100% a success!?!

So…doubtless like many of you within the industry, the crew here at OM Towers were very keen to see what the third chapter in the 100% Optical story would deliver. Would it  prove to be the year that Media 10 – unarguably among the masters of the modern trade show – finally unlocked the magic formula to deliver an event that successfully combined lenses, equipment and eyewear? Or would it, once again, prove to be a valiant effort that ultimately failed to achieve its objective?

The answer, perhaps inevitably, is that it fell somewhere between the two.

It’s strong suit from the beginning has been eyewear, and in that regard it felt like another stride forward in terms of both the number of brands exhibiting and the level of presentation. William Morris parked up his perennially impressive Routemaster red bus but was, less predictably, given welcome competition for impact by several other concept stands. And whilst, admittedly, it was nothing on the scale of what the leading brands invest in terms of finance and imagination when exhibiting with our continental cousins, it was nonetheless an impressive effort for these home shores.

Sadly, on the lens front things didn’t quite catch fire. The late addition of Essilor, though heralded with much fanfare, turned out to be a single modest stand showcasing equipment. And though Shamir were in attendance, the noticeable lack of other big names (or small ones for that matter) rendered the lens section of the show a bit flat.

The equipment section (including accessories) was more buoyant and it definitely felt like a reasonable proportion of attendees were there to keep abreast of the latest technological developments. And the various seminars – rich in CET points – yielded positive feedback from those we spoke with who attended.

So what’s the OM verdict?? Well, in truth, the overriding feeling is one of frustration. Media 10 do what they do very well, and it’s nice to see that the company invests in people by allowing them to grow with the project (both Celsa and Stephen have been at the forefront since the beginning). 100% has a slick, contemporary feel and is a good show for eyewear (both niche and designer), training and seminars, and also for equipment. With the show now guaranteed at the Excel until 2020 one would feel safe stating that it has already made the transition from novel curiosity to respected fixture on the optical calendar.

However, our industry here in the UK remains in a kind of no-mans-land when it comes to trade shows. Whilst Silmo, Munch and Mido have the size and glamour to demand international attention, here in Blighty we are still falling short.

And with Optrafair now just around the corner, it’s hard not to think that the problem is the lack of unity within our ranks. The UK deserves a “big” show. A show to rival Munich at the very least. And London (once you get over the schlep to the Excel) is a city that holds its own against any other in terms of exciting evening attractions outside of optics. Yet whilst there is no joining of forces (not to mention expertise, affiliations and resources) it will be very difficult for 100% Optical to become a “lens show” or indeed a show to attract significant numbers of attendees from Europe. And that really is a pity.