China’s Spectacles Market
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China’s Spectacles Market

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China’s Spectacles Market

I. Market Overview

China is not just the world's leading manufacturer of spectacles, it is also potentially the largest consumer of them. Data from Euromonitor reveals that, in 2020, retail sales of spectacles in China increased by 3.4% yearonyear to RMB91.46 billion. According to chinabaogao.com, in terms of product categories, spectacles frames accounted for the majority of retail sales (39.5%), followed by lenses (37.1%), sunglasses (13.0%) and then contact lenses (6.0%).


China has one of the highest rates of myopia in the world. Some 700 million people in the country, approximately half of its population, are affected by the condition. A survey by the National Health Commission found that in 2020 52.7% of mainland children and adolescents suffered from myopia, including 14.3% of children aged six, 35.6% of primary school students, 71.1% of junior high school students and 80.5% of senior high school students. This suggests that the market potential for spectacles is huge.


During the pandemic, students have had to take lessons online instead of in facetoface classes. Forward Industry Research Institute has discovered that the level of poor eyesight has increased from the prepandemic period. The action plan on children and adolescents’ myopia prevention and control (20212025), issued jointly by the Ministry of Education and 14 departments at the end of April 2021, proposed that the myopia rate of children and adolescents should be reduced every year up to 2025. The action plan outlined eight measures, including guiding students to conscientiously take care of their eyes, scientifically regulating the use of electronic gadgets, implementing vision health monitoring, and improving students’ visual environments.


As living standards improve, consumers are becoming more concerned with the health and protection of their eyes when choosing spectacles. As a result, sales of higher quality glasses are increasing. Blue lightblocking spectacles are gaining popularity among office workers who frequently use computers. Consumers are not just showing more interest in the performance of their glasses, they are also becoming more concerned with how they look. The trend towards bespoke, branded spectacles is becoming increasingly evident.


Consumers’ pursuit of greater comfort and individuality  coupled with the increasing specialisation of China’s eyewear industry, which is upgrading and building brands  has led to the rise of the custommade market. Custommade spectacles are designed to meet the particular needs of individual customers. For example, they may come in different shapes to showcase the wearer’s personal style or be designed to fit their facial contours.



Contact lenses

Data from GfK indicates that retail sales of contact lenses in China amounted to RMB10.67 billion in 2020, up 1.1% from the previous year. Figures from CBNData reveal that 70% of consumers may choose to buy coloured contact lenses because of the possibility of matching eye makeup, which would stand out more when face masks are worn. As pointed out in a mainland research report on China’s contact lens industry, sales of coloured contact lenses amounted to RMB8.8 billion in 2020. Though almost half of the population suffer from myopia, the overall market penetration rate of contact lenses was only 8%, indicating that there is a great deal of room for development in the market. In 2020, the product’s share of the online market rose from 56% the previous year to 72%. Increasing numbers of people are opting for contact lenses rather than glasses because they are more convenient and comfortable, and are less likely to be damaged when exercising or playing sports.



Presbyopic glasses

According to a mainland research report on China’s spectacle lens industry, presbyopic glasses accounted for a mere 1.6% of the overall market in 2020. Many elderly people only use presbyopic glasses for reading, so they have little desire to buy them. However, as the economy develops, urbanites are spending more time on products such as mobile phones and PCs, so the age of people who are looking to buy presbyopic glasses is trending downwards. Since middleaged people have strong buying power, there is a good chance that the market share of presbyopic glasses will expand in the near future. Because multifocal progressive lenses can correct both myopia and hyperopia, presbyopic consumers can wear them for prolonged periods. As usage of them becomes popularised, the volume of sales could rise.



Sunglasses

The number of people in China buying sunglasses is growing year by year. Increasing numbers of people are buying them as fashion accessories to accentuate their personal style. Many sunglasses and luxury brands are expanding their eyewear series to stimulate sales even further.



Children's spectacles

With more young children being diagnosed as myopic and with more parents willing to pay for highquality glasses for their offspring, the children’s market has become very attractive to the spectacles industry. The spread of smartphones and electronic devices in China has led to almost 67% of children aged six or under coming into contact with electronic products since the age of four and becoming routinely exposed to the blue light emitted from these devices. Blue lightblocking spectacles for children are also becoming increasingly popular with parents who want to protect their children’s eyes. According to a report from Chyxx.com, parents have three main considerations in buying spectacles for their children  74.5% are looking for glasses with bluelight proof or eyestrain relieving functions; 65.5% want myopia prevention and control functions; while 49% value comfort and clarity.



