An Interview with Barbara Piper, New Essilor President


Barbara Piper

In September 2017, Barbara Piper was named the new president of Essilor Canada. Piper has spent more than 18 years with the company, most recently as vice president, key accounts strategies & solutions for Essilor of America.

Martine Breton, publisher of Envision: seeing beyond magazine, recently met with Piper to discuss the company’s role in the community and its plans for the future.

MB: What are your main goals with respect to growing Essilor?

BP: My first goal, given the challenges we face, is to refocus ourselves and the company on our customers and their needs. It’s crucial that we regain the trust of some of our customers. We can do this and show leadership through quality, service and innovation in our products. It’s critical that we be the valued partners they expect us to be.

MB: Does Essilor have any plans to make acquisitions in the near future?

BP: With respect to Essilor Canada, I’m focused first on improving our internal processes and activities and refocusing on our customers and their needs. That’s where we have a role to play as leaders in the Canadian market.

MB: How do you foresee the Canadian vision market evolving in the next five years?

BP: It’s rapidly changing and transforming and Essilor’s role is to help our customer partners navigate these changes. We’re seeing new channels, delivery methods, product types, consumer purchasing behaviours and lifestyles.

One example is digital: 72 per cent of consumers aged 18-39 use three devices a day. This may damage their vision, so how do we address that? As an industry, we must look at how to create awareness of the issues, including more discussion about blue light protection and the need for UV protection all year long.

MB: What is your greatest aspiration for the world of vision?

BP: I’m very passionate about our industry and I’ve seen first-hand what we can do when we come together as an industry to solve vision problems.

Many people seem more concerned about the health of their smiles than their eyes. That’s not right. The comprehensive eye exam is an amazing tool as part of primary care but it’s under-utilized.

I don’t think enough people understand the important role of eye health in our daily lives and in the education of children. Eighty per cent of what a child learns before the age of 12 comes through their eyes. And 86 per cent of Canadian kids have not even had a comprehensive eye exam before age 6.

MB: How does Essilor plan to become involved socially to help improve eye health for Canadians?

BP: We spend over $1.2 million annually in communities across the country. In 2017, we conducted over 25,000 vision screenings. At our national sales meeting in January, our entire team took half a day to visit schools and, with the help of the Eye Disease Foundation, conducted close to 400 screenings. Forty-seven per cent of the kids we saw needed an eye exam of whom 15 per cent were emergency referrals. There’s a lot to do to help Canadians see and live better and we’re always looking for ways to do more in the community.

MB: Does Essilor have any plans for other community programs in Canada that you can share?

BP: I’m working with the Essilor Vision Foundation to see if we can elevate it and perhaps refocus our efforts in Canada. We have plans that we’re not ready to announce yet but there are things in the works that I think everyone will be very excited about. Stay tuned.

MB: Finally, how do you see Essilor’s positioning as an eyecare supplier in the optical industry five years from now?

BP: I don’t see us as an eyecare supplier. I really see us as a key industry partner. If you think about it, we don’t just provide products to our partners, we build innovative solutions by leveraging our assets. It’s much more than products. Of course, it’s innovation but it’s also services, awareness, marketing, community outreach – there are a lot of pieces that we’re bringing together with the goal of growing and helping our customers create value.

Our industry is transforming rapidly. Market dynamics and consumers are changing the way they look at eyewear and eye care. That transformation can be perceived as a challenge. I would like to reframe it so we see challenges as opportunities. How can we, as an industry, adapt and make the most of these opportunities? As a key partner in the industry, Essilor is here to help our partners harness those changes, grow with them and help them to transform themselves.

In the end we all want to help Canadians see better. I think we can work together to figure out the best way to harness change. It’s our responsibility as a leader to make sure we have a healthy, thriving and sustainable industry in Canada.

