A completely 'revolutionised' Optrafair opened its doors on Saturday 1 April. FMO's Chair, Andy Yorke, and Chief Executive, Bryony Pawinska, cut the ribbon to open the show, and there were long queues waiting for the doors to open on Sunday.
7,122 visitors came from all over the UK to participate in an exceptional range of education provision, from CET for registrants, to business sessions for practice staff, as well as an unprecedented level of on-stand CET.
Exhibitors covered the whole spectrum of optical manufacturing, distribution and supply, including all of the latest equipment and instruments, lenses and contact lenses, glazing and finishing labs, and providers of business services for optical practices.
The show has been running since 1978, owned by FMO, the trade body for the optical industry, and managed since 2016 by Mark Allen Exhibitions. This year's show saw a buzzing bar celebrating FMO's centenary, and plenty of new features including trend forecasting, window dressing, a boutique frames area, and a business theatre.
An incredible 76 per cent of exhibitors have already rebooked for next year's show. Said Bryony Pawinska “this was the first Optrafair show for which Mark Allen Exhibitions had a full year's planning cycle, having taken on the event management mid-way through planning for the 2016 show, and I am delighted at the vibrancy of the new show format. The centenary bar area worked particularly well as a busy central focus and comments from exhibitors and visitors alike have been overwhelmingly positive, with huge loyalty to Optrafair as the sector's own show and praise for the professionalism of the Mark Allen team. The exceptional rebooking numbers reflect exhibitors' satisfaction with the revolutionised Optrafair."
The show also marked the retirement of 'Mr Optrafair' himself, former FMO Chair and CEO Malcolm Polley, who has provided invaluable advice to the FMO and Mark Allen planning team and the occasion was marked with a special cake presented to Malcolm at the centenary bar on Saturday. FMO Director Barry Dibble and Andy Yorke both paid tribute to Malcolm's skill at developing Optrafair over the years and to his passion for showcasing all that is best in the UK optical industry.
Andy Yorke, Chair of FMO, enthusiastically supports this collaboration: “This is a great strategic alliance. Opti is one of the fastest growing eyewear shows in Europe and Optrafair showcases the best of the UK’s manufacturing, distribution and supply of ophthalmic optical products and equipment. This partnership will benefit both shows.”
David Owen, MD of Pattern Ltd, Opti’s UK & Ireland agents, said at Monday’s launch. “GHM is an exhibition organiser for trade associations for their selected industries and sees great synergies with Optrafair because of its ownership by FMO. Opti is particularly interested in the technical prowess of opticians in the UK market and see this co-operation as very beneficial.”
Wasim Hamid, Sales Manager, Mark Allen Exhibitions
Bryony Pawinska, Chief Executive, FMO
Andy Yorke, Chair, FMO
David Owen, MD, Pattern
Ed Wyre, Events Director, Mark Allen Exhibitions
Following the decision to rotate the Chair amongst its members, following Chris Hunt’s retirement in October 2016, at its meeting on 21 March, the Optical Confederation (OC) Leaders’ Group – the governing partnership of the Confederation – unanimously asked Lynda Oliver to continue in the role of Optical Confederation Chair until October 2017. Lynda Oliver said: “This is a great honour and I am delighted to take on this role with the support of my Optical Confederation colleagues. We are making good progress on the big strategic issues which will help all our members more than any of us could do alone.”
The chair is to rotate annually between the five OC members, so Lynda will be succeeded from October 2017 to October 2018 by Fiona Anderson, President of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO).
At their meeting, the Leaders’ Group also considered collective strategic approaches to a variety of issues, including the General Optical Council’s (GOC) review of the education and training, the Government’s anticipated green paper on reform of the UK health regulators, which will include the GOC, and the issue of low General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) fees and grants. They also agreed an Optical Confederation public affairs strategy for the coming political session.
On 8 March at Conference Aston, Birmingham, FMO launched its new three year strategic plan following a period of consultation with its members. The plan is attached below. The plan is focused on five key goals including making Optrafair the “go to” optical event in the UK.
