With SILMO Paris Cancelled, What Is The Future Of Optical Trade Shows?

Silmo Paris, arguably the most important and prestigious trade show of the optical calendar, has just announced the cancellation of the 2020 show which was scheduled for early October.

Whatever industry you are in, the way that retailers buy their products has been changed.

How temporary is that change?

So far this year, all of the major optical shows have been cancelled since MIDO back in February and it is hard to see when the next exhibitions will take place.

Silmo cited the law in France which currently states that meetings of 5,000 or more people cannot take place inside a building but let’s be realistic, who really wants to travel on a plane or train right now? A show like Silmo, which includes the word ‘International’ in its title, expects a huge audience to visit from around the globe, buying air tickets well in advance, staying in hotels and eating in restaurants. Let’s not forget trade shows usually involve thousands of people in a room, handling and trying products, laughing, joking, sharing and, ooooooooooh, touching.

Most exhibitors design and organise their stands months ahead of the event so when will we feel safe, if ever, committing to tens of thousands of dollars for a trade show with the threat of global or even regional lockdowns hanging over us?

The next major trade shows in the optical calendar are Opti Munich in January and 100% Optical in January with MIDO already asking exhibitors to commit to February 2021. With most of the shows that were cancelled in 2020 so far refusing to return, in full, deposits and pre-payments that exhibitors paid upfront, it is a big ask to expect brands to commit to uncertain shows for early 2021……..so where does that leave us?

How do stores access new eyewear to excite their customers without trade shows?

Well, perhaps before that we should be asking whether the brands have got new product to offer. All Kirk & Kirk products are 100% Made In France from start to finish and our acrylic material is Italian, so our factories have been back in production since April but for those who rely on Chinese production, even for components of their frames, the future is less certain, especially with the current geopolitical climate.

In optical stores, footfall is limited to give themselves time to maintain hygiene levels, so every minute is precious and buyers are finding it difficult to make time for reps. Let’s face it, reps and buyers are also limiting their face to face contact with other humans too, so much of the interaction is happening after hours or on Zoom.

The optical calendar is up in the air. The way that we buy and the way that we sell has changed for the foreseeable future. What do you think will happen next?

Kirk & Kirk have changed our approach. We used to launch collections at the major trade shows but our new strategy is to release small amounts of new products on a more regular basis. September sees the launch of new colours and shapes in our key collections but the challenge will be getting those in front of our existing clients and, harder still, in front of new, potential clients.

We would love to know what you think about the future of trade shows and how retailers will buy for their stores, not just in optical. Please leave your comments or drop us an email.

Jason Kirk is the co-founder and CEO of Kirk & Kirk Eyewear.