5 Takeaways From Vision Expo East

NEW YORK—Think of it, just one week ago today many of us were in the thick of it at Vision Expo East. It was a very busy three days crammed with appointments, show floor events, celebrity sightings and parties that stretched into the night. Going into the final day of Expo, show organizers were very upbeat about the mood and momentum of Expo East. Initial pre-registration figures showed an increase in registration for key categories, including optical buyers, practice managers, optometric technicians and opticianry assistants, Vision Expo reported. And of the 7,000 companies present at this year’s Show, one-third of attendees represented new practices and optical locations. Here’s what co-owners of the Show, The Vision Council and Reed Exhibitions, told Vision Monday about this year’s Vision Expo.

“More than ever before, the importance of eyewear and eyecare can be seen throughout New York City and the nation. Earlier this week, a full-page ad ran in the New York Times highlighting the importance of vision and the options available in seeking care. In Times Square, Think About Your Eyes videos are playing in multiple locations once an hour, and eyewear advertisements can be seen on taxis throughout the city. The message is clear: There have never been more ways to care for your eyes.”

In short, they deemed this year’s Vision Expo East “a great success with the Show experiencing an overall attendance increase of 2.6 percent with a 5 percent rise in registration for optical buyers. Social media was also buzzing as the optical community generated 31 million impressions to date using the hashtag #VisionExpo, an increase of 15 percent over 2018. At this year’s Show, exhibitors saw increased buying as they previewed new collections, launched new products and showcased their latest innovations to over 14,800 eyecare professionals from across the world.”

As always at Vision Expo there was a lot to take in and there were many events to attend and opportunities to network and connect with colleagues. In my book, WestGroupe gets the prize for most unusual booth giveaway. Stressed out attendees could really get away from it all at WestGroupe’s booth. The company created a novel way for attendees to get some down time—a hot shave and, if they wanted, a haircut from Barber Bonzy. Pictured above, one lucky showgoer got the treatment from Barber Bonzy. Here are a few other highlights from the show.

The VM Summit

Technically not part of Vision Expo East, Vision Monday’s Global Leadership Summit held on Wednesday, March 20 set the tone for what was to come. The day-long conference, themed Decoding the Consumer, was held at The Times Center and it attracted hundreds of top-level optical industry executives eager to hear from leading analysts and thought leaders from both the retail and health sectors. In video interviews with attendees, VM learned that many execs found the Summit was a good opportunity to get out of the office and learn about industry trends. In short, many felt it was a good way to start the week and was the perfect preamble to Vision Expo East. Read a wrap-up of the day’s events here and look for complete Summit coverage, including videos, coming soon in Vision Monday’s April issue and online at VisionMonday.com.

Celebrity Sightings
There was no shortage of recognizable celebs at this year’s Show. Grammy winning rapper and actor Common got things going at the BRIDGE, a new event space located between the Galleria and the Eyewear and Accessories section. Common and moderator Lilliana Vasquez (pictured here) kicked off Expo’s new EYE2EYE series that featured a wide-ranging discussion about storytelling, messaging and creativity as well as a 15-minute Q&A session.

“I learned early on that you have to be as authentic as you can as a creative person,” Common told Vision Monday. “Any time you want to create art or tell a story, you have to put truth in there.”

As part of the Q&A, Vision Monday’s Jamie Wilson was able to pose a question to the artist. When asked between Michael Jordan and Lebron James, who the best all-time player was, Common responded with Jordan whose overall influence was unseen at the time. And when speaking about creativity, one of the most rewarding projects he has worked on was the movie Selma, where women and people of color held top positions throughout production of the film.

FUBU also made an appearance at the BRIDGE as part of the EYE2EYE series. The FUBU panel touched on the past, present, and future of US. FUBU founders Daymond John, Keith Perrin, J. Alexander Martin and Carl Brown launched their brand new FUBU Legends Eyewear line at Expo and the panel discussion centered around the rise of their brand.

Other celebrities included Shaquille O’Neal who made a guest appearance at the Zyloware booth for a meet-and greet and some not-to-be missed selfie opportunities.

Boutique Buyer Panel

Now in its third year, the exclusive Boutique Buyer Panel featured an esteemed group of panelists who shared their unique perspectives on the topic of independent eyewear at Vision Expo East. The Boutique Buyer Panel: The Freedom of Independence discussed the relationship between retailers and vendors in the realm of optical independents. James Spina, vice president and editor-in-chief of 20/20 Magazine, moderated the conversation and gave each panelist the opportunity to share his or her unique story. Retail panelists included Gary Black – Black Optical, Dallas, Texas, Tulsa, Okla.; Utenzi Miller – Elegant Eyes, East Orange, N.J.; and Selima Salaun – Selima Optique, New York, N.Y. Vendor panelists included Gai Gherardi - co-founder and co-designer, l.a. Eyeworks; Rebecca Giefer - COO, Modo Eyewear; Nico Roseillier - creative director, Europa Eyewear and STATE Optical Co.; and Peter M. Waszkiewicz - CEO and president, Randolph Eyewear. At the end of the panel event at the BRIDGE, Edward Beiner, founder and CVO for Edward Beiner, was named the winner of the 2019 OPTImum Retailer Award. The OPTImum Retailer Award celebrates independent boutique retailers by allowing them to showcase their products, stores, visions and stories to the entire optical industry.

Education and Activations
This year’s Vision Expo was packed full of new experiences, education, activations and more. Vision Expo continued its partnership with The American Board of Opticianry (ABO) & National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) and their affiliates to bring the industry’s leading opticianry, contact lens technician and allied health professional education program to Expo. The Opti-Con hub was designed exclusively for OptiCon attendees, and it hosted networking, social events and access to the representatives and resources from ABO & NCLE, National Academy of Opticianry (NAO), Opticians Association of America (OAA), National Federation of Opticianry Schools (NFOS) and vendor partners.

Crowds gathered Saturday night for the National Federation of Opticianry Schools (NFOS) College Bowl for networking, friendly competition and a one-hour continuing education credit from the ABO and NCLE. This fast-paced quiz competition, sponsored by Hoya Vision Care, featured students representing eight NFOS-member opticianry schools competing to win a monetary prize as well as bragging rights and their name on the NFOS College Bowl trophy to proudly display at their college for one year. The winner is pictured above: (L to R) NFOS president Bob Russo, College Bowl winner Zachary McDaniel, program director at Roane State Community College Rebecca Morton and Cheri Guy, manager of professional services for Hoya Vision Care.

From measuring technology (pictured above) and the importance of UV protection at Zeiss to Luxottica’s test store located in their booth, technology took center stage at Vision Expo this year.

The Show Dailies
As is our custom at Expo, the Vision Monday editorial team was busy throughout the show putting out the Show Dailies. While some of our reporters roamed the show floor, parties and news events, a small group of us held down the fort in the press room located on Level 4 near Show Management offices. We spent many hours in that windowless room in order to bring our readers the latest and the greatest news and pictures from Vision Expo East. If you couldn’t be at the show or just want to catch up on Expo news, go to our Issue Archives page to read the three digital editions of the Show Dailies.