The Rise Of The Local Show


It seems we’re on the cusp of a new trend. There is a growing interest in local and regional eyewear shows. Some may ask why? After all, many thousands of ECPs just finished attending a record-breaking Vision Expo West in Las Vegas.

The answer is easy. While tens of thousands of people attend Vision Expo West in Las Vegas at the end of every summer and Vision Expo East in New York City at the end of every winter, there are exponentially more ECPs who don’t make an annual pilgrimage to either show. We’ve all seen conversations in online forums where longtime ECPS proudly proclaim they are attending their first Vision Expo. In the same thread, we read of people who say this next show will be their first in 5 or even 10 years.

While some will argue the merits of holding a Vision Expo in any particular city, you can’t argue that both New York City and Las Vegas are convenient and relatively easy cities to get to from almost anywhere. No one is arguing the volume of continuing education courses offered at either Vision Expo, nor the expanse of brand offerings in everything optical from around the world at either show.

Instead, most ECPs cite the overall costs of attending a Vision Expo as a deterrent for not attending regular shows. I would consider myself a somewhat frugal traveler. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever stayed in a 5-star hotel in my lifetime, and a few hands for 4-star hotels. Conversely, I almost always book a hotel or room within walking distance of a trade show to not have to waste time and money on transportation to and from every day. Even still, It easily costs me over $1000 to attend either Vision Expo East or West, and I feel compelled to attend both for my work every year. You can multiply that figure several times when any practice or business decides to bring several staff members to a show.

Enter the local show.

On Tuesday, October 9th, ECPs, and independent eyewear companies got together for the third After Party event of 2018, held at Idle Hour in Los Angeles. Two days later on October 11th, another group of ECPs and independent eyewear companies got together at DL Loft in Chicago for the first Mix+Mingle. Both events were considered very successful by both their hosts and those who attended.

I personally flew out to Los Angeles to see The After Party for myself and felt the event well worth the trip. Addie Bogart  (Feb 31st, Oyobox, nine eyewear, Article One) and Brett Cates (Garrett Leight, Mr. Leight)  brought together 24 sales representatives, showcasing 42 brands of eyewear at a legendary L.A bar. Well over 100 ECPs attended the event which went late into the night. The event was highlighted by an appearance of legendary eyewear model,  Amy Roiland (@fashionnerd). This is the 3rd After Party Brett Cates and Addie Bogart has organized together, the first two being Portland and Sacramento, earlier this year.

Two thousand miles to the east and two days later was the first Mix+Mingle. I was unable to attend Mix+Mingle, but by all accounts, this too was a wonderful freshman event with a dozen high-end eyewear brands showcasing their lines, along with a guest appearance of celebrity chef CJ Jacobsen, owner of two of Chicago’s hottest restaurants, Aba and Ema. Mix+Mingle had upwards of 100 ECPs join them at DL Loft on Chicago’s North Side. The show was organized by Jill Onalla (Orgreen, Oliver Goldsmith) Nick Ray  (Orgreen, Oliver Goldsmith), and Nik Cummens (Dita). Here too, a number of ECPs were able to see and compare independent eyewear lines without any real travel expense.

Vision Expo has done a wonderful job creating two huge shows every year that we sometimes forget there are a number of regional shows that still attract many ECPs throughout the year. From Great West Council of Optometry to Eye West Eye Conference to SECO International, to American Academy of Ophthalmology, there are a number of regional shows certainly worth checking out. Then there are the traveling conferences such as those put on by The American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Optometry as well.

The After Party and Mix+Mingle, however, are the first local eyewear shows we know of who are solely focused on higher-end eyewear lines. Both of these eyewear events are able to showcase a number of independent brands in one venue with a fun, festive atmosphere of collegiality, giving ECPs an opportunity to see lines they would probably never see without visiting a Vision Expo and network with their local optical peers as well. No doubt we will see more of these shows in more cities over the coming months and years, giving independent optical stores the ability to see and compare new lines without the cost of a plane ticket and hotel room.

We look forward to sharing these events with you as we learn about them. If you know of similar local or regional optical events, please feel free to let us know by using our Contact Us form. What do you think of these shows? Would you attend if they were held in your city?




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