Why Stylish Sunglasses Cost So Much (and 4 Ways to Pay Less)

Happy couple cycling in the city
Summer's here, sun's out, time for shades. But, wow, do they cost a lot.

The reason is that one Italian firm owns a huge chunk of the market, as CBS has reported. Luxottica (LUX) owns the Sunglass Hut as well as the optician chains LensCrafters and Pearle Vision. It runs the optical departments at Target (TGT) and Sears (SHLD) stores. The sunglass brands for Ray-Ban, Oakley, Ralph Lauren (RL), Chanel, Bulgari (BULIF), Tiffany (TIF), Prada, Versace and Dolce Gabbana are all made by Luxottica.

In other words, a lot of the variety you think exist when it comes to getting sunglasses is imaginary. Real competition drives prices down. Fake competition drives them up, so that what might have been a $30 pair in 2000 could run hundreds of dollars today, selling at prices as much as 20 times higher than their manufacturing costs.

You can't beat Luxottica directly. But you can get around its domination of the eyewear market.
  • Ask yourself how much fashion is worth. Unless you're buying prescription sunglasses, there is a limit to the difference between lenses. Some things, like the glare reduction of polarized lenses, are based on physics but aren't owned by a single company. Others are a matter of brand perception and an attempt to create fear and uncertainty in the part of the purchaser. The biggest difference in non-prescription sunglasses is price. If your ego can withstand regular sunglasses, congratulations: You can pocket the rest as savings.
  • Head for discount outlets. Check discount chain stores. Chances are that they've picked up closeouts from other retailers. The glasses may belong to a previous season, but they're still going to fit on your face and help you see.
  • Check online eyeglass dealers. If you've done some shopping and know what will fit and look good on you, there are some great online discount eyewear retailers. Good Housekeeping magazine particularly liked three: GlassesShop.com, EyeBuyDirect.com, and GlobalEyeglasses.com. Their prices can range from $6 to $40.
  • Use that virtual shopping savvy. If you've gotta gotta gotta have a pair of designer shades, let retailers compete for your business. Go to a price comparison site like PriceGrabber and look for a particular brand. The likelihood of finding what you want at a significant discount is decent. Also, search online for discount coupons from particular sellers. There may be money to save just for the asking.

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For years, I always bought cheaper drug store sunglasses. I was always replacing them once or twice per year due to breakage. In 2004, I bought a pair of Raybans online for about $75. These were the most well-made, indestructible, quality sunglasses I had ever owned. 2 months ago, I accidently left them in my hotel room in Europe (couldn't return to get them, cause I was on a bus tour).

Moral: Spend a few extra bucks, and buy quality sunglasses. They'll pay for themselves year after year. After 10 years, I'd still be wearing mine, if I hadn't lost them.

July 07 2014 at 9:58 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Christopher's comment

Should not buy expensive as you demonstrated as many people lose their glasses. Better to lose cheap ones!

July 07 2014 at 10:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Can't anti-monopoly laws come into play with Luxottica? Even if it's a foreign entity, if it's doing business in this country and impacting American owned business, then this law should not be limited to people within our bourders.

July 07 2014 at 5:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to boston1936's comment

Our federal government has much better things to do than to protect its consumers.
Don't you understand changing your country is much more important?

July 07 2014 at 11:02 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Who would ever go to a Sears store to buy anything........... the optical dept is like a morgue..........Target optical is cleaner but both sell the same glasses you can get on the internet for 20 bux..........

July 07 2014 at 4:45 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Cheap sunglasses look the best.

July 07 2014 at 1:54 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

zenni optical sells low cost sun glasses and prescription glasses (from China with online US distributor) - good quality, large selection and low cost.

July 07 2014 at 11:40 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Articles, like this, are insulting to readers of this website.

Smart people have much better things to think about than whether they look "stylish" in a pair of overpriced sunglasses.

July 07 2014 at 11:03 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Valerie's comment

Which doesn't say much about YOUR level of intelligence, since you CHOSE to WASTE your time reading the article, and then commenting on it.

July 07 2014 at 3:45 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply


July 07 2014 at 4:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

A clear or tinted plastic is all you need to block UV

July 07 2014 at 10:38 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply