I love attending optical trade shows. There is the camaraderie of getting together with friends and peers. There is the spectacular beauty of seeing the wonderful artistry of new designs and new colors eyewear designers create. Then there are the wonderful ways in which these products are displayed. Whether it is the lighting, the booth design, or just the excitement and enthusiasm of the people associated with the brand, you can feel the excitement in the air.
Every year as I plan my year and which trade show events to attend, I, and many of you, are faced with a scheduling conundrum, that is late September. Both Vision Expo West in Las Vegas and SILMO Paris seem to take place on the very same weekend about half the time. Last year they were separated by a week, so I was able to attend both, with two days at home to catch up on work, do laundry, repack, and jump back on an airplane for the second trade show in a week. This year and it appears in 2024 as well, Vision Expo West and SILMO Paris take place the same weekend. So, like many of us, I am faced with a choice… the Eiffel Tower on Las Vegas Boulevard or the Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars. Which would you pick?
SILMO Paris and Vision Expo West are two very different trade show events. While it is wonderful to catch up with so many friends and colleagues from across the country in Las Vegas, Vision Expo West is a smaller and more intimate event than Vision Expo East in New York. While the Suites in Las Vegas can be a wonderful showcase for luxury and independent brands, the Suites have shrunk from two floors of the Venetian Hotel to one since Covid, and even The Suites have become a home for some of the bigger multinational brands like De Rigo REM and Kerring.
SILMO Paris by contrast is one of the largest optical trade shows in the world, second only in size to MIDO in Milan held annually in February. SILMO Paris is roughly three times the size of Vision Expo West and there is a lot to see in the four days of the show. You read that right. SILMO Paris, unlike all of the other major optical trade shows, runs for four days. Yes, the fourth day, Monday, is always a slow day. However, the last day of every optical trade show is a slow day it seems. So, as a vendor would you prefer three good days or two?
This year SILMO Paris had a brand new configuration, trading Hall 5 for Hall 7. While equipment and the large multinational vendors were still placed in Hall 6 as previously, Hall 5 has been taken over by The Olympics, which will take place in Paris next summer from July 26 through August 11. That meant a whole new layout for the panoply of independent optical brands of eyewear shown from around the world. Just like Vision Expo East this past year, that meant you really needed to pay attention to where you were walking the aisles. No more half-looking up and half-looking at your mobile phone heading to your next appointment by hall memory. For both shows, you were able to see new vendors and new collections you might otherwise miss navigating by memory. I think all the optical shows and to be honest most optical shops can learn from this. Moving things around makes everyone take notice. 100% Optical in London has already indicated their layout will be reversed for the 10th Anniversary edition next year. Retail optical shops can and should do the same. Move your brands around, giving new life to your stores and displays by showcasing something different every year or so.
While there was not the breadth of breathtaking new designs, colors, or creations exhibited at the trade shows early in the year, there was plenty new to see at SILMO. From the Sekimoto embroidered frames from Lafont to a new digital lens from Morrow that creates a +.75 add bifocal at the touch of a button.
SILMO was, as it always is, an exciting way to start autumn. Perhaps it is that feeling of digging back to work after summer sun and fun. SILMO is an experience unlike any other. As nice a Vision Expo is or even can be, it pales in comparison to SILMO. The booths are bigger. The booths are more expressive, daring, and more creative. They are bright, they are even loud. While the majority of Vision Expo booth spaces are vanilla with the same conference color scheme, there is every flavor and every color at SILMO. There are far fewer restrictions on what and how you can build your booth space and it shows.
I say this every year, but do yourself a favor and consider making the trek to Paris for a SILMO at least once if not every once in a while. Planning ahead you will find a week in Paris really isn’t all that much more than a week in New York City or Las Vegas anymore. You will see new lines that will differentiate your shops from others in your city. You will see new ways to display your frame inventory as well. You will refresh your way of thinking and being in our remarkable optical business.
Join The Optical Journal next year, September 20-23, 2024 by visiting their website, silmoparis.com.