Nothing beats hands-on interaction when purchasing the latest optical technology, or feeling the quality of frames and discussing advances in practice management software, visitors to Optrafair 2013 confirmed.
Bold decision making was the order of the threeday event with an upbeat mood and desire to upgrade and improve High Street practices. “Despite the power of digital media, nothing beats face to face contact and Optrafair facilitates that so very well,” said Laura Haverley, Marketing Manager of Keeler UK. Confirmation of the desire to engage with the industry, Optrafair brought 6,600 individual visitors, which did not include those who revisited for more than one day. This totalled 7,517 coming into the NEC Halls, at Birmingham to see more than 200 different exhibitors all under one roof – including a delegate who travelled from Ghana for the educational lectures and to buy accessories. Others came from Nigeria, The USA, Belgium, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Ireland. Student numbers were certainly down on previous shows, and this is something that needs to be addressed in the future, show owners, The FMO, stated.
Visitor breakdown –
|Dispensing Optician||1241||18.80 %|
|Optical Assistant||444||6.73 %|
|Optical Trade||326||4.94 %|
|Practice Manager||618||9.36 %|
The inclusion of all of the optical bodies; the ABDO conference; The OPTICIAN Awards; a comprehensive educational programme; and all of the relevant charities which were sponsored with free space, made the show a real gathering of UK optics, said Optrafair Chairman, Malcolm Polley.
Bob Forgan, Managing Director of Anglo Italian, spoke of the “real buzz and vibrancy of Optrafair, with an air of optimism, and a keenness to see new things which other exhibitors also spoke about. “The show had more excitement than Vision Expo East in New York,” said Bob. New features introduced by The FMO – the window dressing competition which provided an enticing showcase of potential for any High Street practice; the classic car feature; FMO Awards for the best stands, won by Nikon and Ronit Furst; the Guide Dogs display; and the Routemaster bus promoting Optrafair London in 2014 – all added to the vibrancy of the show.
Independent opticians flocked to see The Association of Independent Opticians with more than 50 signing up to join and a further 100-plus keen to know more. Secretary of the AIO, Pat Cameron Davies summed up the mood. “We were astounded by the show and overall result. It was an extremely impressive attendance and we were so busy with independents wanting to join us, plus lots of offers of support from the industry.”
The National Eye Care Group concurred – “This was the best ever Optrafair for us. The atmosphere was terrific and there was so much interest in what we have to offer. The boxes of literature that we took for the show had run out by midday on Sunday and we had to send out for more,” said Phil Mullins, Director of Business Development. Large multinational companies exhibited alongside business start-up and joined in the fantastic mood of good cheer at the show to work with independents and the large optical groups. Industry stalwart, Frank Norville, said the show had provided the best Saturday on his 42 years of attending Optrafair, with interest on the company’s frames, comprehensive lens offering and new releases.
Investing in the practice – particularly amongst independents – was a strong message from exhibitors. IT, combi units, diagnostic technology and restocking frame and sunglasses were the order of the day. Stuart Burn, Managing Director of Performance Finance said the three days had “easily been our best Optrafair in a decade”.
Shopfitting and technology led the field in purchasing, he said. “There was a strong can-do attitude with many practitioners wanting to upgrade and improve revenues. We have written more than six times the business of the previous show. Optrafair continues to be the standard bearer for the optical industry as a well-run and well managed exhibition – there is no other event like it.”
Largest exhibitor of the show, Topcon, experienced “an exceptional level of quality customer, and a positive feeling to business,” said Andy York, Topcon Managing Director. “Optrafair is the place where people make positive investments – it was an exceptional show for OCT and other products. We had 35 Topcon staff working on the stand and wish we had more,” he added. For Keeler the show marked a new era for the British company, which is soon to celebrate its centenary with record levels of exports – “Optrafair has been the launchpad for our new distribution channels through our valued partners including The Birmingham Optical Group, Mainline, Topcon and Hanson.
By opening up our supply routes to market we can further promote our excellence in British manufacturing,” said Laura Haverley. Interest at the show was particularly strong for Keeler’s Symphony Slit Lamp, Pulsair Intellipuff and Specialist Ophthalmoscope. Haag Streit, ideally positioned close to the entrance of the show, hit its sales target during the middle of the three day event. “Our prime position was excellent and we enjoyed very good quality visitors particularly for our DRS camera,” said Dean Johnson, Managing Director. Sunday brought a “huge number of enquiries” for BiB, with very well educated visitors, knowing exactly what they wanted and an overall strong mood of wanting to upgrade with instrumentation and combi units, according to BiB Managing Director, Tim Baker.
Optos Sales Manager, Mike Riley, said opticians are clearly looking to differentiate and that the Daytona ultra wide field retinal imaging was proving to provide just that.
