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Wednesday / May 22.
HomemieventsVision East: New York City

Vision East: New York City

Start spreading the news/ I’m leaving today/ I want to be a part of it/ New York, New York… and so the soundtrack spun around my head for the entire time I was in the Big Apple, for my first experience of the mammoth Vision East optical trade show.It’s virtually impossible not to be part if it – whether it’s the incessant haggling in Times Square or the yellow taxis filling the streets 24 hours a day – this city is non-stop!

I was inNew York to attend Vision East at the Jacob Javits Convention Centre, and as this was my first time at the show, I wasn’t sure what to expect… Coming right on the heels of Mido, this is the American eyewear industry’s big chance to show off home grown brands to the natives. And show off they did.

A Super-sized Show

Vision East takes up just over 263,000 square feet, or just over 24,000 square metres. To put that into perspective, that is double the size of Australia’s biggest optical expo, ODMA, which is set to be 12,500 square metres in 2013.Within the enormous floor space dedicated to the New York show were 575 exhibitors, showcasing more than 5,000 brands.

I headed straight in from the mind-numbing zero degrees Celsius outside world and into the ‘Underground’ – this is where the cool brands, the up and coming and the European contingency usually hang out. There is also a ‘French Loft’, a ‘Made in America’ section and ‘Boutiques on Main’. And apparently, this time round, there was a seething hotel close by with several ‘too-cool-for-school’ brands that wouldn’t dare hang out at the show.

At Vision East it’s all business

The Underground is relatively small, with just five rows, each with around 10–12 stands.

On exhibit were Prodesign, Lafont, Beaujelous, and so on. The stands were highly ‘Americanised’ and the staffers were clearly there for business with no frills.

Don’t get me wrong – everyone was welcoming and efficient. It’s just that Vision East stands were devoid of the divine appeal of Europe, where bling reigns supreme and it’s all about being dressed to impress.

At Vision East it’s all business.

On Duty

My visit to Vision East wasn’t just as a spectator. I was there to work in the Underground with Ogi eyewear. And I earned my keep. Although the day got off to a slow start, by lunch-time the place was humming and I didn’t get a chance to look around again before closing time.

The eye care professionals I met while working the stand were fantastic. They were seriously interested in finding out what’s out there and what’s new to market.

The people placing orders at Vision East were the dispensers. They refer to their practices as ‘offices’ or ‘shops’ and what was really exciting to hear, is that they acknowledge retail is the money making part of the business. As such, investment in good stock, good salespeople and good attitudes is significant.

Optometrists also attend Vision East, but as a rule, don’t get too involved in the retail side of things. Instead they attend for the CPD points.

Bring on the Big Guns

On my second day I ventured into Vision East’s other hall, which was very much a Safilo/Luxottica/Marchon affair with the periphery taken up by the usual suspects you would expect to see.

Here it was all about glamour, with the three heavyweights vying for market share with bigger shopping bags, fancier lanyards, and sexier girls showing off the latest from Guess, Ray-Ban, Dior and the likes.

Each of their booths was the size of one ODMA hall and they were busy. The most significant difference between these guys and the smaller players, it seemed, was that the Underground, with its fewer visitors and smaller booths was set up for bums on seats writing business, whereas the big guns were more about brand awareness and showing off new season releases.

Service is Everything

Service was something that was very apparent throughout my trip – not service for tips but real service in shops, department stores, chemists – everywhere. Wherever I went, someone was at my beck and call to help locate what I needed and make sure I was looked after.

I loved the experience of the New York show, I loved visiting the local ‘offices’ and ’shops’ (at least one on every block in New York) but I’ll be back to Mido next year for the glamour, the pomp and, oh yes, the coffee…

Jacque Katsieris is the Managing Director of ProOptics. She has worked in the optical industry for almost 15 years and says she “absolutely loves her job” and that her “customers are divine”.