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Opchat Magazine Industry NewsIndustry News, January  to March 2017

FMO launches its new Strategic Plan at its Spring General Members’ Meeting.
Lord MacLaurin joins British eyewear design and manufacturing company Inspecs as Chairman.
Blackfin by Pramaor 2016 TURNOVER HITS 7.7 MILLION EURO up 25%
Ocuco acquires B&F Groep


FMO launches its new Strategic Plan at its Spring General Members’ Meeting.

March 2017

On 8 March at Conference Aston, Birmingham, FMO launched its new three year strategic plan following a period of consultation with its members. The plan is now available on the FMO website (link).

The plan is focused on five key goals including making Optrafair the "go to‟ optical event in the UK.

Welcoming members to the meeting, Chair Andy Yorke updated members on Optrafair 2017 to be held at the NEC on 1-3 April. Said Andy “This promises to be one of our best shows yet with record numbers of pre-registrations and lots of new features. Since taking over as Chair I have been attending the regular bi-lateral meetings between MAG and FMO representatives – it is at these meetings that major decisions are made jointly.

Our contract with MAG is a partnership, where the profits from the show are equally divided, and FMO brings expert knowledge of our sector to the table to complement MAG‟s event management expertise. During the past year many important aspects of the show have been reviewed so that Optrafair is not just an annual event, but a year round, value added programme.”

FMO members from all parts of the sector joined Focus Group meetings held in parallel to discuss priorities for this year‟s Business Plan for equipment, frames and lenses.

The Equipment Focus Group members are developing a programme of accredited training for all practice staff, and the Lens Focus Group members are bringing together stakeholders to address steps we could take to reduce the proportion of varifocal returned due to wearer non tolerance.

They also developed support we could deliver with the ABDO joint initiative for lab visits for 2nd year dispensing students, and the Group also discussed the issue of over the counter adjustable spectacles.

The Frames Focus Group members discussed what support FMO can provide for companies which have to undergo rigorous auditing procedures.

The well received keynote speaker was Paul York, Senior Account Manager at GfK Optics, speaking on the potential impact of Brexit on the optical industry.

Although conceding that there is nothing to compare the current situation with, and with so many unknowns it is impossible to be conclusive about any impact, Paul looked at statistics for sales volumes and average spends before and after the financial crash in 2007/8 and the recovery periods and answered questions from members.

The next General Meeting will be held on 18 October 2017.

Lord MacLaurin joins British eyewear design and manufacturing company Inspecs as Chairman.

February 2017


Lord MacLaurin
Lord MacLaurin, the former chairman of Tesco, Vodafone and the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) has joined Inspecs Group, the Bath headquartered eyewear design and manufacturing company, as its new chairman.

Commenting on the appointment, Robin Totterman, Inspecs Chief Executive, said:

“We’re very fortunate to have Lord MacLaurin on board. His experience in world leading retail and sports makes him an invaluable asset to the company. I hold Ian in the highest regard and value any insight he has in building a business, both professionally and as a friend. He is a man of great integrity, humility and enthusiasm. It’s a real honour.”


Robin founded Inspecs in 1988 following a career as an international investment banker in the city. It fast became a global business by licensing notable brands, as well as producing a number of house brands. The company designs, manufactures and distributes eyewear products under license for Superdry, O’Neill, CAT and Radley, amongst others. Inspecs also owns Algha Works (founded 1889) in London, where the iconic Savile Row brand is manufactured.

Savile Row’s classic designs are loved by celebrities and film stylists, with John Lennon, Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones and Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter amongst its best-known wearers.

“I was invited by Robin to join the Inspecs Board. I was impressed by the global growth plans he has for the company in an industry dominated by a handful of Italian giants. I am looking forward to helping realise the ambitious plans of this entrepreneurial British company,” Lord MacLaurin adds.

Blackfin by Pramaor 2016 TURNOVER HITS 7.7 MILLION EURO up 25%

Febgruary 2017

From the start of the year an amazing increase in orders of +47%

BlackfinPramaor continues to grow, ever more success for the company based in Agordo, in the Province of Belluno, specialising in the production of the Blackfin brand of titanium eyewear, entirely made in Italy.


