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Hong Kong International Optical Fair(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 01,2006)

A Fantastic Spectacle

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At the beginning of November each year, and with ever-increasing anticipation, the focus turns to the three-day Hong Kong Optical Fair with its reputation for showcasing the latest in eyewear, equipment and technology.

With 2005 hosting the 13th fair in the series, some 577 exhibitors greeted 8,805 visitors - both figures up significantly on 2004.

Approximately 5,900 of the visitors came from outside Hong Kong: led by visitors from the Chinese mainland, followed by Taiwan, Japan, Korea and the US.

"Hong Kong is the world's second-largest exporter of spectacles, lenses and frames, and the fair confirms Hong Kong's status as a leading player in the global optical industry," said Hong Kong Trade Development Council senior exhibitions manager Anne Chick.

"This year's event was again a resounding success, with a record number of exhibitors from 20 countries and regions and increased numbers of buyers. The growth in visitors from the mainland, in particular, reflects the burgeoning demand for quality optical products."

Indeed, among those looking to meet the mainland's need for 100 million pairs of spectacles per year were eight buying missions representing more than 500 major distributors or representatives of chain stores from six major mainland cities. Russia and the UAE also sent buying missions to the fair for the first time.

The group pavilions included the Chinese mainland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan and the US. These pavilions are increasingly popular with exhibitors, as they offer an excellent opportunity to stand out from the crowd and ensure attracting a high number of visitors.

Of the 200 mainland exhibitors, 86 were there for the first time. Exhibitors from Italy increased five-fold, and Taiwan registered a record 55. Finland, Austria and the UAE were among the first-time exhibitors.

The 3rd Hong Kong Optometric Conference, held concurrently with the fair, again attracted huge interest thanks to the featured industry speakers from Hong Kong, Australia, the UK and the US.

As in previous years, there were also several informative seminars that were well-attended. Seminar topics included eyewear trends and intellectual property rights protection.

Visitors were also attracted to the two themed zones originally launched in 2004. "The Retail and Shop Design, Equipment and Technology Section highlighted the latest in retailing trends from furniture, fixtures and lighting to point-of-sale equipment and technology, and was very popular," said Chick.

"Meanwhile, the Visionaries of Style - Enjoy Your Vision in Life Section was the place to see 11 international eyewear brands at the forefront of design from Hong Kong, France, Japan and Malaysia."

Attending the fair for the first time was Manu Danzi, product manager for family-run Italian company VidiVici Occhiali.

"We have two in-house brands, Exalt Cycle and Cigar, and four licences, Mila Schon, Il Blasco, Billionaire and Chronotech, and would like to enter the market in this region. Many people in the optical industry in Italy said this was a very interesting exhibition with many opportunities to do business. I'm also looking into the possibility of exhibiting here next year," said Danzi.

Also attending for the first time was Szvetlana Hegaj, owner of sunglasses importer Zoex Kft of Hungary.

"We used to source our products mainly from Russia," Hegaj said. "I am visiting the fair to look for new suppliers and have already found many useful production companies.

"In particular, I hope to establish contact with their trading partners in Europe to explore new business opportunities. This fair is very big and well-organised with a lot of exhibitors and products on offer and may provide a new engine to drive our business growth."

On the other hand, veteran US visitor Charles Nelson, owner of Eyekon Eyewear, was attending for the seventh year.

"We sell festive novelty sunglasses and fashion glasses to a range of clients in the US and are now expanding our sales to other parts of the world. I have come to the fair to source new products. The show is getting bigger each year and this is the only Asian trade event I participate in. It provides an opportunity for me to learn what kinds of products are available here, make contacts and re-establish relationships with existing suppliers. I usually make four or five orders every year and this time I have found some interesting items," Nelson said.

Looking ahead, TDC's Chick said that as the Hong Kong Optical Fair goes from strength to strength each year, the 2006 edition is just as sure to attract even bigger numbers of exhibitors and buyers keen to take advantage of all the business opportunities that the event provides.

WRITTEN BY VICKI WILLIAMS