Interview by Martine Breton, Transcript by JoAnne Sommers

The Italian Scene: An Interview with Giovanni Vitaloni

MIDO 2017 - Milano Eyewear Show

Last summer, Giovanni Vitaloni became president of Associazione Nazionale Fabbricanti Articoli Ottici (ANFAO). This association of manufacturers from the Italian eyewear industry, founded in 1954, brings together over 100 member companies from across the industry via various political and promotional activities, including MIDO, a world-leading annual trade show (of which he is also President).

Vitaloni hails from a family of Turin automotive industrialists and is the founder and director of the eyewear manufacturer Nico Design. With over 30 years’ experience in the eyewear industry, Vitaloni is a keen strategist and enthusiastic promoter of the Made in Italy brand, as you will see in this interview. As background, the Italian optical industry exports over 85 per cent of its production, and employs over 17,000 people nationally with earnings of over 3.5 million euros (as of 2015).

ENVISION: With so much vertical integration in the industry, are there still opportunities for optical industry start-ups in Italy?

VITALONI: On an international level, the sector is very buoyant and dynamic, and in Italy there are many new companies arriving on the market. This phenomenon is reflected in the sector’s most important fair, MIDO, which for many years has dedicated an area to start-ups from Italy and around the world via The Lab Academy. ANFAO supports growth in the sector and the old generation is giving way to the new through the creation of new groups within the association, which act as incubators for innovation and stimulate the association’s growth.

ENVISION: Overall, how is the Italian eyewear sector doing?

VITALONI: Italy is the global leader in the high-end segment. In the first half of 2017, we experienced 3.2 per cent growth in exports for sunglasses and 4.3 per cent growth for prescription frames. After about 10 years of work, there are now dozens of new Italian optical companies, with the majority manufacturing in Italy and exporting internationally.

The vast majority of Italian producers are small- to- medium-sized enterprises (SME), who handcraft their products, with particular attention to quality. Indeed, almost all Italian companies share a long tradition of excellence in the conception, creation and sale of products rich in originality and innovation, and it is on these factors that they base their business proposition. In Italy, today, our growth in SMEs rivals France and Scandinavia.

ENVISION: How has ANFAO furthered its relationship with the world of fashion?

VITALONI: We are part of an association, Confindustria Moda, which brings together other manufacturing associations in the world of fashion, in sectors such as leather goods and accessories, footwear and jewellery. This federation represents 67,000 Made in Italy companies that generate more than 88 billion euros annually. Confindustria Moda offers legal services, industrial relations management and research from its offices in Milan.


VITALONI: DaTE is an event, organized by MIDO, which blends experimentation, innovation, and luxury, and is dedicated to Italian opticians and buyers in the optics sector. At the latest event, which was held in September in Florence, there were roughly 3,500 buyers and professionals (a 40 per cent increase from last year), who came to see a preview of creations from 136 selected companies, of which more than 50 per cent were from outside Italy.

ENVISION: MIDO is already a leading optical trade show. How can it be better?

VITALONI: We focus as much as possible on the needs of exhibitors and visitors who are by nature, and rightly so in these times of rapid change, continually evolving. At MIDO 2018, we will put the spotlight on fostering innovation. You will find a spectacular emphasis on new technologies, which allow for innovation throughout the industry, in the MIDO Tech section. We create an environment that offers an immersive experience for visitors and the entire world of eyewear. MIDO’s success also comes from its ability to represent big companies, while also showcasing all market niches, which are of increasing interest for independent opticians.

By Paddy Kamen

Portrait of a Designer The Phoenix Rises: Philippe Vergez Comes into His Own

Philippe Vergez

Philippe Vergez

Continually reinventing himself, Philippe Vergez is a relentless perfectionist and world-class designer with a new(ish) brand— Philippe V —that truly reflects his values.

Swords connote power and competition, athleticism and precision. Philippe Vergez fashioned his first sword out of wood at age four, and those themes have stayed a vital part of his psychologicalmake up ever since. Vergez grew up in a creative family in south-west France. A solitary boy, he loved the worlds of fantasy and magic, animals, the ocean and making things.