Smart glasses

Smart glasses are wearable computer glasses with an independent operating system that allows users to install applications and choose services. They support voice or motion sensors through wireless connectivity. Augmented reality (AR) smart glasses for police use can automatically identify crime suspects and suspicious vehicles. Smart glasses for children can automatically adjust the distance, time, posture and ambient light intensity of eye usage in response to different situations. Huawei has also launched the world’s first smart glasses supporting NFC wireless charging. Users can take incoming phone calls and listen to music without putting anything in their ears by connecting their smart glasses with mobile phones.



China's imports of spectacles and related products in 2020

HS Code

Description

2020
(US$m)

YoY change (%)

90013000

Contact lenses

390.3

4.7

90014091

Sunglasses - lenses of glass

7.8

-84.2

90014099

Other spectacle lenses of glass (except photochromic and sunglasses lenses)

4.6

119.3

90015010

Photochromic spectacle lenses of other materials

60.9

18.3

90015091

Sunglasses lenses of other materials

117.9

20.0

90015099

Other spectacle lenses of other materials (except photochromic and sunglasses lenses)

177.3

1.1

90031100

Plastic frames & mountings for spectacles

66.9

-15.0

900319

Frames & mountings of other materials (including products from endangered animals and non-plastic materials)

85.5

-7.8

90039000

Parts for frames & mountings for spectacles

38.7

-26.7

90041000

Sunglasses

280.5

-21.5

90049010

Photochromic spectacles

0.5

-5.3

90049090

Other spectacles (except sunglasses and photochromic spectacles)

61.2

33.0

Source: Global Trade Atlas



II. Market Competition

Geographically, spectacles manufacturers in China are highly concentrated, being mainly found in Dongguan and Shenzhen in Guangdong, Xiamen in Fujian, Wenzhou in Zhejiang and Danyang in Jiangsu. These four clusters all have reasonably complete supply chains and have developed the industry to a considerable size.


Danyang is considered China’s main spectacles production base. According to mainland media reports, there are close to 1,600 business enterprises in the city involved in manufacturing spectacles and related products. The city’s output of eyeglass frames accounts for roughly onethird of China’s total, while its optical and glass lenses are reported to account for 75% of China’s total and 40% of that of the world. The whole supply chain, from raw materials and design to retail sales and delivery, can be found in the city. The largest spectacles trading market in China is the China (Danyang) International Optical Centre. It is a commercial complex with a floor area of 110,000 sq m that offers leisure, entertainment and offices, as well as film and TV studios, all under one roof. With 



"spectacleprescription tourism” as Danyang’s tourism brand, it is very different from the singletrade business model of traditional eyewear markets.

The Danyang Economic Development Zone, together with Wangku Group of Beijing, has established the China Optical Industry E-Commerce Trading Platform. Using big data provided by Wangku, the platform helps companies carry out activities like data sharing and credit verification, in an attempt to boost ecommerce in the optical industry and make it more innovative and professional.


Mayu Town in Ruian, Wenzhou City, Zhejiang, is known as the “town of glasses”. It is a major eyewear centre, home to nearly 700 manufacturers (over 1,000 manufacturers if those involved in producing glasses accessories are also counted). The Innovation and Service Platform for Optical Industry and the Start-up Park for Small and Micro-sized Optical Businesses have opened in the town and, according to reports, already have manufacturers in residence. With a gross area of around 140,000 sq m, the park will provide production sites and services like brand planning, warehousing and logistics, product promotion and ecommerce.


China’s firstever 3Dprinting production line for glasses and its first “facial data analysis centre” have been established in Ouhai District in Danyang. Over 300 glasses enterprises, 75 related R&D organisations and 24 toprated talent teams have now set up shop in the town. The collective “Ouhai Spectacles” trademark passed registration review by the national trademark office in 2019.


