Another Vision Expo West is in the books. It was wonderful to see so many old friends and make so many new friends. I spend weeks getting ready for every Vision Expo and days recovering from it. There truly is so much to see and do I wish Expo was a day longer. I know a number of eyewear reps who would shoot me for making such a statement, but there is no possible way to see and do it all in just 3 days and I believe many a business is shortchanged from people having to make tough choices about who they can see and what they can do in such a short time period.
Count me in as one of the many who is tired of Las Vegas. For staters, it is at the wrong time of year. I don’t know what rocket scientist thought it was a good idea to gather in New York City at the end of winter and Las Vegas at the end of summer, but they should be drawn and quartered like an unlucky character in Game of Thrones. Imagine how much nicer visiting Las Vegas would be at the end of winter and New York City at the end of summer. A fellow can dream can’t he?
Nevertheless, I started the show upstairs in The Suites. I like the suites. I like the intimacy each suite provides every line and the control it gives every company to create their own environment. The Suites seemed busier than ever this year and other than one no show appeared to be pretty full. The one thing I dislike about their suites are the gatekeepers. A business spends tens of thousands of dollars to present their line to potential buyers only to have someone with a clipboard chase a potential account or 20 away with their newfound power of controlling who gets in and who doesn’t. I don’t get it. I would think a better use of this person’s time and energy would be inviting people in to look around and setting appointments for open slots instead of blocking the door and potentially blocking sales. Yes, the best-case scenario is for potential customers to set appointments ahead of time, but as every ECP knows, plenty of sales are made just by being in the right place at the right time. Maybe a few more manufacturers in The Suites should work a few more days in the retail stores they serve.
The show floor seemed a bit less crowded this year, following what seems several years of downward attendance. Traveling to and staying in Las Vegas is not as cheap as it used to be…then again what is? I stayed at Harrah’s this year and was quite disappointed with the room and the service, especially for as much as I paid. Crowds of people are not always buyers or students. Perhaps with prices going up for travel, ECPs are bringing smaller contingents of staff. Perhaps some are coming less often. I don’t know the numbers for people taking CE classes nor has The Vision Council released attendance numbers for the show overall. More than likely they will say attendance is up overall. With the show so spread out that could very well be, but the aisleways seemed less crowded again this year. However, in speaking with many companies, they were very happy with the business they were writing during the show and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters. Did you get the right buyers looking at your line? Did you get a good amount of orders? Did the show pay for itself? Great!
I was very encouraged by the openness of most of the booths. Again, the purpose of having a space on the trade show floor is to sell eyewear. Personally I think closed-off booths are a big mistake. Those booths that close themselves off from the buyers do themselves a disservice from being considered by many a practice or business wandering the aisleways looking at possible new lines to bring in. One major line’s booth had beautiful vertical displays hanging from a false ceiling in their booth with all their eyewear on display behind glass. While it makes for a visibly appealing presentation, buyers want to touch frames. They want to try them on. When a company makes their booth or their line unaccessible they hide themselves from potential buyers and potential sales. Can you image a successful eye care practice with no windows and a gatekeeper? I can’t either.
There were lots of great events at Vision Expo West 2019. I wish I could have made them all. For me, the best was the 10th Anniversary celebration of TC Charton eyewear on Saturday. It is terrific to see a small self-funded company not only break through the clutter and make it through their first few years but make an impact on people’s lives and businesses by providing a wonderful product and exceptional service throughout their first decade. Congratulations to Alexandra Peng and her staff of professionals and here’s to 10 more wonderful years.
What were your highlights or disappointments with Vision Expo West this year?