What did I say last month about no one having Covid? As I sit here and write this now, I feel a little frazzled, but this is to do with just arriving back in the UK from the Opti Munich trade show. Obviously, I’m tired after four days training opticians, schmoozing with big customers, boozing with my team, and generally running at 110%.

So, it won’t be Covid will it? The only problem is, four of my sales reps have just tested positive this morning and two of my stand staff have also gone down. In fact, myself and two other salespeople are the only ones left who are lurgy free. Covid is over. I told you as much in last month’s column.

I wasn’t going to write about Covid, I wanted to write about the show. There’s lots to say about the event in Germany, but my back is killing me as well. Being the face of the brand, if I’m hobbling around at a tradeshow, then it looks like the company is hobbling around. If you’ve ever seen me at an event, I am usually so excited I am non-stop buzzing around my stands.

Optician editor Simon Jones popped in to see me at the booth in Munich. ‘How’s it going?’ he asked me. ‘Fine,’ I replied through gritted teeth, while taking a seat like a 90-year-old. Simon wanted to get my take on new releases and had his notepad at the ready. Instead, I wasted my opportunity talking about how I’ve got a bad back. When you have a bad back, you can’t think of anything else. He thought it was ironic, laughing that I injured myself while exercising on a pre-skiing trip to prevent injury when actually skiing. I totally forgot to talk about my new products and the fact I’m switching on all bespoke features again from February 1.

My sales director’s husband is a doctor. A brief video consultation and suitable painkillers, which made me feel fantastic but came with a lot of dire warnings, solved the short-term back issue. I chomped them down and got back to business at the show.

Bespoke is back

The big talking point for the brand at the event was switching back to my bespoke service. It had never fully stopped during the pandemic, but many of the things we used to do when I had a factory in China (which seems like a lifetime ago) were not possible in the London factory until my team were up to scratch. I’m pleased to say that is now the case. So, we switched all old bespoke services back on in America last week, UK is planned February 1 and the EU will be mid-February. There you go Simon, no need to write about it now. [Ed – Thanks, Tom.]

I had hoped to be communicating this positive news in Munich to my international client base. We have got used to this show being the biggest and the best. It had grown into such a powerhouse event that most brands like me had considered it to be the best show in the calendar. But this year, Opti was a lot smaller than usual. The massive five hall extravaganza was limited to three patchy halls. The visitor numbers were nothing like January 2020 and there were almost no overseas customers. The Brits, Dutch, Scandinavians and Canadians are usually a major part of the attendance, but even the French, Americans and South Americans had started to become regulars. We mostly had south Germans, Austrians and the Swiss at the stands over the three days. That was OK, but I was expecting a little more.

And I sit here now, it’s Tuesday morning and I’m back in the factory. I’ve passed my Covid test and I’m counting Opti orders like Ebeneezer Scrooge. While I know we had an OK show, I’m scratching my head wondering when, or if, big tradeshows will be back in full swing. There were a lot of brands with no customers and no orders at Opti. It’s a bit like paying sky-high rents in the city when everyone is working from home.

Maybe it’s time for more smaller regional shows, or perhaps, with all the consolidation going on in the market, we won’t need tradeshows at all soon. But that’s very much a topic for next month.