Maui Jim, a growing brand of sunglasses based in California and Hawaii, has entered a promising new market segment by acquiring Zeal Optics. This rather sophisticated sports eyewear company, based in Boulder, Colorado, specializes in the development and manufacture of snow goggles with a built-in GPS that measures altitude, skiing speed and other parameters. Officials of Maui Jim note the difference from other sports eyewear companies that have introduced similar functions by fitting in GPS systems developed by others.

The acquisition is expected to propel Zeal Optics' sales well beyond their current annual level of less than $10 million. Using its own patented lens polarizing technology, Maui Jim will introduce a whole new line of Zeal Optics goggles and spectacles at the International Vision Expo fair in Las Vegas next September. Zeal Optics' goggles are currently sold in a few ski resorts in Switzerland, but Maui Jim's extensive international sales network can help broaden the brand's presence considerably.

Without providing specific figures, executives of Maui Jim indicate that the company achieved record growth in its sales last year, after a dip of almost 10 percent suffered in 2009. Sales were up by double digits in Europe and other markets besides the U.S., where the brand resumed its relationship with Sunglass Hut (more in Eyewear Intelligence).