Italian Renaissance S.V.P.!

Italy has long been at the heartbeat of creative design for optical fashion frames. Optik Magazine contributor Jean-François Venne reports on the devastating impact of the COVID pandemic on the Italian frame industry. He spoke to four Italian companies, and discovered how the industry is only now beginning to show signs of emerging.

For the first time since its inception 30 years ago, Mad in Italy halted production mid-March. “We did it a week before the government gave the order, because it became clear that the situation was getting worse,” says CEO Yachal Mom. Some employees in Belluno, Veneto, continued to fill customer orders from home. Sales, however, have fallen off a cliff. Yachal Mom doesn’t expect them to pick up again anytime soon, even after the mid-May relaxation of stay-home orders.

“The pandemic struck at the worst possible time,” notes Giovanni Vitaloni, president of MIDO and ANFAO (National Association of Optical Goods Manufacturers). “The industry was getting ready to showcase its new collections and meet with customers at MIDO. Both promotion and sales suffered.” Mr. Vitaloni pointed out that 90% of Italian frames are exported and worldwide demand has collapsed. This is an unprecedented and totally unpredictable situation. Mr. Vitaloni estimates that the 800 or so Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the Italian optical industry will report a 30-50% drop in revenue.

At Blackfin, customer service and administration have continued to operate during the pandemic, but manufacturing has been at a standstill for more than a month since late March. Sales have dried up. “Orders from our key markets in Europe and North America suddenly stopped,” says Nicola Del Din, President and CEO. Blackfin’s production resumed on April 21, but at a slower pace. The eyewear manufacturer in the Veneto region of Italy accelerated the launch of its new collection by a month. “We want to show that we’re dynamic, quick and optimistic about the future,” says Del Din.

Mario Locatelli, editor of eyewear designer magazine, Blink, expects a slow recovery in frame sales. He points out that companies are dealing with the shock of the postponement of MIDO and Vision Expo East, without knowing if the next SILMO and Vision Expo West will go ahead as scheduled. “Without these major gatherings, eyewear manufacturers will have to find new sales channels,” he says.

Read the full article by Jean-François Venne, which is available in the June-July issue of Optik Magazine.

Click HERE to read the article.

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