Interviewee: Giovanni Vitaloni (MIDO President)
The epidemic has changed a lot our lifestyle, such as relying more on digital tools, social distancing, cashless payment, etc. How do you see the impact to the whole eyewear industry?
The epidemic has been harshly disruptive on the industry as on many markets and on our lifestyle. We have learned to live differently, employing tools we didn’t know that well. The emergency the eyewear industry had to face in 2020 for example has of course given a boost to the use of the digital tools manufacturers had already started putting in place.
In addition, we need to keep the communication channel between industry, production and retail open because we have to work as a team in order to generate a coherent system. As far as the pandemic, we will struggle for a few more months, but we have the assets and capacity to hold on until the markets return to a certain normality.
Fairs had been strongly affected too. MIDO, the leading international trade fair in the eyewear sector with over 1300 exhibitors and 59500 entries of visiting trade people from around the world in 2019, will be the driving force of 2021. There are encouraging signs, also thanks to the news of the vaccine, but the coming months will still be complex: for this reason we will have to stay united, knowing that things will be difficult, but with the awareness that we can get over this. #strongertogether, the motto we created with other international Italian fairs, is the perfect resume.
What’s the biggest challenge for the industry and MIDO? And how does MIDO cope with the challenges
Industry’s greatest challenge for the next months will be to be able to cope with the new market needs and also those of consumers, who – due to the pandemic – have deeply changed their habits and the way they make their choices. Customer service today is even more crucial and we are working and encouraging to make it efficient and safe.
Another fundamental challenge MIDO is working on is that of keeping the business level as high as the previous years and to maintain its international appeal. We cannot expect a record edition as we expected for 2020, but we certainly are working hard to give our clients the best possible result. MIDO is an international show and that soul will remain.
To cope with the challenges, in March already we started the digital MIDO4U platform and we are studying other new digital tools for the 2021 edition in June. Besides, with the Italian Foreign Ministry, a “fast track” entry system is being studied, in order to facilitate the recovery of the sector: the fast lanes can allow the participation to international exhibitions such as MIDO.
Last, the decision to postpone MIDO 2021 in June, also in view of the vaccines that will be available soon, is the best choice to organize and maximize the opportunities for international trade, bringing new luster and vitality to this key sector. I am also convinced that Italian and international visitors will appreciate the opportunity to visit Milan while the weather is fine and to celebrate MIDO’s 50th anniversary in an atmosphere of regained peace of mind.
Challenging months, however, lie ahead and, despite the pandemic, the MIDO machine does not stop or even slow down; on the contrary, intriguing opportunities are developing every day and the new digital platform will enhance the experience of those coming to MIDO as well as it will make it possible to be there even for those who will not have a chance to travel. Depending on the health safety measures that will be implemented in the next months, other physical events are under evaluation for the beginning of the year.
What’s your comments about “Virtual Exhibition”?
When it comes to eyewear, we strongly believe that the physical experience is essential. Meeting face-to face is a must. Of course we have to work on the virtual exhibition and digital experience is being strongly implemented in order to facilitate interactions, to create opportunities for showcasing products and bringing the experience to life even for those who cannot physically participate. We know we have a fundamental role in the relaunch of Italian industry and the global market. And we feel all the responsibility for it.
MIDO 2021 will be a different event, in which digital and physical experience will need to coexist, just as the DaTE avant garde eyewear appointment took place in Florence in September 2020. 1,000 pre-registered professionals and selected buyers visited the show, meeting organizers’ expectations and confirming the importance of in-person events. DaTE has sent a strong message, not only about re-starting our industry but also about a true resurgence of optimism and confidence. We had the courage to organize a physical meeting – the first for eyewear after January 2020 – and our efforts were reciprocated with the exhibitors’ exemplary motivation and the positivity and determination of companies and visitors.
How do you forecast 2021?
After several months of pure negative headlines and a quite stop of any capacity to act, we are heading back in an “almost“ normal world. However, this world is continuing to turn at different speeds for different nations, and the lockdowns are differently being opened and/or closed.
One thing that we have observed overall on the hit-list of values that consumers find important, is that personal health is now at the top. Since eye health also falls below it, this is a good prospect for our industry. The product mix in the shops is moving to a higher quality level: more progressive glasses have been sold on the Italian market in recent weeks for example. People are now more concerned with good vision – inspired by the experience of having to stay at home and staring at their laptops for endless hours.
My conclusion is that we are slowly coming back to normal reality. Everything is a bit more difficult. Between retailers and industry, values have shifted towards the traditional. We are also becoming more down-to-earth. Ethics and transparency are on the rise.
The eyewear sector is restarting: the road is still uphill but there are good signs, both from the markets point of view, with an initial albeit timid growth in consumption, and from that of events. The financial data for 2020 seem to be better than expected. There is still a long way to go, but we are optimistic about the future of the market and the eyewear industry.
The first eyewear appointment, after more than 18 months, will be at MIDO, a fundamental exhibition for all operators in the supply chain. For the producer of raw materials and the finished product, as well as for the designer and the creative, passing from the representatives of the fashion world to the suppliers of machinery, MIDO represents an essential showcase and an opportunity for business and necessary exchange, especially in a moment of difficulty like the one we are experiencing
Now the entire industry is eagerly awaiting the new MIDO 2021 dates – 5 to 7 June, when manufacturers, distributors, agents, representatives and retailers will once again gather to share their exclusive new products.