Kering is bolstering its eyewear division by way of a new name. The Paris-based conglomerate announced on Thursday that it has signed an agreement for Kering Eyewear to acquire 100 percent of the share capital of LINDBERG, the Danish eyewear brand launched in 1969 by optician Poul-Jørn Lindberg and his wife as an optical store and subsequently turned into a multinational company by their son Henrik. The acquisition is “an important milestone in the successful expansion of Kering Eyewear and perfectly fits with its development strategy,” according to Kering, which launched its eyewear division in 2014, a venture that it says consists of “an innovative business model that has enabled [it] to reach a critical size in the market with close to €600 million wholesale external revenues” as of FY2019.
“This acquisition will further reinforce Kering Eyewear as the most relevant player in the luxury eyewear market segment, adding to its portfolio a complementary and proprietary brand with strong legitimacy, undisputed know-how and best-in-class customer service in optical frames,” the group – which also owns Gucci, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, and Saint Laurent, among other luxury brands – said in a statement. Kering, which has not disclosed the terms of the deal, further asserted that due to the “business complementarities, both companies will be able to leverage on their respective strengths across the value chain, with synergies in distribution and geographical reach notably.” In turn, “This will contribute to accelerate the growth and enhance the profitability of Kering Eyewear.”
LVMH followed suit, announcing in February 2017 that it would team up with Italy-based eyewear company Marcolin to form a “design and manufacturing joint venture,” in which it holds a 51 percent stake. More recently, LVMH-owned Fendi announced a new deal with Thelios, LVMH’s venture with Marcolin, to create, produce and distribute the Italian fashion house’s eyewear collection. On July 1, the parties said in a statement that the “collaboration is an important step for both (companies), which are joining forces to increase the appeal of Fendi eyewear and making it a leading brand in the luxury segment.” Thelios currently manufactures eyewear for LVMH’s Dior, Stella McCartney and Kenzo labels.
The emphasis on supply-side acquisitions has intensified in recent years, as luxury groups have brought an array of suppliers and services under their own roofs – or at least amass sizable stakes in the companies – in an effort to exert increased control over the manufacturing of their offerings. Over the past decade, in particular, fashion’s most esteemed luxury names have been busy buying up different aspects of their supply chains in part to ensure closer ties to a supply of raw materials. Most recently, Prada announced in June that it has partnered with fellow Italian fashion company Ermenegildo Zegna Group to acquire a controlling stake in Italian cashmere producer Filati Biagioli Modesto in furtherance of a quest to “secure a domestic supply chain and luxury-goods manufacturing expertise.”
President and CEO of Kering Eyewear Roberto Vedovotto said on Thursday that “LINDBERG is the absolute luxury eyewear and it will come as a perfect complement to the brand portfolio that Kering Eyewear has been assembling since 2014, making it even more relevant to our specialized distribution network.” The deal is expected to close in the second half of this year.
Bernstein analyst Luca Solca asserted in a note that expansion into eyewear “confirms Kering’s ambition to step out of soft luxury and build beachheads around it, in an effort to test new areas and eventually diversity its business.” Mr. Solca states that the industry is a challenging one, however, in much the same way as watches, due to the existence of “major incumbents.” In terms of eyewear, Solca points to the recent combination of EssilorLuxottica and GrandVision as an example of why it will “likely remain a tough area for Kering to expand into, while producing an attractive ROIC.”