Expo Continues to Make a NYC 'Spectacle'

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NEW YORK—While many New Yorkers turned their attention this weekend to the twin spectacles of the St. Patrick’s Day parade and the New York City Half Marathon, those in the optical industry focused on a different type of spectacle—the wearable kind—at Vision Expo.

"Neither snow, parades or half marathons can keep the industry from attending this spectacular event. They want their Vision Expo," said Deborah Malakoff Castor, vice president of meetings and trade shows for The Vision Council.

Clare Tully from Steubenville Optics, Steubenville, Ohio, concurred. “Nothing delivers the fashion message of eyewear better than this show in New York. I think it’s because this city is the perfect setting ...even with snow.”

As in past years, Expo attracts many experienced show-goers as well as many first-timers. Bill Sura, an optician Ridgefield Family Eyecare, Ridgefield, Conn. said he’s been coming to optical trade shows in New York City for 26 years, since the days of the old Optifair that was held in the New York Hilton.

“Vision Expo has obviously expanded and improved tremendously,” said Sura. “We come every year. This year we are looking for equipment and new lens products. We’ve looked at a topographer/autorefractor combo and have just started looking for new lenses.”

Another Optifair veteran, second-generation optician Michael Higgins, observed, “In frames, what’s old is new again. While the basics are the same, the players have changed. I’m happy to see a lot of younger faces in the profession. The technology has changed since starting in the business 40 years ago in 1973.”

His son, Jeffrey Higgins, an optician who works at Main Fashion Optical in Bergenfield, N.J., said it’s his first time at Vision Expo. “It’s huge,” he marveled. “I’m specifically looking for big frames but more modern styles in order to fit progressives on older customers. We found some from Clariti and Avalon.”

Iosif Ifraimov, an opticianry student at TCI College of Technology in New York City, was also excited by his first visit to Expo. “I’m just trying to learn the business,” said Ifraimov, adding, “The frames here are amazing, they’re something different.”

The opportunity to see so many frame styles in a single location means there is virtually something for everyone at Expo. As fashion designer Mark Badgley put it, “We knew eyewear and sunwear was big but this show is amazing. This is a great show. I hope it gets even bigger.”

As of Friday, attendance was tracking slightly ahead of last year's record-breaking figures, show organizers said. "Not only was the show floor busy on Friday and Saturday, it was productive—across all levels, pavilions and product categories. The early attendance figures, show floor buzz and positive feedback from many exhibitors, all speak to a strong U.S. optical economy,” said Tom Loughran, group vice president for Reed Exhibitions.

Exhibitors were generally pleased with the number of attendees at the show. “I see a lot of enthusiasm on the show floor,” said Dick Russo of Safilo. “Traffic is strong and consistent. Everyone is looking for something new. Luckily, we have something new—Polaroid.”

Marco Lancione of Optikam said his company’s booth has many customers stop by, as well as a lot of walk-ins. “People are ready for electronic measurement and digital centration technology,” he observed.

To read a digital version of Today's Vision Expo Show Daily, sponsored by Zeiss, go to the Vision Monday website.