The long-established Optica fair in Cologne has given up in the war of the German optical trade fairs against Opti München, after a 4-year battle marked by numerous tactical changes. The KölnMesse charges the German industry association, F+0, of having decided too late to hand over the show to a professional team by relinquishing its status of co-organizer of the event only in May of 2001. Arno Jäger, the young organizer of Opti München claims that the Cologne fair could not match the new standards and marketing tools brought to the market by his professional and streamlined team.

Relations had been strained for some time between KölnMesse and F+0. Some of the industry's leading companies, such as Carl Zeiss and Rodenstock, had agreed to give Cologne Optica one last chance before making any long-term decision in favor of one of the two alternatives, and Cologne's organizers laid down the red carpet by given the fair their best halls. In the end, at last February's session, exhibitor and visitor numbers were both down sharply. In view of the poor turnout, Munich-based Randolf Rodenstock, who led the association until a few months ago, decided to drop Cologne in favor of Munich as of next year, as we reported in the previous issue, even before Opti-München's planned move to larger fairgrounds in his own city. KölnMesse thus hastened its decision to pull the plug, instead of waiting until next fall to make up its mind.

Optica has not had an easy life lately, and it never really found its slot in the calendar. In 1998 it took place in November. It then missed a year, after which the association chose to hold it in 2000 in May, one week before Mido in Milan. The Italian industry retaliated immediately, and the 4-5 leading Italian eyewear groups, which are also the world leaders, crossed Cologne off their schedule and opted for the geographically and culturally closer brand-new venue in Munich, which had started off as a more regional show.

The shift in Optica's dates to mid-February ? only one month after Opti-München - had no positive effects. The number of exhibitors in Cologne dropped from 667 to 479, while attendance slipped from 23,000 to 16,300. Instead, Opti-München grew in the space of just one year to accommodate a total of 500 exhibitors and 22,139 visitors. Scheduled in January, it enables opticians to build up their stocks after the Christmas rush.

Even before Optica's final capitulation, leading German and foreign firms like Metzler, Rodenstock, Zeiss and Hoya had already committed themselves to show only in Munich next Jan. 10-12, alongside Luxottica, Safilo, De Rigo, Marcolin, Marchon, Charmant and many others. Even smaller producers from China, Hong Kong, Korea and North America are signing up. Neverless, KölnMesse has not given up the competition completely. While handing the Optica trade name back to the F+O, it says it's now working on the development of a new event in the sector, closer to the country's industrial heartland.