As it turned out, he also had a gift for mathematics. “I was good at it and got a university degree but I didn’t have a passion for it,” he says. His passions at that time were surfing and travel, so he made his first surfboard, travelled the world and later got a job as a sales administrator for Quiksilver in Biarritz. Within three years he was a sales director, but the job wasn’t using his full potential.

The eyewear industry came calling in 1988, when Vergez started working for Oakley’s marketing department for Europe. That’s when he met Greg Arnette and the two went on to set-up the iconic brand Arnette. While gaining experience in branding and marketing for several leading companies, Vergez took a stealth approach to learning the intricacies of frame design. “I am very curious and good with my hands so I started drawing concepts and making prototypes. Luxottica was the first to bring a couple of my creations to life.”

mod: WN9

mod: WN9

Leonardo Del Vecchio, founder and chairman of Luxottica Group, made a big impression on Vergez. “I was in his office one day and he had an emotionally affecting painting of orphans behind his desk. He was an orphan himself, and I was very impressed with what he had achieved as a self-mademan, and noticed his hands-on involvement with every aspect of the company. He told me, ‘Marketing does not make a product,product makes the marketing.’ At the time, I thought it was not only wrong, but stupid. Now I understand what he meant”. Vergez did not stay long at Luxottica because of his refusal to be tamed by corporate culture.

Hard times came knocking when investors in Jee Vice, the highly successful eyewear brand started by Vergez in 2004, decided that he was dispensable. “It was upsetting; I have seen financial greed edge out creativity on more than one occasion. But I moved to Hong Kong and regrouped. I wanted to create a situation where that could not happen again, build a business that married my experience andideals. I joined forces with my childhood friend, Thierry Halbroth, a creative director from the advertising industry, and we started shaping the story of our brand to reflect our values. Philippe V (pronounced “Philip Vee”) is what we are and we laid a deep groundwork before finally launching in 2016.”

mod: N5

mod: N5

Vergez employs his competitive nature and mathematical acumen in the development of frames that excel from every angle. “My math and geometry skills help me see in four dimensions as I envision frames. I studied morphology to ensure my designs adapt to the face and are super comfortable. The fourth dimension is the way the frame enhances beauty and the inner sense of being. When I translate those values into design and the wearer says, ‘oh, wow’, I feel amazingly satisfied.”

By Paddy Kamen

Silmo: A Story of Innovation

By Paddy Kamen

Philippe LafontSilmo President Philippe Lafont took time to speak with Envision: seeing beyond magazine about the upcoming show and how his team is responding to new ways of doing business. Here is our interview: 

ESB: What changes have you made for 2014 and how will they improve the experience of exhibitors and visitors?

Philippe Lafont: Every year, we make adjustments to the exhibition, some of them minor but others more substantial and highly visible. Our goal is to respond to market changes and meet both exhibitors’ and visitors’ expectations. Our thinking, for this and for future editions, is to simplify the visitor pathway, the “customer experience” by reconfiguring the exhibition’s offering using a more refined segmentation. We believe there is a need to showcase dynamic growth sectors such as sport, luxury goods and new technologies. This segmentation is also a major commercial strategy for exhibitors seeking greater visibility, a guaranteed means of meeting the buyers and opticians attending the four-day exhibition.

ESB: The optical trade show world is becoming more competitive at the same time as the economic realities are sobering. What is Silmo doing this year to improve its competitive edge with exhibitors and visitors? In what ways is Silmo ahead of the competition?

PL: It is true that in a still uncertain economic climate, companies are seeking to optimise, or even reduce their investment in trade shows. We need to integrate this into our own sales strategy by offering solutions tailored to this specific context. For example, companies may not necessarily wish to exhibit at an individual booth, but rather in a showroom setting. Our role is to be open and creative, which will enable us to provide the most wide-ranging and comprehensive offering possible within a flexible exhibition package. Our competitive advantages lie in a desire not to set the event in stone, but rather to shape its development by prioritizing innovation… and above all by remembering that we are much more than just a commercial exhibition rolled out once a year; we are also a forum for debate, knowledge, discovery and promotion of the optics and eyewear sector throughout the entire year.

