VCPN’s John Sailer met with MIDO’s new president, Giovanni Vitaloni, and discussed his plans for the Milan Eyewear Show, taking place Feb. 24-26.
JOHN SAILER: What can we expect from the next edition of MIDO?
GIOVANNI VITALONI: For me it’s going to be the first MIDO as president. The last four years I’ve been vice president, and MIDO has grown a lot. Two years ago we added the “More!” Pavilion. Inside More! is the Lab Academy, an area dedicated to start-ups in innovative machinery, raw materials and components that is the base of our industry.
All the major manufacturers for machines and for raw materials will be there, but we will also have some exhibitors in 3D printing. We are working actively to make this area for B2B. For all the other exhibitors selling frames and finished product, to see their suppliers is very important. In 2017 we had record numbers, 1,200 exhibitors, over 55,000 attendees and about 50,000 square meters in terms of surface. Most of the industry was there.
It’s very important to us to be close to our visitors over the course of the year, so we’re working on a project to know our visitors better.
SAILER: What new initiatives are you planning to get to know them?
VITALONI: We will put into action a plan to maintain the level of visitors that we have. Comparing 55,000 attendees to other shows, you realize we have the world coming here, but we need to communicate to them constantly because MIDO is not just a three-day event. There are 12 months of work.
We have to know our visitors one by one, who they are and what they want, so we have appointed external consultants to get in touch with everybody, profile each and understand their needs.
SAILER: What makes MIDO different from the other shows?
VITALONI: MIDO is the picture of what the market is today. We have the big multinational eyewear and lens groups, but then you enter into specific areas of avant-garde eyewear like the Design Lab. We also give space to Asian manufacturing in the Fair East Pavilion.
SAILER: What other activities is MIDO pursuing throughout the year?
VITALONI: We created a new company three years ago that organized a minor show called DATE in Milano in September to make it local for the domestic market where independent opticians could approach independent companies. To make things a little different we moved to Florence, which is very central to the territory. We had about 130 exhibitors and over 3,500 visitors, all independent opticians from Italy. It will be held again in Florence, Sept. 22-24.
The last three years we have been working with the Italian Trade Commission to promote the show, inviting the most important buyers from the world to a special event the day before the show.
It’s a preview where about 80 Italian companies present their latest collections to international buyers. It’s like a quick speed date to know each other, to touch the product, to exchange cards, and if there’s something interesting, say, “I’ll see you tomorrow at the show.” So everybody dedicates three or four minutes to each other. This has been quite successful for the Italian companies.
SAILER: Now that you are president for a four-year term, what goals do you have?
VITALONI: I’ve been vice president of the organization the last four years and joined forces with Mr. Marcolin, who was our past president the past four years. I’ve been learning a lot from Mr. Marcolin in many different areas.
Our goals are basically divided into two big areas. One is the association, and the other is the commercial activity through MIDO. One goal is to promote the international business of our associates. Within the association, we have involved a lot of medium and smaller enterprises from Italy that have developed their own brands, so now we can work on international projects to develop the Italian factories abroad.
Working with the Italian Trade Commission is extremely important to push the business of the medium and small enterprises around the world with not one or two events but with four, five or six events.
Another goal is to grow the association by creating some new focus groups. We now have focus groups on lenses and will be creating a new one on sunglasses. That’s because large shares of the business are coming through the distribution of sunglasses, partially through the optical channel but mostly outside the optical channel. We have to monitor what’s going on, so we are creating a working group for this.
We’re creating another group of new entrepreneurs that can bring new ideas to push the association further. We also created a federation of Italian fashion that includes jewelry, shoes, bags, furs and clothing. We are restoring a building where all these associations in the federation will be under the same roof.
SAILER: What is your personal background?
VITALONI: I am a third generation entrepreneur. My family business has always been in Torino, the industrial capital of Italy. I started in optical 30 years ago in 1987. I created my own brands, Vanni and Derapage.
It’s a business we developed in 50 countries. In the U.S. we partner with Match Eyewear. Our main markets today in Europe are France, Italy and the U.K. We also do well in the U.S. and Canada. We are independent, and we don’t do any kind of licensing.