013, founded 1972 by the fusion of Essel (founded 1849) and Silor (founded as Lissac in 1931). Their flagship brands are Varilux, Crizal, Definity, Xperio, Optifog and Foster Grant.
They have been acquiring eyewear manufacturers and in February of 2013, agreed to acquire leading online vision care retailer, Coastal Contacts, Inc. (Coastal.com), a company with 600 employees, based in Vancouver, Canada.


ESSILOR OWNED U.S. COMPANIES AND BRANDS:

1. FGX International, Smithfield, RI, http://www.fgxi.com/company/company-profile/, acquired 2010
–– 500 employees, with additional offices in New York City; San Luis Obispo, CA; Toronto; Milan; Stoke-on-Trent, England; Mexico City; and Shenzhen, China.
–– World’s leading designer and marketer of non-prescription reading glasses and sunglasses with a portfolio of established, highly recognized eyewear brands including
Foster Grant, mass-produced by Sam Foster in 1929, sold in Atlantic City, NJ
Sight Station
Magnivision
Gargoyles
Anarchy
Corinne McCormack
SolarShield and
PolarEyes

FGXI also holds licenses for brands such as
Ironman,
Body Glove
Disney
Field & Stream™
Dockers
Reebok
Nine West
NASCAR
Panama Jack

2. Signet Armorlite, Inc. (KODAK lenses), San Marcos, CA,
http://www.signetarmorlite.com/resources/company-profile/
Exclusive manufacturer and distributor of Kodak-brand lenses, acquired 2010 according to Essilor’s First Half 2010 News Release. No mention on Signet Armorlite’s website that it is an Essilor subsidiary.

2. Costa Inc. aka Costa Del Mar Sunglasses, Inc. Lincoln, RI, https://www.costadelmar.com/home
Founded 1983 in Daytona Beach, Florida, became part of A. T. Cross Company (pens). A. T. Cross sold its pen and accessories division to private equity firm Clarion Capital Partners in June 2013 and continued to operate the optical division renamed Costa Inc and included the Native brand. Costa Inc. traded under the symbol ATX on the Nasdaq until February 1, 2014 when the acquisition by Essilor was finalized.

Essilor calls it a US leader in high-performance polarized sunglass designs based on its patented 580 lens technology which offers color enhancement and increased visual acuity for use in water sports like fishing, sailing, and surfing. The eyewear is still assembled in Daytona Beach, Florida and marketed under the Costa and Native brands.

Costa has become the fastest growing performance sunglass brand in the United States! Costa Inc. generated revenue of nearly $100 million in 2013.


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U.S. SUNGLASS MANUFACTURERS

1. Marchon Eyewear, , http://www.marchon.com/HTML/thecompany.asp
>2,300 employees, headquartered in New York, acquired 2008 by Vision Service Plan, known as VSP, the largest vision insurance provider in the U.S.
No financial information is available from Marchon or parent. According to Wikipedia, Marchon designs their wares in the U.S. and Italy and manufactures in Italy, Japan, and China.

House Brands
1. Marchon Global Collections
Marchonyc
Airlock
Tres Jolie
X-Games
Flexon eyewear was founded in 1988 by Marchon Eyewear. NiTiNOL, a nickel-titanium alloy, is used. It can a “remember” and return to its original shape.
Scandinavian Eyewear
Dragon
Kiss&Kill (European market only)

Licensed U.S. Brands
Calvin Klein Collection, Calvin Klein Jeans, ck Calvin Klein - parent Phillips-Van Heusen
DVF
3. Michael Kors
4. Nautica
5. Nike Vision
6. Nine West
7. Sean John - private

Licensed non-U.S. Brands
Chloé - French
Salvatore Ferragamo - Italian
G-Star Raw - Dutch
Karl Lagerfeld - German
5. Lacoste - French
Liu•Jo - Italian
Emilio Pucci - French LVMH Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton S.A.
Jill Sander - Change Capital Partners (CCP), London
Valentino - Quatar Mayhoola for Investments Sp

2. Maui Jim, Inc., Lahaina, Maui, HI, http://www.mauijim.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/en/st-us
700 employees, founded 1980, is a privately held company. According to its website, it is the fastest growing premium polarized sunglass maker in the world with their revolutionary engineered PolarizedPlus® lens. In 1996 Maui Jim bought RLI Vision, the original vision insurance and vision care products unit of RLI Corp of Peoria, IL, (NYSE:RLI) and moved its main distribution center from Lahaina to Peoria. RLI Corp. became a major shareholder in Maui Jim.

3. Randolph Engineering, Inc., Randolph, MA, http://www.randolphusa.com/company/
about 50 employees, privately held, founded in 1972 by two Polish immigrants, Jan Waszkiewicz and Stanley Zaleski. In the beginning they built tooling, dies and machinery for the then thriving US optical manufacturing industry. Now the company manufactures sunglasses, shooting eye-wear, and prescription frames, using a handful of international components. They are most noted for supplying eye-wear to the United States military. If you are curious about the making of it here is a link to GQ whose reporter visited the plant, http://www.gq.com/style/blogs/the-gq-eye/2010/06/step-into-m...

4. Serengeti Eyewear, http://www.serengeti-eyewear.com/main.aspx,
52 employees, privately held, founded 1983 by Corning Inc, now a subsidiary of Bushnell Corporation. Bushnell (founded 1948 in Japan) is now owned by MidOcean Partners, a private equity firm headquartered in New York, specializing in leveraged buyouts with a strange URL, including “cgi-bin,” a directory of cgi-bin programs on the server and ending in the country code “.pl, Poland: http://www.midoceanpartners.com/cgi-bin/portfolio/holdings.p... .

5a. Bollé Performance Eyewear, http://www.bolle.com/main.php and
5b.Bollé Safety http://www.bolle-safety.com/who-are-we
? employees, privately held, founded 1888 by Seraphin Bollé, France. Acquired 2001 by Bushnell Outdoor Products, now owned (like Serengeti Eyewear) by private equity firm MidOcean Partners. No reliable information on employees, location of plants, etc.

6. Kaenon, Inc, Newport Beach, CA, http://www.kaenon.com/about-kaenon/w1/i1002134/
45 employees, privately held, founded in 2001 by brothers and elite sailors, Steve and Darren Rosenberg, specializing in luxury performance eyewear based on their proprietary SR-91 polarized lens. NOTE: some models, like “Kanvas” is made in Italy. No information how many employees they have or where their other eyewear is manufactured.

 

2 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On April 09, 2014 at 1:11 PM, Mega (99.98) wrote:

Post of the day with only 4 votes?

POTD should reward useful, interesting, and incisive posts. It shouldn't just reward length.

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#2) On April 10, 2014 at 12:00 PM, ikkyu2 (99.35) wrote:

I often think of the crisis in US healthcare as I run clients through my small office.

If my clients came to me on a barter basis - chickens for checkups - I'd be sunk.  Most of them do nothing, produce nothing; the ones who work manage other people who produce nothing, or are paid on the government dime - and I'm including the surprisingly large number of real estate professionals and loan officers in my clientele in that estimation, because the home loan business right now is essentially a government-supported enterprise.

If you want an eyeglass play, Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) produces a great deal of the material used to craft eyeglass lenses worldwide.

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