ESB: Would you agree that the role of the trade show is being rapidly redefined by changes in communications technology? If so, how does Silmo respond to that?

PL: Several years ago, people were talking of the decline or even demise of the trade fair format, but in fact the very opposite has happened – there have never been so many events taking place across the world! The virtual world has crossed over into the real world, placing people at the heart of the agenda. The opening up of new markets globally cannot be achieved from a distance; it relies on meeting stakeholders in person. The more the business environment expands, the greater the need to maximize its presence across every continent. As far as Silmo is concerned, it has long been an active member of the digital community, with a vocal presence in every social media outlet, an interactive website packed with information, and a digital trends magazine (Mo by Silmo).

ESB: The 2014 edition of Silmo – from September 26 to 29, 2014 – in Paris, promises to be a stimulating and educational forum for everyone in the optical industry. 

Marcolin: The Global Eyewear Company


Envision: seeing beyond magazine Publisher Martine Breton met with Giovanni Zoppas, CEO of Marcolin Group, in March 2014 at Vision Expo East in New York City. Here is the record of their conversation.

Martine Breton: First of all, please accept our condolences on the passing of your founder, Giovanni Marcolin, last year. What he accomplished in business is quite astounding and I’m sure he will be missed.

Giovanni Zoppas: Thank you very much. The company is strongly committed to the heritage passed on by Mr. Marcolin: a world of craftsmanship and passion.

M.B: How would you describe the culture of your company?

G.Z.: With the same words: craftsmanship and passion! Even today, when we have enlarged our scale with the acquisition of Viva – which has to do with the diffusion of brands and product – we are confident that we’ll be able to give some extra flavour to our collections on the basis of our recognized ability to develop the DNA of brands.

M.B: Certainly Marcolin is one of great success stories in the global eyewear industry. Your reach is extensive. What can you say about your goals for distribution: will we be seeing more direct showrooms in the world’s capitals? Does the company want the Marcolin name to gain more prominence with the public?

G.Z.: We will remain a wholesaler, first of all. Then, for sure we will be more directly present in some key areas of the world: the Middle East, Eastern Europe and China are our targets. We already have a commercial office and showroom in Hong Kong.

M.B: Marcolin has a rich and varied brand portfolio. What can you say about the reach of luxury brands versus mid-level brands around the world? Are you seeing any interesting global shifts with respect to which brands appeal to different demographics?

G.Z.: The brand mix doesn’t have to do with any shift; our varied portfolio is coming from the necessity that a truly global company, which we are today, has to give the market a complete variety of brands and styles and leverage them on a broad scale.

M.B: The number and variety of famous name brands you represent is second to none. What do your recent acquisitions, Agnona and Ermenegildo Zegna, bring to the fold?

G.Z.: This is another step on the way to having a strong and balanced portfolio of brands; Agnona, new to the eyewear category, and Zegna, a worldwide, super-famous brand in the Far Eastern countries, give us the opportunity to better cover all segments – both male and female – and the geography of the market.

M.B: What does the acquisition of Viva International mean for Marcolin?

G.Z.: It means enlarging the presence of the U.S. market in our portfolio, balancing the sun and ophthalmic offerings for our customers and relying on two consistent pillars like Tom Ford and Guess.

M.B: I understand that Marcolin has a preference for manufacturing eyewear in Italy. What percentage of your eyewear products are made in Italy? Are consumers willing to pay extra for the Made in Italy stamp?

G.Z.: ‘Made in Italy’ is still a recognized element of distinction and differentiation; all our luxury brands will remain Made in Italy by Marcolin – a name and a guarantee.

