Open Range Trade Show

As a lifelong marketer and retailer, I look at conference booth presentations as miniature stores. What is the story you are trying to tell? Who are you telling it to? What is the impression, feeling, and effect of the brand you are trying to get across with this booth? Most of you have been to multiple shows where you see some companies spend a million dollars (on top of the rent of the show space) and others spend what seems to be $1 (though we know the exhibit halls charge outrageous rates for everything short of the air they breathe).

One thing that has always bothered me was the private spaces. How many of you have walked the show floors of a Vision Expo East or West, to find those booth spaces that are virtually closed off to public view? No eyewear to be seen in public. No poster-size images of eyewear. No poster size lifestyle images of models wearing the eyewear. Just a logo, guards, and secrecy.

Certainly, some conversations require privacy. Sometimes there are eyewear samples not ready for prime time. Sometimes there are discussions about quantity or group pricing. Sometimes there are conversations about jobs or personnel. Sometimes there are just those dirty jokes you don’t want to share in public. I get it. What I don’t get is spending tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a booth space to exhibit and show your eyewear or your services and then do it all behind walls.

How am I supposed to discover your great eyewear or your services when you won’t let me see what you do? How am I supposed to become interested in what you are selling when you won’t let me come in without an appointment? How many of you would subscribe to a magazine without ever having looked at and thumbing through an edition? How many of you when looking at restaurants in New York last week or in your home town last night thought that place would be a great place to eat when all you have to judge it by is their logo?

Sure, a friend says it’s a great place to eat, but I want to see the inside before I buy. Just like I want to see and touch the eyewear before I buy or recommend that too.

Renting space at Vision Expo isn’t cheap. Building a compelling booth space that will showcase your brand isn’t cheap. Flying your staff from all over the country to work your booth isn’t cheap. Paying hundreds of dollars for a union member to plug in your lights isn’t cheap. So why have a booth that’s closed off to anyone walking by? I don’t get it!

Some brands for some reason think hiding themselves from view will heighten interest in their brand. Some say they are only there to service existing customers only and don’t care to expose themselves to the rest of us. Fine. Do us all a favor and get a large hotel suite closeby and save yourself $75,000+.

This is why walking Vision Expo East this year in New York I was very encouraged by the trend of most eyewear companies who had new booth spaces to open them up and make them inviting. I liked the booth designs that made you want to look, that made you want to touch, that made you want to learn more and inquire about the line.

TC Charton booth
Götti eyewear booth
mó eyewear booth
Ørgreen Optics/Oliver Goldsmith/Claire Goldsmith booth
ic! berlin booth
Safilo booth
Bevel/Blake Kuwahara booth at The Loft NYC

Sure, some of the lines are too expensive for some stores. Some are too lower end for other stores. Some don’t look as good up close as they did walking by. Some look and feel even better up close. That’s the point. You don’t know until you get the chance to see the line up close and in person.

I was able to walk around the show to see and touch some wonderful eyewear, some I knew about before while others I got to experience for the first time with these more open and inviting booth spaces. I was able to see, hear, and understand each spaces brand story by being invited to engage with the product in each booth instead of being kept or pushed away.

The lovely Germania Martinez trying on new frames at Vision Expo East

There are hundreds and hundreds of companies and brands making eyewear and more every day. As many companies come to a premier event and space like Vision Expo, there are thousands of eyewear companies who don’t show there. Every one of them wants more customers. Every one of them wants their place in the market. The companies who close themselves off from being seen will someday be forgotten.

This isn’t about size either. When you walked through the smaller spaces along the sides of The Galleria or in the three buildings of The Loft, you notice the openness of most of the spaces and that openness of feeling welcome and invited. How do you feel about the newer open designs?

Bravo for the open range!