A wonderful thing happened in New York, we had a trade show. Not just any old trade show but the first real show in 24 months. Among the British contingent, it was great to catch up with Claire Goldsmith, Jason Kirk, Rob Morris and Optician’s own Simon Jones. It was also fantastic to catch up with Americans I’d not seen for such a long time in a positive selling environment; sales reps from other brands, fellow designers and general industry friends. You easily forget how things used to be and it was life affirming to be back in the hot seat finally.

So, after all the planning and jeopardy of the last three months, I made it to New York and we had a great show. The shipping container with our stand in it arrived with one day to spare, the sales bags eventually turned up on the second day of the show but, most importantly, customers came.

I had planned to go to Chicago to open an office and a new company there. My North American sales team were all gathered for training and a large pair of scissors and red ribbon were on standby. I sat on a Zoom call, the night before my flight, with a lady wearing a mask to witness my ‘fit to fly’ Covid test. I failed and as the two red lines appeared under my nose, I went into a kind of shock. I actually thought I was about to cry but my wife stopped me and, after a brief pause, I worked out that if I re-booked my flight six days later direct to New York, I had a chance to still make the show. I’d only been working on this launch for three years so I had to get there.

I needed to test negative in front of a medical professional on day five. I needed a ‘second day’ negative test on day six and then I could get a flight that day. I booked and went to convalesce in bed. Actually, my symptoms were not that bad and I found myself in New York six days later.

The launch of Catch London went well. Hundreds of opticians made acetate plates on my stand and we opened almost 100 new accounts (a show record for my company) but it was the people, old and new, which made the show for me. Our new team of sales people took to the job as if they had worked the Catch London brand for a decade. I had eight staff over from the UK and it felt like a party atmosphere as we celebrated each sale.

Another highlight for me was meeting Peter Reeve from the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers (WCSM). I’m always attracted to positive people and Peter talked so passionately about the WCSM that I started to wonder why I was not a member.

I was interested in all the charity work the organisation does. I loved the way it nurtured young talent and helped people into our industry. We talked about apprenticeship schemes for frame making in my factory but it what really got me was Peter saying that ‘in a tradition dating back to the 1100s, a Freeman of London has the right to walk sheep over Tower Bridge’. Obviously I’m joining now; just think of the social media of me getting a sheep and walking it into London. But joking aside, I would urge you all to have a look at what this organisation does and consider joining.

Originally founded in 1629, the WCSM’s purpose was, and still is, to support better vision for all. Very much like Orbis, which I love supporting, the organisation is interested in everything which can be done to prevent unnecessary sight loss and enhance active living. I have to say, when I first heard about WCSM years ago, it did rather look like a club for old white men to sit around boozing. However, the last three years 50% of new members have been female, 33% under the age of 40, and around 16% from backgrounds other than White British. There are all sorts of bursaries for students, research studies, research areas and then the all important networking events which we’ve so missed these past few years. I’m already dusting off my tuxedo for the Livery Dinner at Mansion House!

So despite the record numbers of Covid cases being clocked up, we do seem to have decided, not just in the UK but at least in the USA as well, that it’s business as usual.

Two of my UK team caught Covid at the show and several of my new sales team did as well but no one is very sick. Long may Covid be ‘not that bad’ and long may events and trade shows be a part of our lives again.