In Conversation with Cirillo Marcolin

By Paddy Kamen

interviewAt the recent Silmo show in Paris, Envision: seeing beyond  magazine publisher Martine Breton met with Cirillo Marcolin, president of the Italian optical industry association (ANFAO) and the MIDO trade show, to discuss Italy’s eyewear industry and the future of MIDO. Here is the text of that conversation:

MB: There has been tremendous turmoil in the European Union recently and Italy is among the countries experiencing significant economic difficulty. How is this affecting the Italian eyewear industry?

CM: Italy is experiencing a very difficult situation but it’s not as bad as it might be for (eyewear) manufacturers. These companies export more than 90 per cent of their production and, in the first six months of 2013, Italian (eyewear) exports increased by more than five per cent. So, despite the recession, their situation is better than (that of) other Italian industries.

MB: What motivates you to get up every morning and go to work on behalf of Italy’s eyewear industry and MIDO?

CM: At the end of June, I was re-elected president of ANFAO and MIDO for another four years. My colleagues and I are working together to give the market what it wants. We must show that we can do more for ANFAO on one side and for MIDO on the other. MIDO is still the world’s most important eyewear show but we need to offer something new every year. That is what motivates me.

MB: MIDO 2013 was a great success, with an increase in visitors and exhibitors. What were the keys to that success?

CM: We set up a train that brought opticians from central Italy to the show. It was a great success, with almost 600 opticians, representing almost eight per cent of Italy’s opticians, in attendance. Next year, with the MIDO train continuing, we think we can attract even more opticians, despite the recession in Italy.

MB: Will MIDO participate in Milan’s Design Week again in 2014?

CM: Yes. Two-thirds of MIDO’s participants come from outside Italy and we need to offer them something new. The idea with Out of MIDO was for companies to sell directly to consumers. That’s why it was good to participate in Design Week last April. In 2014, the format for Out of MIDO will be nothing like MIDO. It will be more in line with Design Week, with more creativity and innovation.

MB: Is there anything else planned for Mido 2014 that you’d like to share with our readers?

CM: Our job is to look ahead three to four years. We want to work more closely with the city of Milan, which is a world fashion leader. We can showcase shoes, bags, etc., along with eyeglass frames and sunglasses. It may not happen next year but Expo Milano is taking place in 2015, and that will create lots of opportunities.

MB: Thank you for this.

CM: My pleasure.

MIDO Meets Envision: A Story of Leadership

By Paddy Kamen

While attending Silmo 2012 in October, Envision: seeing beyond  magazine publisher Martine Breton met with Cirillo Marcolin, president of MIDO and ANFAO (the Italian Association of Optical Goods Manufacturers).  Mr. Marcolin graciously answered the magazine’s questions:

E:SB: Can you tell us about your experience of joint presidency of MIDO and ANFAO?

CM: I first held those joint positions from July 2003. I was young at the time and I dedicated a lot of time to doing my best for the association and the industry. Then I decided to let others take more responsibility, while I still remained active in the industry.

But last year I was again asked to take on both roles. The combination of the two offices is part of a strategic plan aimed at creating greater synergy in the sector.

E:SB: How does an optical trade show keep satisfying exhibitors and attendees in this period of economic downturn?

CM: In the last three to four years, we’ve seen quite a difficult situation for the various shows around the world. Companies who exhibit need results or they will cut their participation. So we have to satisfy them and follow the market. We achieved this by moving the location of the show several years ago and have since added new services and events. We’re now working hard to prepare our next show for March 2013.

E:SB:  What are three key strengths of MIDO?

CM: 1. Italian companies are the most important players in the global eyewear industry.

2.Italyis the hub of fashion and MIDO is strengthened by being a part of the fashion trends.

3. MIDO presents not only eyewear collections but also cases, accessories, machinery and lenses. In this way, we satisfy all visitors to the show and differentiate ourselves.

E:SB:  Why should North Americans travel to MIDO in March 2013?

CM: While North Americans have excellent trade shows, MIDO is more international. We have over 1,000 exhibitors, two-thirds of whom are not fromItaly.Canada is an important market for us, and ANFAO has been bringing our leading companies toCanada to show their products. We want more Canadians to come to MIDO, where they can see the best of Italian eyewear and optical technology as well as that of many other countries.

