Expo’s Vibrancy Once Again on Display

LAS VEGAS—The energy and activity evident during Vision Expo West provided ample proof that although the national economy is still struggling, it’s business as usual for the optical industry. CE classes were filled, and the aisles of the Sands Convention Center’s exhibit hall were buzzing with attendees eager to see hot new eyewear styles and try out the latest vision technologies.

Preliminary unaudited attendance figures indicate that 12,077 eyecare professionals (ECPs) attended International Vision Expo West, which wrapped up on Sept. 8. Opening on the heels of the Labor Day weekend, exhibit hall attendance came in at 8,209 and was on par with last year’s attendance records, according to show organizers. The education program delivered 350 hours of education and drew 3,868 eyecare professionals during the four-day event. A complete, third-party audit of International Vision Expo West will be available approximately six weeks after the show.

“International Vision Expo West is a healthy, energetic and vibrant event, and the number of loyal and satisfied visitors in attendance at this past week’s event was a true testament to that,” said Tom Loughran, vice president for Reed Exhibitions. “We remain committed to providing the entire ophthalmic community with a convenient location to network, hold meetings and source the best in products, education, innovative solutions and business-building tools for the health of their practice and their patients.”


Revolution Eyewear’s Gary Martin (r) works the camera with the Los Angeles Lakers’ Metta World Peace during his photo opp appearance at the booth.
“Once again, the week has proved that International Vision Expo is a global eyecare event,” Loughran said. “Delivering high-quality visitors over three-solid days, the real power of our event lies in the sheer volume of eyecare professionals who see Vision Expo as the source for new products, technologies, ideas and education. It’s an investment that will keep their practices and businesses current and allow them to provide superior products and services to their patients and customers year-round,” Loughran said.

For some attendees, such as McKenzie Wiswell, this was their first Vision Expo. “My mentor, Tammy Carter, said that I should come because the show would change my life,” said Wiswell, a student at the Seattle Central School of Opticianry in Seattle, Wash., who considers herself an “opti-geek.” Eventually, I want to open my own dispensary, so I’m here looking at products.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Carter, a licensed dispensing optician from Gig Harbor, Wash. who has been attending optical trade shows for 33 years, remarked, “It’s important to bring up the next generation. I’m introducing McKenzie to the industry and widening her perspective on what’s possible.”

Another Vision Expo veteran, Sandy Sulzman, a trainer with Optical Products Consulting, Gilbert, Ariz., said she comes to the show in search of new technology and information that will help her become more creative in her business. “I come here because it’s the one place I can see what’s happening in the industry. It’s the only place to do it,” she remarked.

Dallace Brown, an optician at Invision Eye Health in Sandy, Utah, attends Vision Expo looking for fresh ideas. “I expect to see something fantastic, whether it’s displays or frames or whatever,” said Brown. “I’ve got to learn one new thing each day and be wowed each day.”

 Match Eyewear’s Ethan Goodman (l) and Phil Turnage (r) lend a hand to Danny Gokey’s (c) celebrity appearance at the company’s booth.
Sheri Mayes of Nationwide Vision in Chandler, Ariz., gave high marks to the continuing education courses she attended. “The classes have been great, especially the sessions on digital lenses and the optics of larger lenses,” she said. Both Mayes and Anthony Yanez, a buyer for Cigna Medical Group in Phoenix, Ariz., were impressed with Vision Mobile Directory, a new smartphone app available through Vision Expo that alerts them to show specials, searches for designer brands and keeps track of appointments with exhibitors.

A spot check of vendors indicated that most were pleased with the traffic on the show floor and the level of interest of attendees. “Based on our activity, the show seems to be pretty well attended,” said Mary Rose Jaszczynski of ClearVision. “Our booth has been very busy and consistent.” She added, “When it comes to the impact of the economy on our sales, I believe a lot of people have made a conscious decision that life and business must go on, so they are buying what is appropriate for their business.”

Barney Dougher, president of Hoya Vision Care, also observed that many attendees are “conscious buyers” who come to Vision Expo with a discerning eye for new products that can help them grow their business. “For example, our new Spectangle and our augmented reality apps, and Hoya DF (Distortion-Free Optics) have been attracting attention,” he noted.

“The Vision Expo in Las Vegas was a great show for SPY,” said Jim Sepanek, Vice President, Rx SPY Inc. “Our booth was super busy all three days. Not only were we able to meet with customers, both new and existing, but the show floor provided a platform for us to share what we are all about with the optical community.”

Dozens of strategic partnerships were formed at this year’s event between a diverse, global network of optometric associations, professional organizations, alliances and buying groups. The Optimum Program, comprised largely of million dollar practices, Vision Monday’s Top 50 Retailers and boutique optical buyers, grew by 22 percent and 11 new professional groups joined Vision Expo’s Partner Program, bringing the total number to 38. In addition, the growth of the Optometry (OD) Student Program enticed several organizations to host meetings at the show, including the Association of Practice Management Educators (APME) and Student Optometric Leadership Network (SOLN).

A record number of show specials, new products, lines and launches were also key drivers at this year’s event. Nearly 475 exhibitors from around the globe offered more than 600 show specials and 5,000 brands, covering all aspects of eyecare, eyewear and accessories.

Next year, International Vision Expo West will be held Oct. 2 to 5 in Las Vegas, before returning to its typical late September time frame for the next seven years. For more information about International Vision Expo West, including event highlights, images and videos, go to www.visionexpowest.com

—Staff Report