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Far Sighted(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 01,2007)

Optical Fair Review



Focus on design, fashion, variety and colour looks set to determine the coming year's hot optical sellers, if avid buyers at the recent, highly successful Hong Kong Optical Fair 2006 are any guide.

For example, Russian buyer Leonid Skvortsov said he had signed 12 purchasing contracts at the fair, which was staged at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from November 8-10, 2006.

"Our targets are mostly night drivers, and sporty looks are their favourite," he explained, adding that nickel-silver and plastic are the "most popular" materials.

On the other hand, exhibitor Lindberg Denmark's general manager Nikolaj Schnoor commented, "Customers are more and more demanding about eyewear products, thus we are now producing more fashionable frames with large varieties of colours. Titanium glasses are popular as well."

Buyers like these were greeted by more than 533 exhibitors from 23 countries and regions, including 200 from Hong Kong. International group pavilions from the Chinese mainland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan and the US also helped to broaden the appeal of the 14th annual event.

The 10,000-plus buyers represented 14% growth over last year's exhibition attendance, according to Anne Chick, senior exhibitions manager at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), the event's organiser.

"The Hong Kong Optical Fair grows from strength to strength, reflecting its importance both as a key industry event and Hong Kong's position as a leading optical manufacturing centre," Chick noted.

Her applause was confirmed by the attendance figures, which show that the number of Hong Kong buyers rose 17% to 3,393, while the number of buyers outside Hong Kong climbed 13% to 6,671.

"Buyers came from 88 countries and regions that included virtually all important or rapidly developing markets, including the mainland, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the US, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, India and Germany," Chick explained.

"The continuing transfer of global optical manufacturing and sourcing bases to Asia undoubtedly helped attract many of them."

This trend is particularly evident in Hong Kong, where total exports of spectacles leapt 18% to US$1.1bn in the first 10 months of 2006. "Growth of exports to the EU was particularly strong, up 33% in the first 10 months of 2006," Chick added.

Chick said Hong Kong's eyewear manufacturers have been investing steadily in recent years to upgrade their technology and designs. "Hong Kong optical products have become more chic, lighter and more durable and are being increasingly well-received by discerning overseas buyers," she claimed.

Illustrations of this sentiment were apparent in the winning designs in the 8th Hong Kong Eyewear Design Competition on display at the fair.

"These provide excellent examples of the large reservoir of creative and technical talent in the Hong Kong optical industry," noted Chick.

"Fascination" was the appropriate theme of this year's competition, which was judged on originality, creativity, aesthetics, practicability and functionality.

"The Hong Kong optical industry is in great shape, as these winning designs compare highly favourably to some of the world's leading optical brands," Chick claimed.

Many of these international designs were displayed at the fair's Visionaries of Style - Enjoy Your Vision in Life Section, which proved a key attraction for local and overseas buyers alike.

"This section was especially developed to give elite global eyewear brands an eye-catching setting in which to display the styles that have made them world renowned," Chick said.

For those keen to keep up with optical trends, insight was garnered at the Eyewear Trend seminar, which gave fair participants the perfect opportunity to find out more about the design themes that will influence the coming season's eyewear styles.

Another draw at the fair was the Retail & Shop Design, Equipment & Technology section. "This area covered a wide range of exhibits from furniture and fixtures to point-of-sale equipment and technology, and offered plenty of bright ideas to give retail establishments a competitive edge," Chick noted.

Held concurrently with the fair, the increasingly popular Hong Kong Optometric Conference offered the optometrist community a lively forum in which the most important ophthalmic issues of the day were discussed. These included the importance of keeping good clinical records, therapeutic management of anterior segment, diabetic retinopathy, insights from myopia research, and the clinical features, optometric examination and management of high myopia.

"The unique blend of the fair's varied features proved a tremendous success for both exhibitors and buyers," Chick claimed. "I am confident that the next Hong Kong Optical Fair, to be staged at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from November 6-8, 2007, will see even stronger results."

Visionary Shapes

The Eyewear Trend Seminar at the Hong Kong Optical Fair 2006 proved to be a major attraction, with strong presentations by two leading eyewear designers from the European and Asian markets.

Thierry Lasry of Harry Lary's of France highlighted the recent growth in popularity in Europe of "combination" frames with metal fronts and acetate arms. "This trend has several advantages for optical suppliers and retailers," Lasry claimed. "They are easier to design, to manufacture and to sell."

He added that more styles can be produced in a short period of time, with an unlimited number of colour combinations. "The end-user likes the metal because it is thinner and lighter, but on the other hand they appreciate the many different colours of the acetate," Lasry explained.

He also spoke about a change in the market for sunglasses, which he said was now more receptive to newer, smaller brands and not just the large fashion brands.

Fellow designer Atsushi Okusada of Propo Design (Japan) detailed the changing optical scene in his country. "Japan used to copy trends from Europe but market needs have changed," he said, adding that the growth of Japanese fashion brands has led to new interpretations and new styles.

"Eyewear is now adapting this home-grown style to its own products," Okusada observed, noting that consumers were now more aware of the fashion aspect of eyewear in addition to the functional element.

Models paraded examples of both designers' work after the seminar, which gave an opportunity for attendees to see how attractive and effective these designs really are.