E:SB:  Are the Italians and the French at war in the optical trade show community? If so, who is winning at the moment?

CM: Every show is doing its best to meet the needs of the market. The story is that MIDO is leading and hopefully we can keep improving. There is a lot of mutual respect. The market is global and we are not working against others.

Software to Make Your Practice Sing: Ocuco is Customized for Canada

By Paddy Kamen

Dermot Walsh is vice-president of sales for Ocuco in North America. He took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for Envision: seeing beyond magazine.

E:SB: Ocuco is new to Canada. What kind of track record does Ocuco have in the ophthalmic retail software industry?

DW: Ocuco is the only ophthalmic retail software company with a global reach. In fact, our software is used in more than 5,000 sites across 36 countries, including the U.K., Italy, France, Spain and Australia.

Ocuco has 17 years of solid growth under its belt, with over 100 employees, including 40 developers.

E:SB: Is this internationally successful product really applicable to the Canadian market?

DW: The company has invested over $20 million in research and development over the last few years with a focus on localizations. Our Patient Relationship Management software, Acuitas, is currently being rolled out in many regions across Canada and will soon cover all health insurance and fiscal rules.

E:SB: Which category of eyecare professionals (ECP) is your solution designed for?

DW: Acuitas serves independent ECPs as well as multi-branch businesses with two or more practices. Our lab management software, Innovations, is a strong brand in retail workshops and large labs. The integration of Acuitas and Innovations allows one system to complete the full patient journey.

E:SB: In 50 words or less, what does Acuitas accomplish in the professional eyecare practice?

DW: ECPs with Acuitas will see increased sales, a better-organized practice, and will have a greater understanding of all aspects of their business. Acuitas is the first paperless practice management system with a focus on integration and gathering information in one system for enhanced patient care and empowering the ECP.

E:SB: What aspects of Acuitas are most helpful to opticians in terms of keeping the dispensary running smoothly?

DW: Opticians can seamlessly manage the entire patient journey, from marketing and appointment booking, through to exam, dispensing, order collection, recall and ecommerce. Acuitas offers many ‘administration savers’, such as two-way SMS communication with patients and electronic submission and reconciliation of insurance claims.

E:SB: What are the most impressive gains for optometrists when they use Acuitas?

DW: Acuitas allows the optometrist to focus on the patient because all the information is at the practitioner’s fingertips immediately through interfaces with optical equipment, including the Rx, the diagnostics, previous lens and frame selections, and stock availability. Time saved can be better spent with the patient.

E:SB: What business development tools does Acuitas offer Canadian ECPs that they didn’t have before?

DW: Business Intelligence reports are a key feature of the system and essential to the survival of any business. These include revenues, exam outcomes, sales figures, stock availability, sales and brand performances, recall trends and ROI. With 65 reports in Acuitas, there’s no more guessing about how your business is performing.

Implementing a system that follows the patient through the practice means that there is an uninterrupted flow of information when a patient goes from one part of that journey to the next. For example, patients who do not require eyewear to be dispensed can have their exam bill created in the consulting room. Charges for specific exams or imaging are also easily applied to a patient’s account without the need for a verbal handover.

E:SB: Is Acuitas easy to learn and to use? What kind of support does Ocuco offer?

DW: Acuitas is highly configurable; the software adapts to the way you run your business, rather than the other way around. In a live test before a major buying group, a complete novice learned Acuitas in 15 minutes and then easily demonstrated it to the audience of professionals.

The Ocuco support team of 38 is the largest in the global optics industry. Ocuco offers full telephone and online support during typical business hours. All new practices receive a welcome call, hardware review, data migration, assistance in stock setup, onsite training and go-live day support, follow-up advanced on-site training, and dedicated account management and consulting.

