2019 has been a year of first for me. My first trip to Cuba, to help with an amazing photoshoot for the 10th anniversary of TC Charlton eyewear. My first trip to the MIDO Trade Show in Milan in February, and my first trip to SILMO in Paris at the end of September. I know, Paris in September. A tough assignment, but I psyched myself up for the task.
SILMO was an incredible show. Like MIDO earlier this year, the European shows are an amazing sight to see. Almost every booth, every space, every display showcases eyewear and optical accessories in ways you just don’t see at a Vision Expo. Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot to see and a lot to like about Vision Expos, but sorry, they don’t hold a candle visually to the European shows I have been to.
Perhaps it is the marketer in me that is blown away by the visual feast that SILMO and MIDO provide. Perhaps it is the difference in how Europeans present themselves and their companies. I remember long ago while in the ski business how far superior the ISPO ski show in Munich was to the SIA trade show in Las Vegas (now in Denver).
The big brands are of course there. There are the European brands we all know with wonderful booth spaces as well. Then there are a large number of European brands, some of which are not widely available in North America…yet.
The SILMO show was a four-day event and even then I still felt like there was much I didn’t see or experience. While most optical shops have a set list of vendors they want to schedule a time to sit down with, I was more the kid in the candy shop trying to see all that was around. Sure, I had a busy schedule of appointments, but I wanted to see and touch everything too. The show covered two of 8 potential exhibition halls that combined seemed considerably larger than even Vision Expo East.
Another thing about SILMO was the seeming mixture of products throughout the show. There was not one enclave of eyeglass cases for example, but many spread throughout the halls. On the one hand it makes it more difficult to see every competing product in one walk through an area. On the other hand, you see things you might not have sought out along the way to your next appointment, presenting opportunities for both buyers and sellers.
Perhaps you saw some of the Facebook live videos I did throughout the show. They are on our Facebook page and in the Eyecare Marketing Forum. We will share those videos here in the next week or so as well.
I tried to learn a bit more French, but of course, there is never enough time when you work the hours most of us do. It certainly didn’t matter at the show. In every booth, there was always one if not many people who spoke very good English and were more than happy to answer any question you might want to pose. Most of the booths were open and accessible to people wanting to look. Just like a Vision Expo, there were a few vendors who feel it necessary to hide everything behind walls or curtains so the buying public can’t see what they have to offer. Is there any other business you can think of where you can’t window shop? Where sellers don’t want buyers to see what they have to offer?
I had a similar experience walking around Paris looking in several optical shops. They didn’t want their shops photographed, even after I identified myself and this website. Even a major brand flagship store. Like they have something you or I’ve never seen. More on that soon as well.
SILMO, like MIDO is truly something I think every independent optical shop owner or manager should see for themselves. Perhaps you might buy a line or two your competitors don’t carry. Perhaps you can use the trip as a marketing tool to share with your customers the lengths you are willing to travel to bring them wonderful products. Perhaps you will do nothing more than wander the aisles of the show and be blown away by the visual presentations and displays of eyewear that can help you and your stores differentiate yourselves from the same old displays most US optical shops show off in their windows and inside their stores. A trip to SILMO or MIDO or another international optical show will fill you with wonder and new ideas to make your store or practice that much better.
The nice thing is, planning ahead, a trip to either show isn’t all that much more than a week in Las Vegas or New York City. I am not advocating skipping a Vision Expo, but adding a trip to SILMO or MIDO every couple of years will add a lot to how you can position your business and succeed as an independent optical shop.