Welcoming members to the meeting, Chair Andy Yorke updated members on Optrafair 2017 to be held at the NEC on 1-3 April. Said Andy “This promises to be one of our best shows yet with record numbers of pre-registrations and lots of new features. Since taking over as Chair I have been attending the regular bi-lateral meetings between MAG and FMO representatives – it is at these meetings that major decisions are made jointly. Our contract with MAG is a partnership, where the profits from the show are equally divided, and FMO brings expert knowledge of our sector to the table to complement MAG‟s event management expertise. During the past year many important aspects of the show have been reviewed so that Optrafair is not just an annual event, but a year round, value added programme.”
FMO members from all parts of the sector joined Focus Group meetings held in parallel to discuss priorities for this year‟s Business Plan for equipment, frames and lenses. The Equipment Focus Group members are developing a programme of accredited training for all practice staff, and the Lens Focus Group members are bringing together stakeholders to address steps we could take to reduce the proportion of varifocal returned due to wearer non tolerance. They also developed support we could deliver with the ABDO joint initiative for lab visits for 2nd year dispensing students, and the Group also discussed the issue of over the counter adjustable spectacles. The Frames Focus Group members discussed what support FMO can provide for companies which have to undergo rigorous auditing procedures.
The well received keynote speaker was Paul York, Senior Account Manager at GfK Optics, speaking on the potential impact of Brexit on the optical industry. Although conceding that there is nothing to compare the current situation with, and with so many unknowns it is impossible to be conclusive about any impact, Paul looked at statistics for sales volumes and average spends before and after the financial crash in 2007/8 and the recovery periods and answered questions from members.
The next general meeting will be held on 18 October.
*To view a copy of Paul York's presentation 'Potential Impact of Brexit on the GB Optical Market' please log in to the members' area. The PDF may be downloaded from the General Documents section.
Paul is an experienced market researcher who has been analysing the GB and Ireland optical markets at GfK over the past 6 years. He will be speaking to FMO Members on 8th March about the impact of Brexit on the GB Optical Market.
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With an estimated 2,900 road casualties caused by poor vision every year the optical community nationwide is being urged to support the campaign.
Practitioners and manufacturers across the sector can support by displaying the poster in their practices ahead of the awareness week – which takes place 21 – 27 November 2016 – and by sharing digital content throughout the week.
The OC and Brake poster, which couples sight test with the common driving instruction ‘Mirror, signal, manoeuvre’, highlights that good eyesight is a vital part of driving and safety on the road.
Road Safety Week is the UK's biggest road safety event, coordinated annually by Brake and involving thousands of schools, organisations and communities each year. Activities throughout the week include workshops and demonstrations on road safety as well as community events. This year's theme is ‘Make the Brake Pledge’ focusing on six simple elements to make our roads safer – with sharp vision as one of the vital checks for drivers.
FMO Chief Executive Bryony Pawinska, paid tribute to Mark Truss, who has chaired the FMO Board for the past year, steering it through a period of considerable change, and welcomed Andy Yorke. ‘Andy brings a wealth of experience of FMO and of the optical sector from over 35 years in the UK ophthalmic industry and optical profession and I am looking forward to working with him as FMO delivers its new strategic plan.’
Andy is a Past President of the BCLA, and a past Chairman of the former Ophthalmic Equipment Manufacture Suppliers Association (OEMSA).
FMO Chief Executive Bryony Pawinska explained the process of setting out a vision, mission, values and the overarching strategic aim for FMO, and members in FMO’s Focus Groups for frames, lenses and equipment discussed the draft strategic objectives for the next three years.
Equipment Focus Group Chairman, Stuart Burn, described the meeting as ‘excellent, one of the best the Group has had’ and took the opportunity to feed back to a plenary session on a range of innovative initiatives for FMO to establish over the coming months and years to both build its membership and engage meaningfully with its members’ customers in optical practices.
Mrs Pawinska explained that the consultation process with members will continue for another month and the final plan will be signed off by the Board in November and presented to the AGM in December. The Plan is ambitious and has far reaching consequences for FMO, which is committed to bringing the words in the plan to life and helping their members’ customers to understand what the future of optics looks like.