Contact lens companies praised the show and quality of visitors who came with a clear purpose – BCLA Secretary General, Vivien Freeman said that the organisation saw “a constant stream of visitors, with strong interest in membership, and the BCLA conference – our best ever Optrafair.” Cooper Vision sparked excitement with its track car racing experience on the stand and celebrated its OPTICIAN Product of the Year achievement. “It is important for us to be part of Optrafair, and provides a huge opportunity for us to see customers who we don’t ordinarily see. We had some phenomenal interest in the products. We are always impressed by the exceptional organisation at Optrafair – the registration was so smooth, the signage and public announcements is where so many other optical show fall down,” said Karl Aberdeen Cooper Vision Professional Services Manager.
No7 enjoyed “great interest” in topography and OrthoK with myopia control, and its new Fusion 1 day hydrogel lens. Tony Hodson, No7 Sales Executive said – “It was a very product show and we signed up a number of new accounts.”
Zeiss, Shamir, Rodenstock, Essilor and Norville all saw the opportunity to engage with existing and new customers and to promote their dispensing technology and means to upgrade customers to more advanced freeform technologies. Tanya Storey, FBDO, Shamir Product Development Manager said the show had been excellent – “The stand was extremely busy throughout the three days and we had genuine interest for our new products with Shamir Autograph III™, the latest progressive lens to offer a unique vision experience, and Shamir Spark™, our new dispensing instrument, taking centre stage.” Mike Kirkley, Managing Director of Essilor UK agreed – “Essilor enjoyed a successful Optrafair this year.
Equipment sales were up significantly from 2011 and the lens team were inundated with enquiries about Varilux S series lenses which won the best lens product at the Optician Awards this year.”
Luxottica brought one of the largest stands to Optrafair with an impressive showing of its portfolio of frames with its largest ever investment in the show – Rebecca Louvre, Sales Director, said the stand had been “very busy” and there was much to celebrate, particularly with “Armani coming home – Optrafair was the very best possible environment for us to celebrate this.” She said that visitors were “very engaged with a lot of passion and energy for optics.”
The 21 staff on the stand each day had been kept very busy with sales, marketing, customer service. “Commercially it was very worthwhile with some serious orders.” Howard Librae of Brulimar said his company’s stand had been “very happily swamped” on the Sunday of the show with great interest in Bench, Lee Cooper and Pineapple. “People came here for a reason and we saw a high quality of buyers”. Neal Grimason, Sales and Marketing Director of Continental Eyewear described the three days as “Definitely our best ever Optrafair – there were no time wasters and people were on a mission, especially small chains and independents who were keen to see new releases for the full product spectrum including X-Eyes, Jaegar, Cameo and Laser collections. Viva International also enjoyed a “constantly busy stand, and many people were very pleased to see us back at the show after a ten year break.
We are really, really happy with the results of the show, particularly for Gant, Guess and Harley Davidson labels,” said Victoria Ross, UK Marketing Manager. Nick Boys, Sales Director at William Morris and Charles Stone Eyewear said the show had been “amazing, with the best ever Fashion Quarter” and serious visitors attending with budgets. Fan Frames, a new frame company launched six months ago selling football team branded eyewear, had four staff on the stand but wishes that it had more – “The majority of people who came to see us placed orders.
Some wouldn’t choose to wear the product themselves but were switched on enough to see the potential market,” said Chris Birkett, Director of Fan Frames. Optoplast Actman, Claire Goldsmith, and Face a Face also spoke of seeing more visitors than they had expected. Baby Banz children’s eyewear also reported signing up excellent orders and enjoyed renewing contact with existing customers.
“A well-executed show with quality leads and an abundance of orders. We were certainly up on our last show, with a lot of interest for safety eyewear and sunwear overspecs,” said Hilco Sales Manager Steve Beech. Spectrum Thea, promoting its range of supplements, was keen to promote the increased product range and raise the company profile, said Celia Derbyshire Yeats, Acting National Sales Manager.
New exhibitor, The Eyeglass Light, which attaches to the side of the spectacle frame, said the show was “the first Optrafair for us but would be the first of many, with a lot of interest from independents,” said Steve Hocking, Sales Director. EW Morris, exhibiting for the fourth time, praised the organisations and reported good business for its labelling products, as did Peter Wood of Caseco, who saw strong interest for the bespoke service, particularly from overseas visitors. Cerium Visual Technologies found the anecdotal evidence of success with its intuitive colorimitry and coloured overlays as a screening tool for dyslexia brought great interest, said Claire Millar, General Manager.
Paul Artley, Mainline Director, said the company had been very busy and that “most had done their homework before coming to the show – people were serious about business and particularly keen to learn more about the environmental angle of recycling technology in labs provided by its Neptune Filtration system. David Short, Managing Director of Coburn Technologies agreed – “It has been the best Optrafair for years, with a tremendous number of enquiries, particularly for the Cobolt Surfacing System and our Lab Works consumables.
In the Associations and Charities Area, The SMC received high levels of interest for training, particularly for the Level 2 Practice Support qualification. Myers La Roche received more than 25 enquiries about practice sales and purchases and much interest in its marketing services. The Outside Clinic found the networking and chance to speak to potential recruits and interested practices, unrivalled.