Coronavirus' Impact Ripples Around the World, Including Eyewear Business

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NEW YORK—Against the backdrop of growing concerns about the impact on human lives, certain corroborated facts (as well as much misinformation) about next steps for containment, treatment and the potential global economic ramifications, the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other agencies around the world are struggling to sort through a range of information for people, healthcare professionals, governments, agencies and businesses to be affected by the outbreak and spread of the coronavirus.

The virus, also known as COVID-19, was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China weeks ago. In their media communications as of Friday, Feb. 14, WHO officials said more than 64,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported in over two dozen countries, resulting in at least 1,380 deaths, almost all in China, although there have been cases reported in other parts of the world, including the U.S.

VMAIL's outreach to several U.S. based and global eyewear suppliers and retailers who do a great deal of product sourcing in China, did not produce many specifics, mostly because the situation over the past few weeks has been so fluid and fast-moving. The outbreak in China, occurred close to the advent of Chinese New Year when most factories and production facilities are closed. It has absolutely impacted travel within China, among workers, managers and owners, and prevented several places from reopening and producing products, threatening a significant ripple effect on many levels, they told VMAIL, although all commentary was off the record as so many variables prevailed.

In addition to the very human toll of colleagues and business partners within many provinces and cities in China, which produce raw materials, tools and components as well as production and laboratory capabilities impacting frames, sunglasses, readers, spectacle lenses and contact lenses, it was a concern of several executives that they might not have more specific information about the ramifications for another couple of weeks. Combined with travel restrictions to and from the region, airline and shipping shutdowns or slowdowns from the country, impacting China and some nearby countries, too, combined with restrictions on importing products in Europe, other parts of Asia and the U.S., it's not clear what the economic fallout will be for supply chain and delivery timing as of now.

The organizers of Mido with the 50th anniversary edition of the large international optical products exhibition set to take place Feb. 29 through Mach 2 in Milan, Italy, reconfirmed that the fair will go on as planned. In a statement issued on Friday, however, the show organizers stated, "As it is evident, the circumstances which have emerged in recent days will prevent most of the exhibiting companies from China from participating in Mido 2020. As a result, this year, the Fair East area (pavilion 7), which traditionally hosts the Asian exhibitors, will not be open."

Mido's statement continued, "In order to reduce the impact from this situation, Mido will make available to the exhibitors, who are unable to attend the show, a digital platform making it possible for them to present their new products on-line, and for the visitors registered to view them and come into contact with the companies directly. will be active for the exhibitors starting Monday Feb. 17, and for the visitors starting from Monday Feb. 24."

“It’s a small but concrete contribution to support our Chinese and Asian colleagues, to whom we address our thoughts and solidarity, that, with their participation, have been attending Mido for so many years “ declared Mido President Giovanni Vitaloni.

Companies in the luxury goods, fashion and footwear markets, along with those in the world's travel, entertainment and technology sectors are likewise grappling with the impact as well.

VMAIL will continue to reach out to eyewear and optical suppliers and retailers to better understand what might be happening due to the situation in the coming weeks.