During one of the round tables organized at the Vision Business Forum held in Rome on Sept. 6 and 7, Cirillo Marcolin, vice chairman of Anfao and also of Marcolin, announced that the major Italian eyewear firms are starting to move their strategic focus from sun eyewear to prescription glasses. Commenting on the problem of consumer demand, a key remark from Riccardo Perdomi, vice chairman of Salmoiraghi & Vigano, pointed in exactly the same direction: Perdomi noted that the majority of consumers know nothing about the lenses prescribed for them, and that it makes sense for opticians to adapt their production strategy to focus on eyewear as a medical device rather than as a fashion accessory.

Technology will be the new frontier in terms of production and marketing, the target being for lenses and frames to be increasingly light, resistant and customized. According to Paolo Pettazzoni, chairman of the lens section of Anfao, and Maurizio Veroli of Hoya, while great technological progress has been made in recent years, there is still a long way to go, particularly in terms of progressive lenses. There was a lot of talk of the convenience of buying groups for the opticians, particularly in a country such as Italy where the organized retail sector is relatively small.

The Forum lasted a day and a half, and received 700 opticians, 500 of whom paid to attend the talks and round tables, while the remaining 200 simply visited the 61 exhibitors' modest booths. If you add the personnel manning the booths, and the staff of the six Assogruppi buying groups, Mido and Federottica - co-organizers of the event - there were a total of around 900 people present at what they prefer to call an exhibition-cum-convention rather than a mini-trade show. Among the opticians that visited the Forum in Rome, 220 were brought in by the buying groups, and chosen from among their members.

There were only a dozen foreign opticians, from Spain, Brazil, Sweden, Belgium, Algeria, Finland and Slovakia. Many of the visiting opticians had been contacted by the exhibitors, thanks in part to a system whereby the exhibitors were given a password allowing them to access the list of opticians who had signed up to attend the talks and round tables. The Forum cost around €350,000, all covered by the sponsors and the proceeds from the scheduled events. The organizers may decide to hold the event again in September2010, in the same venue.