Shenzhen's Henggang owes its development to the relocation of Hong Kong's spectacles industry. After 30 years of development, the city is now one of the mainland’s major centres with a worldwide reputation for the production of midmarket to upmarket branded spectacles. Henggang is now home to 676 spectacles companies, of which 495 are manufacturers, and the town has a total annual output of more than 125 million pairs of spectacles. It is also an important export centre and has become a national demonstration zone for fashionable and branded spectacles. Businesses located in the city do not just undertake OEM production for international luxury optical brands, they have introduced technological innovation, research and development, packaging and strategic planning for their own brands. 52 spectacles production enterprises in Henggang now produce some 70 selfowned brands. Henggang registers about 800 utility model patents and 40 invention patents each year. “Henggang Spectacles” has also been registered as a collective mark. In October 2020, the “Henggang Spectacles: Vision for Enjoying Life” TikTok IP address was launched to help foster the transformation and upgrading of the spectacles sector in Henggang.


Xiamen has been awarded the accolade of “China Sunglasses Production Base”. The highend sunglasses it produces account for over 80% of the domestic market and over 50% of the overseas OEM market. There are currently 120 spectacles manufacturing enterprises in Xiamen, along with another 50 enterprises engaged in branded business and trading or online spectacles ecommerce. Their gross production value is double that of five years ago.


China’s spectacles lenses market is highly brand concentrated. iiMedia has pointed out that the sales of the leading enterprises account for almost 80% of the total market. Essilor and Carl Zeiss are the two leading international brands with a combined share of almost 40% of the Chinese market. Domestic brands Wanxin Optics and Mingyue Glasses, with market shares of 8.2% and 6.6% respectively, have been developing rapidly in recent years. With most manufacturers producing products of overseas brands on an OEM/ODM basis, the development of domestic brands is still at an early stage. Domestic spectacles manufacturers are becoming more aware of the importance of branding and technology in their products and have started their own research and development and brand building.


Figures from Tianyancha reveal that there are now 50,000 contact lens related enterprises on the mainland. Within just 10 years, the number of companies registering exploded from 17,000 to 71,000. There are also 2,000 enterprises engaged in the contact lens solutions business.

Of the countries and territories from which China imported optical products (HS 9003 and HS 9004)* in 2020, Italy was by far the most important, accounting for more than half the value of all such imports.




Country or territory

2020

Import value
(US$m)

Share of total (%)

Total

533.4

100.0

Italy

218.6

41.0

Japan

66.5

12.5

US

42.8

8.0

Germany

21.3

4.0

Taiwan

15.6

2.9

Source: Global Trade Atlas

*HS 9003: Frames and mountings for spectacles, goggles and the likes as well as their parts.
HS 9004: Spectacles, goggles and the likes, including sunglasses and photochromic lenses, for corrective, protective and other purposes.



III. Sales Channels

Every big city in China has a wholesale market for optical products. Some of these specialised markets are mainly for domestic sales (such as the Danyang Glasses City in Jiangsu), while others are for export (such as the Guangzhou Glasses City). There are also markets that cater to both.


The four main types of retail outlets selling eyewear on the mainland are branded chains, professional ophthalmic medical care institutions, bargain supermarkets for fashionable eyewear, and traditional optical shops. The reason consumers prefer patronising physical stores is that they can try on and buy quality assured products.


Optical shops that offer speedy services are popular. They can finish an eye test and assemble a pair of glasses within one hour, while charging less than traditional dispensing optical shops. They also offer more choice of spectacles. Consumers can choose different price levels according to their means and preferences, and the price will include an eye test, lenses and frame. This makes them more willing to buy glasses to use as daily accessories.


The O2O (onlinetooffline) ecommerce model, which combines offline experience and online purchase, is gaining ground in China’s spectacles market. However, the way the model is used varies from company to company. A typical O2O model allows consumers to buy spectacles frames online while taking optometry tests and fitting prescription glasses in a store. An example of this is the Yichao site. Another O2O model is the collaboration of network giants and traditional retailers, such as the partnership agreement between Dianping.com and Baodao Optical.


When it comes to advertising strategies, some companies recruit KOLs to tout their products on social media platforms such as Xiaohongshu and TikTok, while others recruit celebrities as spokespeople. Some companies also acquire cartoon copyrights to roll out crossover packaging boxes for contact lenses to appeal to young female consumers.

Some of the optical fairs lined up for 2022 are listed below:

Date

Exhibition

Venue

21-23 February 2022

China (Shanghai) International Optics Fair

Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Center

9-11 April 2022

Shenzhen International Optical Glasses Exhibition

Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center

25-27 June 2022

Beijing International Smart Glasses Industry Exhibition

Beijing Etrong International Exhibition & Convention Center

Note: Please refer to official information from organisers for exhibition details.