The growth was led by exports, representing 76% of sales, up 31% at 6.2 million euro. The Italian market also returned a positive result, up +16%, reflecting the trend of recent years.

With the recent appointment of Marco Paveri as Area Manager for Italy, the goal is for further improvement in the home market.

Nicola del Din


“2016 was an amazing year and the beginning of 2017 has been simply phenomenal” according to Nicola Del Din, CEO of Pramaor - “At OPTI Munich our Black Shard stand, by now almost a second home for our team, proved to be the best trade fair ever for Blackfin. Moreover, the global increase in orders from the start of the year hit an incredible peak of +47%. Nothing short of breath-taking! This is practical proof of our budget prediction for a record 2017. We would like to thank all those people who have made their own personal contribution to creating this unique corporate and human experience."

The leader in overseas markets is Germany, responsible alone for 27% of our turnover, showing growth of 38% in 2016.

According to a recent study carried out by Euronet Market Research on a representative sample of German opticians, published by Markt Intern, Blackfin is in second place among the highest performing brands in terms of growth in both turnover and number of items sold in the last two months, November-December, of 2016, compared to the same period in 2015.

Mention should also be made of the brand’s performance in the Nordic countries, Denmark in particular, where Blackfin is competing successfully with the biggest eyewear names. Only two years on from the start of sales in this market, Blackfin is gaining incredible market shares, making it one of the main players in this segment.

Nicola Del Din continues: “A major expansion plan is underway with a crowded calendar for the year of some twenty trade fairs worldwide, both to reinforce our existing presence, as in New York where we will be doubling the size of our stand, and to make our debut at new shows such as 100% Optical in London and SIOF in Shanghai together with our new distributor.
Now Mido awaits us, the most high-profile international trade fair for our brand.”

2017 marks year one of Blackfin Phase Three (III-I), a new chapter in the history of the brand in both cultural and organisational terms in which the product, communications and marketing are ever more closely integrated in an organic process designed to raise the profile of the brand on the global eyewear market.

Blackfin“The concept behind Phase Three” – explains Nicola Del Din – “goes far beyond a simple investment in communications and marketing. This new stage in our evolution demonstrates our intention to further elevate the culture and organisational model within the company, at all levels and in all areas. With the passion and enthusiasm that has always marked us out and in line with the purity of the Neomadeinitaly ethos, with our respect for the precious heritage of the past and our long-sighted and humane vision of the future, we are hard at work on advanced IT projects, on further training and in-house organisation, on the extension of our sunglass range, on amazing co-marketing plans, on new product lines, on limited-edition, top-of-the-range collections and sophisticated new forms of product-placement. Only our own imagination can limit us. I’m absolutely sure that this new stage in our evolution and mind-set will enable us to turn on a very special spotlight, highlighting a fantastic product - the cornerstone of Phase

One -, and a marvellous, true all-Italian story put together by people united by a clear vision of their future, the focus, together with the product, of Phase Two. I’m so proud of everything we’re doing and how we’re doing it, thanks to a team working in harmony and fully aware of their determining role in this process."

With an in-house staff of 60 plus 26 direct agents Pramaor sells the Blackfin collection in over 40 countries worldwide, with a particular focus on Europe and North America, both directly or through distributors.

As well as Italy, Austria, Germany, Spain, France, Denmark, from this year on our eyewear will also be directly marketed in Sweden and the UK.


Stepper Eyewear aquires Stepper SA.

January 2017

Hans StepperTo strengthen its worldwide distributor presence, STEPPER EYEWEAR has purchased its long time trading partner in South Africa.

This forms part of a succession plan for the South African distributor as former owner Eric Janet retires from running the business he built into a respected and valued part of the STEPPER brand’s worldwide reach. The move brings financial strength and certainty to Stepper in South Africa.

