sunglasses - Haaretz - May 6 2011
A woman wearing sunglasses. Photo by Haaretz
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Eyal Toueg
The five big chains for ‏ sunglasses - Optica Halperin, Opticana, Erroca, Super-Pharm and Optic Doron - don’t necessarily sell the same brands or models. Photo by Eyal Toueg
AP
The five big chains for ‏ sunglasses - Optica Halperin, Opticana, Erroca, Super-Pharm and Optic Doron - don’t necessarily sell the same brands or models. Photo by AP
Bloomberg
The five big chains for ‏ sunglasses - Optica Halperin, Opticana, Erroca, Super-Pharm and Optic Doron - don’t necessarily sell the same brands or models. Photo by Bloomberg

Spring is the usual time to buy fashionable new sunglasses ahead of the summer glare, and the retail chains offer a range of tempting bargains to lure you in. "30% discount for single pair," "buy one and get two free," they coo.

Erroca went one further, launching a campaign promising to sell leading brands Emporio Armani, Tommy Hilfiger and Lacoste cheaper than at the duty free. But after the advertisement was broadcast by radio, the watchdog ordered it pulled. Rival chain Opticana had complained, pointing out these brands aren't sold at the duty free to begin with, and therefore, Erroca was misleading the public.

"It wasn't a specific comparison with duty free," said Yuval Elazar, a vice president at Erroca, trying to explain things. "We wanted to say that Erroca has products at attractive prices." Duty free is associated with attractive prices, he explained, but in any case Erroca had to change the wording. Now the ad on its website says: "You won't find it at duty free." The old ads are still at the stores but will be replaced within a few days, Elazar promises.

Seeing an interesting angle through their state-of-the-art glasses, in the last year the chains have discovered the group-buying game. If you want glasses at a good price you want to check the coupon websites. Optica Halperin and Erroca chose the campaign where you buy one pair and get two free.

"Sunglasses are considered a fashion item. They're a statement," says Elazar. "Just as people change shirts, earrings or suits, they change glasses."

An internal analysis at Erroca found a 10% to 20% increase this year compared with 2010 in the number of people buying more than a single pair of sunglasses. It therefore decided to continue the 1 +1 sale all year, rather than confine it to a given season.

Oversize me

So what are the trends of 2011? Efrat Rassin, collection manager at Opticana, claims the look of the year is "oversize" - big lenses, with a graded lens (darker at top, lighter at bottom ) and a big, dark frame. "There are a lot of games with color, in the frame and lens too," she said. "We see more bright colors, but less shiny ones, such as dark blue or purple. There are also frames with a print of a picture."

Other trends are the cat look, and round John Lennon-type frames. "The cat look is persisting from last year, but this year it's very popular," said Rassin. "As for the John Lennon look, the preference is for big, broad frames, especially among men - this year they're also looking for glasses with character that stand out, unlike in previous years."

Generally, Israelis like their sunglasses dark. They work better in the bright sunlight than lightly tinted glasses, says Erroca marketing manager Naomi Rudich. "Also, when Israelis buy glasses, they're still looking for the element of distance, of attitude. The darker the lens, the greater the sense of inaccessibility."

Ray-Ban, the leveler

How to decide where to buy? Israel has five big chains for (or that have ) sunglasses: Optica Halperin with 120 stores, Opticana with 80, Erroca with 60, Super-Pharm with 19 and Optic Doron with 15.

They don't necessarily have the same brands or models, so if you like a specific model at a specific chain, you may not find a better (or any ) deal elsewhere. Price comparison is therefore a challenge. But it's worth a try. Write down the model name and number and call the other chains. Also, you may want to check prices on the Internet, at websites such as 20off.co.il, which may have lower prices than the stores.

A check by brand shows that Erroca and Opticana tend to have the same offerings, but you won't find those brands at Optic Doron, which focuses on costly collections, or Optica Halperin, which doesn't go for expensive brands other than Ray-Ban and Prada. Super-Pharm Optic has different brands from the ones sold at the rival chains.

One of the only brands you'll find at them all is Ray-Ban. Yaniv Segev, business development manager of optics at Super-Pharm, says that's because Ray-Ban is the No.1 sunglasses brand in the world, so the drugstore chain decided to offer it at a lower price of around NIS 499 by means of parallel imports. At other chains, such as Opticana, Erroca and Halperin, you can find discounts on Ray-Ban of up to 30%.

While they may have become a fashion statement, don't forget that there is a real reason to wear sunglasses: to protect the eyes from ultraviolet rays. Israel adopted the Australian standard for protection, blocking ultraviolet rays from 400 nanometers, not the European one, based on sunlight levels. Sunglasses don't get released from Customs unless they meet the standard: Even the cheapo pairs sold at kiosks and malls are supposed to meet it.