IV. Import and Trade Regulations

In order to further open up the economy and satisfy consumer demand, on 1 January 2021 the State Council reduced the import tariff rates on 883 imported commodities, including cancer medicines, medical supplies, garments, diapers and diaper pants, cosmetics, and so on.

Import tariffs of selected optical products in 2021:

HS Code

Description

%

90013000

Contact lenses

7

90014010

Photochromic spectacle lenses of glass

7

90014091

Sunglasses lenses of glass

7

90014099

Other spectacle lenses of glass (except photochromic and sunglasses lenses)

7

90015010

Photochromic spectacle lenses of other materials

7

90015091

Sunglasses lenses of other materials

7

90015099

Other spectacle lenses of other materials (except photochromic and sunglasses lenses)

7

90031100

Plastic frames & mountings for spectacles

7

90031910

Metal frames & mountings for spectacles

7

90031920

Natural material frames & mountings for spectacles

7

90041000

Sunglasses

7

90049010

Photochromic spectacles

7

90049090

Other spectacles (except sunglasses and photochromic spectacles)

7

Source: China Customs Online Service Center


According to the newly amended Regulations on the Supervision and Management of Medical Devices, which has been in force since 1 June 2014, contact lenses are classified as Category III medical devices, which must pass safety and effectiveness assessments and be issued with a medical device registration certificate prior to production, distribution and final sale. Producers must obtain a medical device production enterprise licence, while dealers should have a medical device dealer licence and a proof of recordfiling for online sales of medical devices.


The National Central Product Classification - Product Category Core Metadata Part 12: Glasses (GB/T 37600.12-2018) came into effect on 1 April 2019. This set of standards applies to the description, coding, database building, query and release of product information for frame glasses, and describes a unified modelling language and dictionary for the core metadata of glasses.

Spectacle Frames—General Requirements and Test Methods (GB/T 142142019), which was promulgated on 31 December 2019, will be implemented from 1 January 2022. This standard will replace the 2003 version (GB/T 142142003), and will adopt the international standard ISO 12870: 2016.


On 1 March 2020, Spectacle Frames—Measuring System and Terminology (GB/T 380042019), Spectacle Lenses—Fundamental Requirements for Uncut Finished Lenses (GB/T 380052019) and Assembled Spectacles—Part 3: Single-vision Near-vision Spectacles (GB/T 13511.32019) adopted the international standards ISO 8624: 2011, ISO 14889: 2013 and ISO 16034: 2002 respectively.

Technical Requirements on Application of Light Health and Light Safety of Coating for Protection Against Blue Light (GB/T 381202019) came into effect on 1 July 2020. This standard specifies the classification, requirements and testing methods for blue light protective films used in optical lens products. For wavelengths below 445 nm, the light transmittance rate of such spectacles has to be less than 80%, while for wavelengths above 445 nm, the light transmittance rate must be higher than 80%.


Spectacle Frames and Sunglasses Electronic Catalogue and Identification—Part 1: Product Identification and Electronic Catalogue Product Hierarchy (GB/T 38010.12019) has been in effect since 1 March 2020. In addition, Spectacle Frames and Sunglasses Electronic Catalogue and Identification—Part 2: Commercial Information (GB/T 38010.22021) and Spectacle Frames and Sunglasses Electronic Catalogue and Identification—Part 3: Technical Information (GB/T 38010.32021) will come into effect on 1 December 2021. The provisions of these standards aim at optimising the transactions and handling of customised spectacle lenses by setting forth the definition of the unique code for spectacles and sunglasses frames; as well as the data information and the rules and requirements for document formats for the identification of spectacles and sunglasses frames.


On 1 December 2021, Sunglasses and Sunglare Filters—Part 1: General Requirements (GB 39552.12020) and Sunglasses and Sunglare Filters—Part 2: Test Methods (GB/T 39552.22020) will be implemented. The former sets out the terminology and definitions related to sunglasses and sunglasses lenses. It also specifies the optical characteristics and safety requirements in recognising traffic signals, as well as the standardisation of product labels. The latter specifies the test methods for flat sunglasses and sunglasses lenses.



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