4 Battle about the leadership of the progressive lens market

4.1 Market Situation

Until the arrival of the first competitive progressive lens AO Ultraview in 1975 [6] Essilor’s market share logically was 100 %. In the following years with an increasing number of new progressive product launches competition gained continuously market share which in 1990 in the USA was about 60 % [3].

The image of Varilux 2 was ageing and the competition attacked this fact with aggressive product positioning (see Rodenstock) and advertising (see Sola). The ECP’s tested the new designs with success and also wearer tests underlined their performance. In 1988 Essilor launched the first Multi-Design lens Essilor VMD/ Varilux Infinity, which could slow down the market share erosion [3].

At that time the USA were becoming the biggest regional market for PPL’s in the world overtaking Europe. Moreover the potential for progressive lenses was very high in the US because of the high bifocal/trifocal share of the presbyopic market. So the leadership on this market was strategically key for a solid worldwide number one position. In 1971 SOLA had formed a sales operation in Chicago and opened a manufacturing facility in Sunnyvale, California in 1975. In 1984 it launched its first progressive lens Graduate/VIP and in the following 10 years SOLA’s turnover grew by 15 % per year. SOLA represented a serious threat for the Essilor leadership of the US PPL market.