A rebound in performance and an optimistic outlook

Businesses in eyewear and optical retail have released their second quarter and half year results for 2021, revealing signs of recovery

Frames on wall
Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

Eyewear manufacturers and large optical retailers have released their second quarter and half year results for 2021, revealing solid sales and a rebound in performance.

Momentum appears to have continued in the optical market, while segments such as sunglasses have seen a mixed recovery – affected by the pandemic in some key areas, but also seeing high levels of sales online.

This follows a challenging year in 2020 which saw business heavily impacted by the pandemic, but with signs of recovery towards the latter half of the year.

The companies are reporting confidence when looking ahead to the second half of the year, provided the business environment and pandemic situation remain stable.


Looking at second quarter results, EssilorLuxottica has reported a 9.2% increase in revenue compared to 2019 at constant exchange rates.

The economic environment reflected the pandemic situation around the world, the company suggested, with the recovery in North America occurring first and faster than other nations (improving by 16.4%), and the buoyant US market generating more than 50% of the group’s revenue.

The manufacturer suggested the EMEA regions followed more gradually (increasing by 3.8%). The group reported that key growing markets fuelling the business’ acceleration included France, Italy, the UK, mainland China, Australia and Brazil.

The optical category continued to grow, representing two thirds of the group’s business. The company suggested this was supported by innovation in lenses and instruments, such as the deployment of the Stellest lens in China.

The sunglasses category bounced back across all channels in wholesale and direct-to-consumer markets, the company found, catching up with the pace of optical and bolstered by luxury brands in particular.

E-commerce also progressed by 66% in the quarter at constant exchange rates, making up 9% of the group’s total revenue.

EssilorLuxottica: first half of the year

In the first half of the year, the company saw adjusted operating profit reach €1622 million (£1384 million). Group adjusted net profit amounted to €1117 million (£952 million) at 12.7% of revenue.

Net debt at the end of the period was €1945 million (£1659 million), mostly represented by lease liabilities.

Commenting on the results, Francesco Milleri, CEO of EssilorLuxottica, and Paul du Saillant, deputy CEO of EssilorLuxottica, said: “We delivered another strong set of results in the first half, despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic,” suggesting that this was supported by its focus on premium products and brands, as well as its supply chain and employees.

“In the second quarter, we wrote some important pages in EssilorLuxottica’s history by clarifying our governance and building one unified company, while continuing to expand our retail footprint in Europe by completing the acquisition of GrandVision,” the executives said.

Looking to the rest of the year, EssilorLuxottica said it now expects its full year 2021 revenue to grow around mid-single digits versus 2019 (at constant exchange rates), with the adjusted operating profit as a percentage of revenue higher than 2019. The company added that this is on the assumption that there will be no further restrictions introduced relating to COVID-19 in the second half of the year.

The company also announced a new approach to sustainability, with the executives commenting: “Looking to the future, we’re proud to share our new company-wide sustainability approach, Eyes on the Planet, built around key pillars including carbon, circularity, world sight, inclusion and ethics.”

These include a goal to work towards carbon neutrality by 2025 – starting in Europe by 2023. This will be supported by the company’s investments in renewable electricity, such as solar and biomass heating systems and photovoltaic installations. The goals also include an approach to a circular production cycle, improving world sight, inclusion and ethics.


For the second quarter of 2021, Safilo reported net sales of €259.4 million (£221.3 million), a 137.1% rise compared to the second quarter in 2020 and a 9.4% rise compared to the same period in 2019 (at constant exchange rates).

Adjusted EBITDA for the period reached €23.8 million (£20.3 million), with a margin of 9.2%, compared to -29.8% in the second quarter 2020, and 8.5% in 2019.

The company suggested sales performance continued to reflect the rebalancing of its portfolio, with contributions from the additions of new proprietary and licensed brands, including Blenders and Privé Revaux, as well as Levi’s, David Beckham, Missoni, Ports, Isabel Marant and Under Armour.  

The company noted that this “effectively” compensates for the licences terminated at the end of 2020, which included Dior and Fendi as LVMH moved to focus on its Thelios venture.

Angelo Trocchia, Safilo chief executive officer, commented: “We are very pleased that the second quarter continued the solid sales and profitability momentum of the first three months of the year, allowing us to close the first half of 2021 with a significant year on year rebound.”

Net sales were driven by a strong momentum in prescription frames and sport products, the company suggested, “reflecting on one hand the sustained business activity of optical stores in the different marketplaces, on the other, the surge of outdoor activities.”

Sales of sunglasses more than doubled year-on-year, but were slightly below 2019 levels, with the company suggesting this is due to the impact of restrictions on retail and travel. This particularly impacted the Polaroid brand in some of its core markets, such as Spain. The company also suggested this made for a difficult are of comparison, given the high weight that the recently terminated licenses carried in this field.

Trocchia noted that though held back by pandemic-related restrictions in many markets, sales of sunglasses benefitted from online channels.

The quarter saw growth for the group’s online business through revenue gained from internet-only brands and direct to consumer channels, and particularly due to the addition of digital brand Blender’s e-commerce sales.

Looking at performance across different markets, the company also reported continued strong momentum in the US, with net sales in the second quarter in North America totalling €121.0 million (£103.2 million). This is almost triple compared to the same period in 2020, and was up 60.3% compared to the second quarter in 2019 (at constant exchange rates).