The keynote speaker was Richard Edwards from the Optical Consumer Complaints Service. This is a service which is funded by the General Optical Council to mediate between parties when customers have a consumer complaint, many of which relate to varifocal ‘intolerance’. It was clear that there is a great deal that FMO can do to help to raise standards in varifocal dispensing, and the Lens Group will work with OCCS on a programme of training for its members as to what dispensers must do to ensure that varifocal lenses do the job they are supposed to do.
The AGM will be held on 2 December at the Amba Hotel, Charing Cross, London, followed by a Christmas Luncheon for FMO members and their guests, and the leaders of the optical bodies.
A group of experienced professionals, the panel collaborates with BSI and its international counterparts to assess and promote essential optical standards. Such standards play a vital role in ensuring consistency and high quality across the optical sector and help organisations improve performance through innovation, reduced risk and best practice.
Looking forward to his new role, Andy Sanders states “I am delighted and honoured to accept this position and will endeavour to ensure that the excellent work carried out by the panel is in the best interests of the Optical Industry as a whole.”
Two members of the Panel will be representing FMO at the upcoming ISO meetings to be held in Sydney, Australia, from 24-27 October 2016. The next meeting of the FMO Standards Panel will take place in November 2016 at the FMO Offices in London.
We wish Andy all the best in his new role.
The FMO was delighted to host the EUROM1 General Assembly at its offices in Paddington, London on Thursday 23 June. Eurom is a body which represents the interests of manufacturers from eleven EU member states in the European optical, precision and mechanical industries, with EUROM1 being the Committee which specialises in the optical industry. Ironically, while the vote on the EU Referendum in Great Britain was taking place on the same day, hugely important optical bodies from represented EU states – including Great Britain - met to consider a range of comprehensive and constructive issues which incorporated discussions on European Markets, optical manufacturing priorities and technical and regulatory matters.
Jean Felix Biosse Duplan, Vice President of EUROM1 said “We were delighted with the meeting hosted by our UK member, the FMO, in London. EUROM1 members come from 7 countries and account for more than 80% of the manufacturers in Europe, so we were very pleased that we were able to be joined by David Hewlett, Chair of the European Coalition for Vision, and Paul Folkesson and Peter Gumpelmeyer of the European Council of Optometry and Optics, to discuss how we can all work together in the best interests of eye health, the professions and our industry.”
Ann Blackmore, speaking on behalf of the FMO, said “It was a great honour to host the 2016 General Assembly for EUROM1, which brings together leading players from European and indeed global optical manufacturers. The meeting provided a valuable opportunity to share information and views on the regulatory environment, how the optical market is emerging from the 2008 recession and the social and technological challenges the industry will face.”
Following a successful round table discussion, the meeting concluded with the next General Assembly due to take place in Greece in 2017. However, EUROM1 representatives will continue to meet regularly and help shape and continually improve the optical industry throughout Europe.
Said FMO Chief Executive Bryony Pawinska 'we have been very impressed with the fresh approach that MAG have brought to Optrafair, and want to build on our successful relationship not just next year, but in the years ahead when we believe that the sector's own trade show will go from strength to strength.'
The decision was made at FMO's Board meeting held on 4 May at the offices of FMO member Heidelberg Engineering in Hemel Hempstead, chaired by Vice Chairman Andy Yorke. Said Andy 'this was not a difficult decision to make in the light of the really excellent pre-show sales that MAG have already secured for Optrafair 2017. As an exhibitor as well as a Director of FMO, I see this commitment as a real advantage for the whole sector.'
MAG's Chief Executive, Ben Allen, emphasised his company's commitment to the FMO and Optrafair: 'MAG's Exhibitions Division, headed by Ed Tranter, works internationally on many trade fairs in a wide range of industry sectors, but Optrafair is a very special event, with FMO's members and other stakeholders passionate about a very British show that is run by the sector, for the sector. We share that passion and are proud to have our association with FMO consolidated for the next four years, which will enable us to work with FMO on their plans for 2018 and 2019, leading to a sector-wide event to celebrate the turn of the decade in 2020.'