‘We are delighted to have our South African partner join us within the STEPPER EYEWEAR business,’ comments Hans Stepper, Managing Director STEPPER EYEWEAR LIMITED. ‘Eric has worked with our brand for many years and we have built up a close business relationship. This new development secures a successful future for STEPPER in South Africa.’

The company distributes STEPPER, STEPPERS and ZEISS EYEWEAR brands to the region.

Operationally, the only change to the business is the appointment of Jarret van den Berg as Managing Director. Jarret, previously the company’s ‘Sales and Business Development Manager’, has over ten years’ experience in optics.

With this acquisition STEPPER EYEWEAR LIMITED now owns distribution in the UK, France and South Africa.


Image – Hans Stepper, Managing Director STEPPER EYEWEAR LIMITED

Ocuco acquires B&F Groep

 January 2017

Ocuco, the global eye care software company, has entered the Dutch market through the acquisition of B&F Groep, market leading optical Practice Management Software (PMS) provider in The Netherlands.

Ocuco Takeover B&FImage (L to R) Hans Lugtenberg, CEO, B&F Groep, and Leo Mac Canna, CEO, Ocuco.

B&F Groep Managing Director Hans Lugtenberg will join Ocuco’s senior management team and, in addition, will continue to run the B&F Optic subsidiary from his office in Oss.

All staff will be retained to continue to develop the Apollo and ApolloCS software for its 400-plus customers, who will also have access to Ocuco’s broader product portfolio. B&F’s non-optical products, including their market leading salon software, will continue to be developed and supplied under the leadership of Patrick Klappe.

Hans Lugtenberg commented, “Now B&F Optics is part of Ocuco we can deliver continuity in the long term, developing the best software for our customers. Our 4 developers are now part of a team of 60, and in cooperation with suppliers of lenses, contact lenses, and optical instruments, we are now able to develop interfaces and innovative new products across multiple optical technologies.”

Wells Fargo’s Technology Finance unit funded the acquisition as part of a €23 million credit line extended to Ocuco. In addition to completing this acquisition, the facility puts Ocuco into a good position to pursue further acquisitions in the region and to expand R&D.

Leo Mac Canna commented, “B&F is a great company. The acquisition further strengthens our position in the European marketplace, and from a management perspective Hans is a particularly talented guy and we are delighted to have him on our team.”

Ocuco was founded to serve the software needs of the optometry market in 1993, by Leo Mac Canna, who remains CEO. In 1997, it merged with Clinical Software, an ophthalmology EMR company, and the software, called Acuitas, was extended to cover the retail and marketing needs of retail chains and hospitals. Since then has been installed in some of the largest chains in the world. In 2008, Ocuco entered the Lab Management System (LMS) market with the acquisition of Innovations in the US. More recently, Ocuco has expanded into optical Omni channel software, with its partnership with OptiCommerce in the UK and the acquisition of Acumenex in North America.

Now Ocuco has over 7600 sites in 43 countries use Ocuco software and services. The company has over 230 staff based in the US, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Spain, Australia, and China.

The B&F Groep is the holding company for several subsidiaries providing Practice Management Software (PMS) and Point of Sale (PoS) systems to various clinical and retail sectors; with a strong focus on Opticians, Audiologists, salons, and fashion boutiques.

B&F Optics B.V. is the market leader in the Netherlands, developing the Apollo and ApolloCS PMS suites in-house, and implementing to Opticians and Optometrists across the country. B&F Optics is also responsible for the audiology PMS products for hearing aid specialists.

The B&F Coiffures B.V. subsidiary is another Dutch market leader, developing and delivering salon software products to hairdressers, barbers, and beauty salons throughout the Netherlands since 1989.

With a strong focus on innovation, B&F Groep are constantly developing new technologies and processes for their customers. Recently the company has created cross-channel facilities in line with the growing online retail markets including:

• Marketing solutions (full service)

• Loyalty systems

• Mobile applications for retailers (B2C)

• Online marketing and communications tools (online fitting room, email campaigns, direct print)




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