Net sales in Europe also rebounded, reaching €106.7 million (£91 million), an improvement of 87.5% at constant exchange rates. However, the company noted that the performance was “still not sufficient to allow the region to return to pre-pandemic levels and to fully compensate the sizeable terminated business in the base period,” with net sales down 11.4% compared to the same period in 2019.

In particular, sales trends improved in the UK, Italy and some Nordic countries, the group found, while they remained more subdued in markets such as Germany, France and Spain.

Sales of prescription frames in Europe, meanwhile, increased by double-digits compared to the second quarter of 2019.

Commenting on the performance, Trocchia said: “Sales growth came from the strong progression recorded in all markets by prescription frames, particularly sustained for us in the independent opticians channel.”

Looking at the results, Trocchia explained the company had seized business opportunities that the renewed brand portfolio had provided in key markets, adding: “We benefited from the significant organic growth achieved by our core brands already in the portfolio, as well as from the full offset of the brands terminated at the end of 2020 with our Blenders and Prive Revaux acquisitions and the successful introduction of new licenses.”

The company also continued to rebalance its brand portfolio, Trocchia said, sharing that having signed with Dsquared2 in May, the company announced a new partnership with Carolina Herrera, “a strong brand” that would allow Safilo to strengthen its offering for women from January 2022.

Safilo: half year results

Looking at the first half of the year, Safilo reported net sales of €510.7 million (£435.7 million), a 59.9% rise compared to €335.6 million (£286 million) in the first half of the year in 2020, and a 7.7% rise compared to the same period in 2019 (at constant exchange rates).

Adjusted EBITDA was reported at €49.7 million (£42.3 million), with a margin of 9.7% compared to a drop of 8.4% in the first half of 2020, or 8.3% rise in 2019.

The group saw adjusted net results of €4.4 million (£3.8 million), compared to a drop of €63.7 million (£54.3 million) in the first half of 2020, and €8.5 million (£7.3 million) in the same period in 2019.

Group net debt for the first half of 2021 was reported as €226.9 million (£193.6 million), compared to €222.1 million (£189.5 million) at the end of December 2020.

Reflecting on the half year results, Trocchia said: “the continuation of positive trends into the beginning of the third quarter allow us to look with optimism at the growth prospects for the current year, consolidating our ambition to exceed already in 2021 the pre-pandemic business levels of 2019.”

Based on the performance to date, the company suggested it now expects the group’s full year 2021 net sales to reach above 2019 levels, up mid-single digits (at constant exchange rates), with adjusted EBITDA also expected to be up. This is on the assumption of a stable business environment through the second half.


Optical retailer, GrandVision, saw revenue in the second quarter “progressively returning” to pre-pandemic levels, reaching -1.2% compared to 2019.

Adjusted EBITA recovery in the second quarter reached €138 million (£117 million), compared to -€65 million (-£55 million) in the same period in 2020, and €129 million (£110 million) in the second quarter 2019.

In June, GrandVision saw total revenue reach the highest in the company’s history.

Stephan Borchert, GrandVision’s CEO, commented: “Despite a slower start in 1Q21, particularly due to major disruptions in France, GrandVision has significantly accelerated its performance in the second quarter of 2021 with June showing strong performance across all segments and delivering its highest monthly revenue and adjusted EBITA in history.”

The company noted that the gradual improvement in revenue has nearly offset the challenges seen in the first quarter, with a strong acceleration in revenue following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in key markets.

On 1 July, EssilorLuxottica completed its acquisition of GrandVision. The antitrust approval in the European Union was conditional on the divestment of a number of stores, including 35 GrandOptical sites in Belgium, 142 Eye Wish stores in the Netherlands and 72 ‘GrandVision by’ retail sites in Italy.

The company has also sold its Chilean operations to HAL, following a similar commitment to the Chilean market regulator to divest its 97 stores operating under the Rotter Y Kraus banner.

GrandVision: half year results

Looking at the first half of 2021, GrandVision reported an increase in comparable revenue of 33.6% compared to the same period in 2020, but a fall of 5.9% compared to the first half of 2019.

Adjusted EBITA reached €217 million (£185 million) in the first half of the year, compared to -€24 million in the first half of 2020, and €237 million in 2019.

The company’s net debt position was €556 million (£474 million) this compares to €755 million (£644 million) in the first half of 2020.

Reflecting on the results, Borchert said: “In the first half of 2021, GrandVision has once again reconfirmed its inherent strength and resilience and its ability of mastering the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He noted that the company has progressed its strategic plan of delivering a “seamless connection” between customer-facing omnichannel front-end and back-end operations, with the expectation that the first fully-integrated country will go live at the beginning of 2022.

Online revenue increased by 66% in the first half of 2021, compared to the same period last year, while digital-influenced store sales increased by 122% year-to-date.

In the UK particularly, GrandVision said its Vision Express business delivered strong comparable growth compared to 2019, and while the first six months saw a mid-single-digit comparable growth, the second quarter exceeded mid-double-digit revenue growth.

The company said it was approaching the second half of the year with “confidence,” and the expectation that GrandVision will achieve comparable revenue to 2019 levels with improved adjusted EBITA.