Game On: Performance Sunwear Offers Incremental Growth Opportunities

Game On: Performance Sunwear Offers Incremental Growth Opportunities
ByJoAnne Sommers

North America’s sports-performance sunwear market has undergone a shift in recent years. Gone is the one-size-fits-all, mass market approach; in its place is a highly differentiated approach designed to meet the demands of people involved in specific sporting activities. These people want sunwear that improves their athletic performance by delivering better vision combined with solid protection and good looks. And manufacturers are stepping up to the plate with an exciting range of new products that deliver all three.

“Sports sunwear was originally designed to be protective but it has since become performance-enhancing and fashionable as well,” says Rob Begg, president, 20/20 Accessory Source.

He cites 20/20’s GK™ Ghost and ProGear as examples, noting that both models combine their best features into products that look good and outperform the competition.

“The GK Ghost has a sporty look and is durable and flexible with its ultra-light polycarbonate frame, combined with A/R back coat and flash mirror finish to reduce reflection. The ProGear Eyeguard line has evolved traditional, goggle-like athletic eyewear into more stylish frames without compromising safety.”

GK Ghost and GK Helium are ideal for bicycling or motorcycling, says Begg. “The wrap-style lens and frame provide protection from side winds and TPR temple tip inserts are remarkably durable, yet soft and flexible for optimal comfort.”

Interchangeable lenses increase versatility by enabling the wearer to suit the tint to the activity. Dark, UV-protected lenses are good for baseball and other outdoor sports, while golfers can benefit from gray or brown-coloured lenses that make it easier to outline the course.

20/20’s GK Helium comes with brown, grey and clear polycarbonate UV400 interchangeable lenses, while GK Personal offers a range of customization options.

Bollé’s portfolio includes sunglasses and goggles designed for everything from alpine skiing to water sports. The French company has always had a sports orientation but its marketing approach has changed, says René Gerber, marketing coordinator, eyewear, Bushnell Outdoor Products, which distributes Bollé inCanada.

“We used to sell fashionable, sporty, all-purpose sunwear that appealed to the masses,” says Gerber. “But Bollé’s marketing has gone more vertical and our products are now designed for distinct market segments.”

She points to the Competitor line (including Bolt, Tempest, Helix, Draft, Vortex), which is designed for running and cycling as well as water sports. Interchangeable lenses in different colours enable wearers to match lenses to changing light conditions, she notes.

The Alpine Sun collection (Diablo,Rainier, Ouray) provides an alternative to ski goggles for snow sports enthusiasts. The wrap on the collection is severe, providing greater protection at high altitudes. Lens choices include standard, photochromic and polarized, all of which feature hydro-oleophobic and anti-fog coatings.

The Liberty Sport line from Alternative Eyewear is designed for everything from golf to scuba diving and motorcycling, says PresidentPaul Storace.

“This is a comprehensive, fully-customizable product. We offer 15 lens options and five different sizes and colours. The lenses are five times stronger than standard polycarbonate and everything is Rx-able.”

Storace calls sports sunwear, “the most interesting segment of the optical marketplace because it presents opportunities for incremental growth (growth separate from sales of ophthalmic glasses and purchases driven by vanity alone). This is real organic growth that doesn’t compromise the primary sale and savvy eyecare professionals will recognize and capitalize on the opportunity to maximize sales.”

The process starts by talking about sports while conducting the eye exam, says Storace. “Ask about the patient’s lifestyle and sports interests. Bring up the benefits of wearing eyewear designed specifically to suit their activity needs.”

Alternative Eyewear can help with the process of patient education, he adds. “We offer several options, from six- to 48-piece displays, that help create an independent profit centre inside the dispensary. By having the display in what we call a Sport Centre, the ECP can demonstrate the features of different products and their accompanying benefits. The end result is a better fit and a better-informed patient.”

The practitioner can combine the display with sports equipment such as soccer balls, baseballs, etc., which reminds patients that they should at least consider performance sunwear as part of their overall purchase that day.

Vision Ease, which manufactures Coppertone™ and SunRx lenses, offers a wide range of educational tools for ECPs, including a polarized demonstrator that allows customers to view a glared-out scene through polarized lenses. By demonstrating how the lenses work, customers can experience their benefits, which increases the likelihood that they will choose this option, says Marketing and Communications Manager Jay Lusignan.

Hilco, which sells Leader Rx sunglasses, has developed a complete merchandising system, featuring protective eyewear for work and play. It hangs on the ECP’s frame board to promote vision protection.

“Eye protection is good for patients and good for business,” says Debbie Fitzgibbons, director, marketing communications. “Anyone can carry sunglasses but we give ECPs a merchandising vehicle that helps consumers think about protection in a different way.”

Another shift in the sunwear market reflects the greying of the baby boom generation.

“This is the first generation of presbyopes that doesn’t want to get old,” says 20/20’s Rob Begg. “They need a correction but don’t want to buy sunwear at the drug store.”

