How Fat Is the Markup on Designer Sunglasses?

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An Italian manufacturer called Luxottica, which makes shades for Dolce &Gabbana, Oakley, Ray-Ban, Prada, Chanel, Donna Karan, REVO, and Versace—yes, these are other pricey brands are all made by the same company—says it earns a hefty gross profit of 64¢ on each $1 in sales. And here’s another fact you’ve probably suspected but never knew for sure: The $300 pair of sunglasses doesn’t protect your eyes any better than the $100 pair, and chances are the pair that costs $40—or even $4—does the job pretty well too.

Luxottica not only owns or makes glasses for all of the listed brands and more, the Italian company also owns LensCrafters, Pearl Vision, and Sunglass Hut, according to the WSJ. No wonder the choices in these stores can seem limited—not necessarily with a skimpy number of options, but limited because it’s rare to find a pair of sunglasses for under $100.

Two experts quoted in the WSJ story get to the main point:

“Three hundred dollar sunglasses don’t do anything better than $100 sunglasses, except maybe look better and have a brand name associated with them” says Dr. Jay Duker, chair of ophthalmology at Tufts Medical Center.

“A significant chunk of what you pay for isn’t the quality of the lenses, it’s the brand,” adds Dr. Reza Dana, director of the cornea and refractive surgery service at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

So don’t fool yourself. If you’re paying $300 for sunglasses, you’re buying them to look cool and impress people. You’re not buying them for the sake of your eyes’ health.

One $300 splurge is probably not a savings account buster, of course. But the problem is that it’s hard to look cool and impress people wearing an older model of sunglasses. Hence the likelihood that someone who buys one pair of $300 sunglasses this year will buy another $300 pair next season, or next week for that matter. This is how costs can add up, and how some people wind up with piles of sunglasses and other accessories they never wear—because they always prefer the newer stuff they just bought.

The other drawback to dropping serious bucks on sunglasses is that an expensive pair breaks or can be lost or scratched just as easily as the pair that costs $2.99—more reasons why my sunglasses cost $2.99.

I Know Women Love Shoes, But $25,000 Worth of Shoes?!?