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Every corporation wants to dominate its industry. It is what pushes mergers, the hiring of new executives, the reshuffling of management and even substantial changes to a company's business model. All of these things are done in the furtherance of perfection, of seeking complete domination atop the precipice of industry: dominance so rare because many governments have legislated against such ambition with anti-monopoly and antitrust statutes. But what if there was a company that achieved almost complete control of an industry that was not highly regulated and had minimal barriers to entry? Would you want to own a piece, even if your main products were primarily comprised of small parts of glass, metal and plastic? From Ray-Ban and Oakley sunglasses and prescription frames that retail in the hundreds of dollars, to the stores that sell the glasses, Luxottica Group (LUX) dominates the eyewear world.
The Italian company had revenues of €7.313 billion last year and produced over 77 million pairs of Fake sunglasses and optical frames. Over half a billion people wear Luxottica glasses and the company has single handedly turned a once boring eyewear market into high fashion. Their proprietary brands (68% of their total sales of frames) include two of the top sunglass brands in the world Ray-Ban and Cheap Oakleys, as well as Vogue Eyewear, Persol, Oliver Peoples, Alain Mikli and Arnette.
Beyond their wholly owned brands, Luxottica holds contracts with nearly every designer brand and label you can think of, including: Chanel , Prada , Miu Miu, Dolce & Gabbana, Bulgari, Tiffany & Co ., Versace, Burberry, Polo Ralph Lauren , Donna Karan, DKNY, Paul Smith, Brooks Brothers, Stella McCartney, Tory Burch, Coach , Armani and Starck Eyes. These deals run for 3-10 years with many containing renewal options. The fashion houses send Luxottica sketches of their new collections, and Luxottica has the exclusive rights to design and produce accompanying eyewear in house. Luxottica can then sell the glasses for many times what they cost to make.
Not only are you most likely buying Luxottica-made glasses, but chances are that you buy them from a Luxottica-owned retailer too. The company has a retail network comprised of over 7,000 stores worldwide including the top eyewear chain, Lenscrafters, other big chains such as Pearle Vision and Oliver Peoples, and several boutique chains. They also operate Sears Optical and Target Optical. And if you thought that wasn't enough, they also own Sunglass Hut, the largest Fake Oakley sunglasses chain in the world and EyeMed, the second largest managed vision care company (covering eye exams and glasses for 36 million members).
Competition for Luxottica is always knocking on the door as companies such as online retailer Warby Parker have gone from virtual unknowns to $100 million companies in only a few years.
However, Luxottica holds the cards in brick-and-mortar retail: when competitors get too large, Luxottica can simply cut them out of their popular distribution channels. That's exactly how they treated then-independent competitor Oakley in the early 2000′s. Luxottica caused Oakley's stock to plummet simply by carrying fewer of their sunglasses through Cheap Oakley Sunglass Hut, eventually leaving Fake Oakleys with no choice but to merge with Luxottica in 2007.
In other instances Luxottica has taken iconic brands names like Fake Ray Ban Sunglasses and transformed them. When Luxottica purchased Ray-Ban in 1999, the company was on life support and you could purchase a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses in any major chain store for around $30. Luxottica took the brand off the market for a year and then relaunched them as a luxury brand with glasses selling for over five times as much.