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Eyeglass giant shuts city plant

Closing leaves 200 jobless

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Eyeglass manufacturing giant Luxottica Optical Manufacturing is closing its Winnipeg plant.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Eyeglass manufacturing giant Luxottica Optical Manufacturing is closing its Winnipeg plant. Photo Store

The planet's dominant eyeglass manufacturer, Luxottica, is closing its Winnipeg lens-manufacturing operation that serviced a substantial portion of the Canadian market, throwing about 200 people out of work.

Luxottica was operating in the former Stewart N. King building at Sargent Avenue and St. James Street.

Production in Canada will be done in Toronto, and work will be done in U.S. facilities.

In 2006, it acquired that former Winnipeg-based company, which owned the national Shoppers Optical chain, for a reported $67 million. Those stores became the Pearle Vision chain.

The Winnipeg plant supplied lenses to Pearle Vision, LensCrafters and Sears Optical -- all chains owned by Luxottica.

'...Luxottica has made the difficult decision to close its Winnipeg manufacturing facility in Canada'

— Luxottica spokeswoman Danielle Martinetti in Cincinnati

Rob Martens, director of Luxottica Optical Manufacturing in Winnipeg, declined to comment, referring questions to company spokeswoman Danielle Martinetti in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Martinetti confirmed the Winnipeg plant is closing Thursday.

"As a result of the most recent review, Luxottica has made the difficult decision to close its Winnipeg manufacturing facility in Canada," she said in an email exchange. "In addition, Luxottica has made the separate decision to reduce the staffing levels in the Cincinnati Optical Village facility. Luxottica is providing support programs to help impacted employees through this transition."

One source said the Winnipeg plant, which had been operating around the clock, made about 12,000 glasses a week or more than 600,000 a year.

A 2013 study by Euro Monitor International said Luxottica controlled 50 per cent of the Canadian market, including sunglasses.

The same study reported there were about 28.3 million pairs of all types of glasses sold in Canada in 2013.

Robert Dalton, executive director of the Opticians Association of Canada, which is based in Winnipeg, said the industry is already fully engaged in a global supply chain, with many opticians in Canada regularly ordering glasses from overseas suppliers and receiving prompt delivery within days.

He said perhaps the most noteworthy effect the Luxottica closure might have on the local market would be on the labour-pool side.

He said about 30 per cent of independent opticians operate some kind of lens lab on their own.

"The impact to this market might be that 200 people with optical-related training will soon be looking for work," he said. "Any optician in Winnipeg who may be on the fence about starting their own lab might not have to worry about whether the human-resource aspect should be available to them."

Luxottica has become one of the most dominant, most vertically integrated global players in any sector.

Last year, it generated global revenue of $10.3 billion. Including its Canadian chains, it also owns a number of brands, including Oakley and Ray-Ban, and makes glasses for a number of designer labels, including Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Prada.

Greg Dandewich, vice-president of Economic Development Winnipeg, said the global marketplace is in play across all key economic sectors.

"Companies have the opportunity of viewing where there may be opportunities to consolidate their operations in order to bring them the best value," he said.

He said the consolidation play does not necessarily put communities such as Winnipeg at a disadvantage. "It's an open playing field in terms of where the best opportunities lie."

Recent consolidation of New Flyer Industries' after-market parts operation and Price Industries' expansion are examples of Winnipeg benefiting from that dynamic.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 28, 2014 A3

History

Updated on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 9:11 AM CDT: Corrects that production is not moving to China

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