The independent sector of the optical industry needs to work together.

According to Jason Kirk, founder and designer of Kirk & Kirk, a common structured approach together with a targeted policy are the keys to dealing with the uncertainties of this period.

What approach have you chosen for the restart?

We have taken time to listen to our clients and see how the situation has evolved. We realised that the simple things were important and should not be taken for granted, such as being open, having stock and being able to deliver.

It sounds silly but so many companies have struggled to get stock, so we communicated the simple message to our audience that our offices in the UK and the US have been open throughout the pandemic.

With trade shows being cancelled and no certainty when they will begin again nor whether opticians will visit them, we have adapted our schedule for releasing new products so that there is a steady flow of new releases every few months instead of focusing on exhibition times. Next new launches are in September.

How was it received by the opticians?

Our clients seem to share our view. The independent sector of the optical industry needs to work together.

It is full of talented entrepreneurs but it needs to be galvanised. We are stronger working as a team and we have felt much closer to our clients in these last few months sharing our challenges, both personal and professional.

In what direction do you think the avant-garde glasses will move?

When the economic environment gets difficult, like in a recession or during a pandemic, most designers and opticians do what they think is the safest thing for their business. They buy classic frames and try not to take what they perceive as risks. In my view this is a very dangerous path to take, especially now.

Look around your store and see how many little tortoise shell frames you have or black pantos… you do not need many in stock to satisfy clients who want that option but if you are going to drive more traffic through your door you need exciting, inspiring eyewear that captures people’s imagination.

Many opticians are focusing their message to the public on how hygienic their shop is. Surely it was hygienic before Covid? That will not excite consumers although it might re-assure them. Right now, people are shopping online.

They are nervous about public transport, nervous about sharing public spaces and anxious about going shopping. It will take something pretty special to make them come into your shop. Give them a good reason to get off the sofa.

What are your plans for MIDO 2021?

That is a good question. The health and safety of our team, clients and friends is our priority so we must see how conditions evolve over the coming months. Buying habits are changing for opticians and consumers. We need to see if this is a temporary change or something longer-term.

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