TRADE SHOW: VISION EXPO EAST 2012

The optical industry’s largest trade show, Vision Expo East, held March 23-25 at New York City’s Javits Center, brought out both big names and newcomers as well as a few celebrity endorsers.

As usual, the largest crowds gathered around Safilo, as the company had the irrepressible Carson Kressley host a fashion show that showcased the company’s many line of sunglasses. Safilo’s Carrera line is still the king of aviators and its X-Cede technology greatly reduces glare.

Performance eyewear for professional athletes and weekend warriors has become a billion dollar business. Long gone are the days when the nearsighted had to settle for Rec Specs Fred Flintstone-like goggles that former Cincinnati Reds third baseman Chris Sabo made famous. Liberty Sports, which owns Rec Specs, still makes those unsightly goggles but they have gotten into the stylish lightweight wraparounds that Oakley made famous.

Oakley displayed their Crosslinks line of sunglasses that allow a wearer to easily change lenses. The company also showed a video of athletes who are not ashamed to be seen wearing their glasses such as tennis star Jarko Tipsarevic, golf’s Rory McIlroy, and baseball reliever Ryan Roland Smith. Not to be outdone, Nike Eyewear, a division of Melville-based Marchon, showed off their Max Transitions whose lenses adjust for even the slightest change in lighting. This is particularly helpful for golfers.

While Oakley and Nike are the reigning kings in the sports market, they are facing some competition from formidable upstarts. ICU Eyewear promoted its Fisherman and Guideline sunglass brands that provide protection and style at a bargain price while Zeal Optics displayed Oakley and Nike-style product but at half of the cost.

Fashionable eyewear for big guys has always been a niche market but there are providers. Former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski is the spokesman for A&A Optical’s XXL line while hip-hop star Christopher Boykin does the same for Fatheadz Eyewear.

Long Island is to the optical industry what Silicon Valley is to tech firms. As mentioned previously, Marchon’s headquarters are in Melville while Luxottica, the makers of the iconic Ray-Bans are in Port Washington.  Clearvision, which brought in designer Marc Ecko for a meet-and-greet, is located in Hauppauge.

Revolution Eyewear, acquired an extremely difficult licensing property, as they introduced their Beatles line of glasses. The cartoon characters from such Fab Four albums as “Magical Mystery Tour” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” can be found inside the frames. Revolution also brought in ubiquitous Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz to autograph photos for buyers.

Prevention of macular degeneration and other forms of vision loss was a major topic. A number of vitamin manufacturers including Med Op the pioneer in the field set up booths to entice buyers.