In Conversation with Randolf Rodenstock: A True Optical Industry Pioneer

By Evra Taylor Levy

interviewVery few companies can boast a corporate legacy spanning several decades. The well-known Rodenstock optical firm is one of those rare organizations. Randolf Rodenstock, who serves on the supervisory board of the Rodenstock Group, represents the fourth generation of the family business, which was founded by his great-grandfather in 1877.

Last June, Rodenstock travelled toCanada to address audiences of opticians and optometrists at two events, one in Calgary and the other in Ottawa. The purpose of his visit was to forge a strong connection with Canadian optical professionals and to share his views on the evolution of the optical industry in this country. He was accompanied by Florian Zwink, an optical engineer and technical advisor for the firm, who spoke about digital technology as it applies to the industry.

From a sales point of view, Rodenstock feels that a key change that has taken place in the optical industry over the past decade is the growth of retail chains, with the result that increasing numbers of consumers are being exposed to opticians’ expanding product offerings.

On the technological front, Rodenstock spoke about some of the innovations his organization has pioneered. One of these is the EyeLT, which denotes Individual Lens Technology, described on the company’s website as, “the revolution of the individual progressive lens.” The site continues: “EyeLT opens up a new dimension of vision with progressive lenses with which you can see more and sharper up close than with other Rodenstock progressive lenses.” EyeLT, a type of freeform lens technology, is a process exclusive to Rodenstock. It provides correction of a different near and distance prescription on the same Impression progressive lens, allowing the wearer to see more and sharper up close than with any other Rodenstock progressive lens. As Rodenstock stated: “This invention has made available new possibilities in manufacturing technology. It is a paradigm shift in the manufacture of progressive lenses. There is tremendous hidden potential in the market because current technology has not allowed every customer to be satisfied – until now.”

Rodenstock emphasized to the audience that it is one thing to have a design concept, but quite another to, “transform your idea into a mathematical formula, which requires an excellent understanding of the physiology involved, as well as the vision process.”

Turning to eyeglasses, Rodenstock used the model of a triangle to illustrate what he feels are the three essential factors in vision improvement with eyeglasses: the top point represents glasses, and the left and right points refer to the wearer’s face and personality, respectively.

For several decades, the Rodenstock Group has conducted a psychosocial survey to determine peoples’ perception of eyeglasses and what motivates or dissuades them from wearing eyewear. Rodenstock reported that, according to the survey results, roughly one-third of individuals know they need new glasses but won’t buy them. Their reasoning is that glasses will make them less likeable, less likely to be loved, and less attractive. The fear of changing one’s face is an additional concern. Forty to 50 per cent of those surveyed rejected the notion of wearing glasses and the balance of respondents said they were willing to learn about glasses and would consider using them as an expression of their personality.

Keenly aware of the concerns of his audience, Rodenstock highlighted the company’s continued commitment to Canada and the important role this country plays in the Rodenstock organization. He stated: “The Canadian optical industry represents an interesting opportunity for us. The American market is not as attractive to us as those of Germany, other European countries, and emerging countries.Canada is becoming increasingly important for us and the cooperation between our Munich and Toronto operations is tremendous. ECPs can order free-form lenses from Rodenstock Canada, which are supplied by the company’s plant in Germany.”

Rodenstock assured the audience that, “Rodenstock in Canada is here to stay. We realize the need to optimize our service. As a result, we’re entering a new phase of our presence inCanada.” Recent changes in the Canadian operation include the hiring of a new managing director, Jeremy Carvalho, whose mandate includes making such strategic changes as placing more emphasis on the Rodenstock brand. Carvalho has also been charged with reviewing the number of brands in the Rodenstock portfolio.

The company’s current focus is finding ways to make individual free-form lenses more attractive to the Canadian market. Rodenstock broke this down into three elements: cost, delivery time and quality. In conclusion, he proudly noted that, as a brand, the company’s name signifies the concepts of improving peoples’ vision and enhancing their looks. Objectives to which the company will, no doubt, remain committed for decades to come.

