Due to the relatively low impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Japan so far, the international IOFT show was able to take place from Oct. 27 to 29. The co-organizers, Reed Exhibitions and the Fukui Optical Association, have just announced that 5,688 visitors and 146 exhibiting companies participated in the event, representing an overall drop of 40 percent in attendance compared to last year’s figures. However, it remains the first major eyewear trade show to have taken place since the start of the Covid-19 crisis at the beginning of the year.

As entry into Japan was not permitted for non-residents at the end of October, the show was more centered on the national market than usual. Topcon, Nidek, Sunreeve, Hamamoto Technical and Boston Club were among the main Japanese exhibitors, while the Fukui Optical Association gathered 45 companies from the Sabae region on its collective stand, about 30 fewer than last year.

However, several international brands with local presence, either through a subsidiary like Mondottica, or a distributor or an agent for smaller companies, could showcase their collections. It was particularly the case in the international designers’ area with representatives of Lindberg, Theo, IC Berlin, Lafont, Prodesign Denmark and J.F.Rey for example.

The IOFT organizers also added two digital initiatives this year in order to allow international visitors and exhibitors to take part in the event remotely. On the visitors’ side, the show launched a virtual business matching service for international buyers. Guided by IOFT staff equipped with mobile devices through the exhibitors’ booths, 34 buyers used this new program, having a total of 239 meetings during the three days of the show. On the exhibitors’ side, three companies booked a stand with a video connection and the assistance of a bilingual staff. Among these companies, Mokki, a new Norwegian-based brand of children sunglasses, was able to find a distributor in Japan through this service.

The show was organized under tight safety conditions with compulsory wearing of masks or face shields and body temperature screening at the entrance. The annual party was cancelled and the design awards were delivered without an audience. The winners of this year’s Japan Eyewear Awards are IC Berlin Japan, Boston Club, Orient Optical, Theo and Alpha.

The next IOFT show will take place in Tokyo from October 18 to 20, 2021.

According to the annual and detailed report of Gankyo Publishing, the Japanese eyewear industry magazine publisher, the Japanese market grew by 2.4 percent in 2019 after two consecutive years of decline, reaching 413.4 billion yen (€3.36bn-$4.00bn) at retail. Preliminary figures for 2020 indicate that the market went down by 20 percent in March and by around 50 percent in April and May year-on-year, during the state of emergency declared because of the pandemic, but bounced back to about 95 percent of its 2019 level in June, July and August.

The average price for a pair of eyeglasses purchased in Japan also increased slightly last year, reaching ¥21,400 (€173.8-$206.2). However, looking at the longer-term trend, the price of the average equipment has been steadily declining as it was over ¥25,000 in 2009. Low cost retail chains like Jins or Zoff are increasing their market share to the detriment of retailers like Paris Miki but also Fukui eyewear makers that focus on high-end titanium glasses.

In order to promote local eyewear production, the Fukui Optical Association has just launched a national promotion campaign together with Line Pay, an electronic payment application, on a selection of about 100 frames produced in Fukui. The first 40,000 people buying a frame from this selection up to next March 31 will receive ¥3,000 (€24.4-$28.9) back in e-money on their Line Pay application. A draw will also give ¥20,000 (€162.4-$192.7) vouchers to 1 percent of the participants in the campaign.