To meet that need, 20/20 has introduced Hidden Suns, the first bifocal golf sunglass. “Hidden Suns are a treat for those who require bifocals but don’t want to be seen wearing them. The add or segment borders are on the back instead of the front like traditional bifocals. With the tinted colour and mirror coat on the front, and the add on the back, the result is a sleek, stylish look with no evidence of a bifocal.”

And with seniors expected to comprise almost one-quarter of the population by 2036, this is one marketing trend we can expect to see a lot more of in the years ahead.

Here’s what’s new in performance sunwear this year:

20/20 Accessory Source

GK™ Marlin

An excellent choice for fishing enthusiasts, with ultra-light TR-90 frame, polarized polycarbonate lenses with flash mirror and oleo phobic coatings on the front, and an A/R purple backcoat.

GK™ Max

The ultimate in comfort and protection with side shields, rubber comfort temples, and nosepads for extra cushioning and grip. Customize fit with adjustable pantoscopic tilt temples.

GK™ Sport

Ultra-light, rimless, non-polarized, unisex bifocal sunglasses with flash mirror-coated polycarbonate lenses.

adidas eyewear

(distributed by Canadian Optical Supply Co. Ltd.)

Adizero Tempo

Designed for runners, the aerodynamic lens shape creates an extremely wide field of view, providing sun and wind protection. Adizero Tempo features a rimless design and lightweight temple material (XPX).


• Polycarbonate lenses;

• Innovations Flex Zones™ for better fit;

• ClimaCool™ ventilation system;

• Vision Advantage™ Basic 9 PC lenses decentered;

• Ergonomic temples with Traction Grip™ do not slide;

• Double Snap Nose Bridge™;

• Available in 9-base lenses or 7.5;
• Quick-Change Lens System™;

• Performance Insert™ available for Rx;

• Quick-Release Hinge™.

Terrex™ FAST – a393

Can be used as a regular sunglass or for activities such as biking, running and cross-country skiing. Polycarbonate lenses equipped with Vision Advantage™ PC filters that provide 100 per cent UVA/UVB/UVC protection.


• 8-base decentered;

• Vision Advantage™ PC lenses: Space Lens, LST Bluefilter, LST Active, LST



• Double Snap Nose Bridge™;

• Quick-Change Lens System™;

• Quick-Release Hinge™;

• ClimaCool™ ventilation system.

Alternative Eyewear

Liberty Sport consists of two lines: Sports Protective and Sun Performance.

Sun Performance

Fully customizable, in five sizes and colours. Fifteen lens options for use-specific situations, including biking, hiking and swimming. Available with a range of lens tints and coating options.


• Sport-specific, optical quality poycarbonate lenses that pass ASTM Z80.3 standards and provide UV400 protection;

• Fully Rx-able;

• All full-rim sunglasses designed with a Safety Back Lip to ensure lens retention in the frame.

Sport Protective

The most comprehensive collection of sports safety eyewear, designed for basketball, handball, soccer, etc. All have polycarbonate lenses and meet ASTM F803 standard.

Liberty Sport offers Plan “B” Eyewear’s Switch™, the world’s first magnetic interchange lens system®, enabling you to change lenses to manage light in different situations. Lenses eliminate UV light and glare, and rebalance light to improve vision. All Switch Vision lenses are made with zero-distortion, optically correct, shatter-proof polycarbonate.


(from Bushnell Outdoor Products, distributed by Centennial Optical)

Competitor Series (Bolt, Tempest, Helix, Draft, Vortex)

The series features B Clear Anti-fog lenses with Trivex® (lighter than polycarbonate), that offer the best impact resistance and provide maximum UV protection.

All models are all half-rim and feature adjustable nosepads, and the moisture-absorbing hydrophilic properties of Thermogrip® that keeps frames comfortably in place during extreme exertion. Interchangeable lenses offer the flexibility to change lenses to match conditions.

Vortex can be paired with an RX adapter while Helix and Tempest can be customized through eyecare professionals and the Bollé National Sun RX Program.

Alpine Collection (Diablo,Rainier, Ouray)

Alpine features B Clear Anti-fog lenses with Trivex® and comes with interior anti-fog coating and hydrophobic coating.

Available with Element (all-purpose), Eclipse (photochromic) and Horizon (polarized) lenses.

Most of the Bollé line is Rx-able, except shields.


Leader Rx sunglasses combine wrap styling, affordable frame pricing, superior optics and low-cost standard lens processing. Ideal for outdoor, non-contact sports, including motorcycling, fishing and skiing.


• 8-base wrap styling with the processing ease, affordability and optics of standard Rx lens mounting;

• Optical performance superior to 8-base Rx sunglasses and eyewear with “fit behind” optical inserts;

• Pre-edged, 8-baseplanopolarized polycarbonate lenses (optional) convert any style to performanceplanosunglasses.