Inventing and Re-Inventing: Optician Randall Quinn

Inventing and Re-Inventing: Optician Randall Quinn
By Paddy Kamen

You won’t learn everything about Randall Quinn from reading this article because he has inventions up his sleeve that have nothing to do with eyewear. He just can’t talk about them right now, for reasons having to do with patents, trade secrets and all that. But when we met in the back room of this optical store in Kelowna, B.C. — conveniently known as Downtown Eyewear — I got to know a man who has re-invented himself several times in the course of a long career in the optical business.

Quinn started out in his hometown ofMontrealin the surfacing lab of European optician and craftsman Paul Filip. “I was looking around for jobs and got the opportunity to work for Paul. I found I had an aptitude for the mechanics of optics and he taught me a lot. It was training that has stood me in good stead over the years.”

Just 24 at the time, Randall eventually worked his way west toCalgary, where he managed the surfacing department of Hudson Optical. The next move — to B.C. — just made sense in terms of developing a well-rounded experience of the industry: “I met a fellow who needed my technical expertise in his optical shop so I moved toVancouverand started dispensing as well as lab supervision. Dispensing is cleaner and more rewarding. From there Imperial Optical hired me to start up several stores for them.”

Recognizing that he now had the knowledge and experience to become self-employed, Quinn found an opportunity to open his own optical shop inLangley, B.C., where he offered a wide range of products, including some high-end specialty pieces that he created himself. When he sold that business to Lenscrafters in1999, he was asked by the owners of an eyewear store catering to children to manage the store while they looked for a buyer. The job was just temporary in Quinn’s mind, “…until I served a little girl, about five years old. When she and her father were on the way out, her father said to her, “Aren’t you going to thank the optician for your glasses?” She ran over to me and hugged my leg. That clinched it — I realized that I loved working with kids and wanted more of it, so I called the owners and offered to buy the store.”

The challenge of working with young children was thrilling for Randall and his face lights up even now, when talking about it. “The doctors would send me really difficult cases like kids who had been in accidents. I fit more than one child who only had one ear. I loved it, but eventually, the doctors who owned the building decided they could make more money doing something else so they bought out my business.”

Randall and his wife, Loretta, retired for two years, touring aroundNorth Americain their motor home. “We had a wonderful time but eventually decided that we wanted to get back into the business. We settled onKelownaand set up a store in the downtown area.”

It took about three years forDowntown Eyewearto become known asKelowna’s go-to place for fashion-forward eyewear. A key ingredient in Randall’s recipe for success is being hands on and making the store a fun place to be. “My colleague Laurie Calloway and I believe that even if people don’t buy something they should leave our store feeling that they have had a very pleasant experience. We genuinely enjoy what we do and insist that they enjoy it, too. That is our secret. And when they do buy, the enjoyment factor makes paying for the eyewear worth every penny.

“My philosophy about optics is that it has much more to do with personality than with fashion,” continues Quinn. “Eyewear shows others who you are as a person or how you want to be viewed. I once had a man come in and we tried a few different frames, then he looked me square in the eye and said, ‘I am a criminal attorney. I need a pair of glasses that will give me the illusion of being able to bend someone else’s will’. That put a whole different spin on the process and I went directly to a frame we hadn’t yet tried and he said, ‘Now we’re talking’. We all have a persona and when the frame accords with the customer’s image of who they are or want to be, we make a sale.”

Engaging people in conversation gives an optician the opportunity to understand the customer’s personality and help them find the right frame. “Frequently they are looking for something familiar but which doesn’t necessarily show them to their best advantage,” notes Quinn. “But if you allow them to show their personality you can fit them with something that makes them say, ‘Wow, I never thought I would be looking for this, but it really works’.”

Quinn likes to enhance rimless eyewear designs by adding colour around the outside of the lenses and cutting designs into the edges. “My customers really like rimless with an extra something that helps it stand out.”

While helping his customers to express and perhaps re-invent themselves, Randall Quinn keeps reinventing his own career. He’s definitely a man to watch.