Optrafair Exchange – focus, fashion and function


Thousands of optical professionals converged on the NEC in Birmingham from 30 March to 1 April to immerse 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 products 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. The catwalk was paired with the new ‘Boutique Eyewear’ feature, ensuring 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.

Ed Bird, founder of Bird Eyewear and ‘Boutique Eyewear’ exhibitor, catwalk participant and Optician Award winner said: “Bird had a fantastic time at Optrafair this year. Our position next to the catwalk alongside our frames being showcased by the models was a big draw, and winning Frame of the Year for our Blackcap frame was the icing on the cake for us. The show had a great feel and the organisers did a great job of helping us maximise our exposure.”

Away from the catwalk, FMO member Dunelm celebrated their 50th anniversary year in style with two launches, including that of its new designer high-end brand ‘Joseph’, which includes a range of 14 unisex styles.

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: “Optrafair continues to put itself at the forefront of optical thinking and 2019 has been no different. We’re delighted with the look and feel of the show and the quality of visitors and therefore the level of genuine business conversations has been fantastic. I’d like to thank our sponsors and partners for their continued support.”

Yorke continued: “However, focus is now firmly on 2020. A massive year for the whole sector and a massive year 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 on www.optrafair.co.uk in due course.

Optrafair is brought to you by the Federation of Manufacturing Opticians and MA Exhibitions, combining some of the most respected organisations serving the optical market.


The FMOs mission is to provide a national platform for optical manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and business service providers to communicate, educate and innovate. FMO plays a key role in educating the public about the importance of looking after their sight and having regular eye examinations.

MA Exhibitions

Optrafair is organised by MA Exhibitions (MAX), an award-winning exhibition business. MAX organises more than 200 events annually, from small, highly focussed seminars to large-scale events. Within MAX’s portfolio there are 14 large-scale events, spread across sectors including electronics, manufacturing, engineering, communications, education, healthcare and print.