The Appeal of Sunglasses Bridges Gender and Generational Gaps, Reports NPD

Fashion attracts women and younger wearers; men and older wearers focus on function

Port Washington, NY, August 6, 2015 – The continued retail sales success of sunglasses demonstrates their ability to merge both fashion and function across multiple consumer segments. According to global information company The NPD Group, the total U.S. sunglasses market grew 2 percent to $4 billion in the 12 months ending June 2015, following consistent gains for the past few years; men, women, Millennials, and Baby Boomers are all fueling this growth.

Top Sunglasses Sales Growth Contributors by Gender and Age

U.S. Dollar Sales, 12 months ending June 2015vs. prior year

Demographic Group Total Sunglasses Dollar Sales Share of Sunglasses Dollar Sales Growth
Males, age 25-34 5397.8 M 14%
Males age 45-54 5413.6M 19%
Females age 18-24 5252.6M 13%
Females age 25-34 5361.0 M 21%

Source: The NPD Group, Inc. I Consumer Tracking Service

The four demographic groups noted in the table account for two-thirds of all sales gains in the sunglasses category during the 12 months ending June 2015. The strong performance among these segments is offsetting declines in others, namely males 35-44 and females 35-54.

“Sunglasses continue to be a bright spot for the accessories market, offering something for practically everyone,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group, Inc. “Male or female, the Millennial generation is increasing its spending faster than any other group, but as consumers age, style and feature preferences change – fashion-focused sunglasses become less popular, while sporty, and basic/classic options gain share.”

Men currently account for slightly more than half of the dollar sales of sunglasses, but less than half of the pairs sold in the 12 months ending June 2015; men are spending more on their sunglasses, and that spending is increasing at a greater rate than women. Sales of men’s fashion sunglasses are up by double digits, but sport sunglasses are most popular among men. They also tend to splurge on shades with special features, like polarization, scratch resistance, and spring hinges.

Women are more focused on fashion sunglasses, accounting for 56 percent of the $2.5 billion segment’s dollar sales in the 12 months ending June 2015. The majority of mirrored sunglasses sold are men’s, but they are increasingly being embraced as fashionable by women – women’s spending on mirrored sunglasses has nearly doubled over the past year.

“While the younger consumer views sunglasses as a way to enhance their image, the Boomer looks at them as practical, but also a way to maintain their youth,” added Cohen. “The industry is capturing the attention of male consumers with a variety of styles of sunglasses across generations, but appealing to female consumers is more challenging as they age.”

Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Consumer Tracking Service, 12 months ending June 2015

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