Thousands of optical professionals flocked to the NEC in Birmingham from 30 March to 1 April to emerse themselves in everything that is new in optics from the exhibition floor and via eight education streams offering world-class CET and business advice.

Attendees engaged with over 130 exhibitors and hundreds of brands, including a significant number of new exhibitors for 2019. Optrafair has a long-established history of being the go-to event for equipment and technology, and this year didn’t disappoint, with leading companies showing off their latest technology to a high-quality audience. Essilor, Heidelberg, Topcon and BiB were just a handful of technology innovators unveiling new equipment on their stands.

For the second year running, the event saw growth in the number of contact lens companies exhibiting, centred predominantly around the Contact Lens Peer Review Zone and the BCLA Lounge. Johnson & Johnson Vision returned with a larger presence and enjoyed a huge amount of interest in their Acuvue Oasys with Transitions contact lens, and leading South American provider Solotica exclusively chose Optrafair to introduce their colourful contact lenses to the UK market.

The biggest growth area on the exhibition floor was Eyewear. After the introduction of showcase feature the ‘Spectrum Catwalk’ in 2018, Optrafair has re-engaged with the frames and fashion market in the UK. Having been amazed by the new ‘Boutique Eyewear’ feature, crowds enjoyed a vast range of brands and frames through a programme of professionally choreographed shows that dazzled the audience yet kept the focus firmly on the eyewear.

On the education front, Optrafair’s revised approach was a huge success, providing a more diverse range of topics for visitors to enjoy including clinical optometry, business, contact lenses, refractive, dispensing and health & lifestyle. In addition, optical professionals took advantage of world-class education on offer at the ABDO CET Theatre, the Contact Lens Peer Review Zone and from a multitude of on-stand CET providers. A huge hit was the new-for-2019 ‘Seeing Beyond the Eyes Zone’ supported by the Thomas Pocklington Trust, where presentations on low-vision were made to packed audiences throughout the show.

Centrally located on the show-floor, the FMO Networking Bar provided an opportunity for visitors and exhibitors alike to network in a more relaxed environment or simply to unwind after a busy day at the show. The bar was also home to Optrafair’s owners FMO, who were on hand to discuss membership opportunities – four new members have recently signed up.

FMO chairman, Andy Yorke said: ‘Focus is now firmly on 2020. A massive year for the whole sector and for Optrafair. We are in advanced discussions with other optical bodies to make Optrafair 2020 a super-sized event – broadening its reach to appeal to a massive audience and ensuring it’s the one event in 2020 anyone involved in eyes and eye health simply cannot afford to miss. Watch this space.’

Optrafair returns to the NEC on 4-6 April 2020. An event that will surpass all others. Keep an eye out for announcements in due course.