Collection features 11 styles with:

•planopolycarbonate sun lenses in standard Rx adapters;

• over-molded temples for added comfort.

Kaenon Polarized

Kaenon presents three sport-specific pieces from its Kore Performance series of polarized sunglasses: Hard Kore Blue G12, Hard Kore Red G12 and Soft Kore Aqua Marine G12. All are unisex.

All Kaenon polarized sunglasses come with patented SR-91® polarized lenses that provide the optical clarity of glass and the light weight and durability of polycarbonate, without compression and distortion issues.

All SR91 lenses available in grey, copper and yellow tints that allow users to “tune their vision”, depending on the sport or lighting. Frames built with lightweight TR-90. Rubber nosepads and temple tips keep things anchored in place.

All available in Rx in single vision and free-style progressive.

Nike Vision/Transitions Optical

Nike Vision and Transitions Optical have launched Nike® MAX Transitions® adaptive sunglasses.

Lenses combine Transitions Optical’s advanced photochromic lens technology and Nike Vision’s patented Nike MAX Optics. Patented tints engineered precisely to enhance the visual details of the natural environment.

Available in:

• Nike MAX Transitions/Golf Tint – a violet colour, designed to improve contour recognition on the greens and increase ball pop;

• Nike MAX Transitions/Outdoor Tint – a green colour that brightens shadows, increases contrast and enhances the visual spectrum in natural environments.

Nike MAX Transitions lenses are polycarbonate and block 100 per cent of UV rays.

NikeMAX Transitionssunglasses available in the Show X2 style (ideal for golf, tennis and cycling). SQ frames designed for golf and training.


Oakley’s full spectrum of lens colours helps match optics to the environment. The perfect balance of light transmission with lens tints improves depth perception and colour recognition, with the option of polarized, photochromic or gradient tinting.

This spring Oakley offers two new additions:


Lets athletes take advantage of Oakley’s wide array of performance lenses, thanks to Switchlock™ technology that makes lens changing fast and easy. Switchlock lets you adapt your vision for any environment and keep up with changing light. All lenses are optimized with the clarity and impact resistance of High Definition Optics®.


Most Oakley sunglass frames available with Oakley True Digital (OTD) prescription lenses. OTD utilizes its own custom frame database to digitally tailor the prescription lens to the specific frame and Rx, creating the ultimate in Rx performance eyewear. Oakley developed Dual Peripheral technology to optimize peripheral vision in the mid and far ranges, ensuring sharper peripheral imaging and motion detection.

Rudy Project North America

Best-selling models Noyz and Rydon are a favorite of many triathletes because of their eye-candy colours, lightweight design and aerodynamic lenses. Ideal for cycling, tennis and other sports because of adjustable nosepads and temple tips to ensure sunglasses stay comfortably in place.

Hypermask and Hypermask Performance are mask-styles, ideal for cycling, triathlon and running.


Rudy Project offers technically advanced specialty lenses with high visual quality tailored to meet your needs. Rudy Project Polycarbonate RP Optics lenses provide 100 per cent UVA/UVB protection. Contrast lenses are best to enhance depth perception and colour, while neutral lenses provide the darkest coverage possible.

The styles mentioned feature award-winning photochromic and polarized photochromic lenses (available in Rx and non-Rx).

Sundog Eyewear

Sundog Eyewear continues the evolution of sunglasses for golfers with 12 new models featuring industry-leading Mela-Lens™ technology for ultimate protection and clarity with no colour distortion.

In partnership with BNL Sun Lenses, Sundog Eyewear created the Mela-Lens lines, utilizing synthetic melanin to produce state-of-the-art melanin lens technology. It absorbs light seamlessly over a broad spectral range, providing superior blue light filtration with minimal colour distortion, and 100 per cent UVA/UVB protection. Mela-Lens features Eternity Hard Coat for superior abrasion resistance.

Among the new models – including Bent, Pursuit, Chop, Blast, and Fluid – Laser offers a sleek suspended lens open frame design in three choices of MaxFlex Rilsan frames, Megol temple tips and nosepads, and smoke or brown lens. Laser available in Mela-Lens, Mela-Lens Polarized, and Mela-Lens photochromic models.

(distributed by Importlux inCanada)

TAG Heuer sunwear features avant-garde materials, including hypoallergenic titanium and composite material, that provide lightweight strength and ensure streamlined comfort. Special elastomers, such as those on Reflex’s titanium temples, provide great grip. Reflex also features a patented hingeless closing mechanism.

Polycarbonate lenses, some polarized, feature oleo and hydrophobic coatings. In case of physical shock lenses are designed to pop out. Some models are Rx-able, depending on base and Rx; all lenses provide optimum protection from UV and infrared rays.

TAG Heuer offers a range of lenses for various activities:

Blue tint for water sports, brown for high mountains, orange for golf, and Night Drive Vision – yellow lenses designed for night driving; they are also very efficient for driving in foggy weather.