Visitors to the 15th Hong Kong Optical Fair will get a clearer vision of the industry as 542 exhibitors showcase their latest products and services. On display are spectacle companies that have travelled from more than 22 countries and regions, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Hong Kong's optical industry is booming. In the first nine months of this year, Hong Kong's total exports of spectacles rose by 29 per cent. After Italy, the territory is the world's second largest exporter of spectacles and frames. At the fair, buyers can source everything in eyewear and eye care, from frames and optometric instruments to packaging materials and sunglasses. 'The fair benefits from its prime location. Hong Kong is the centre of a thriving and forward-looking optical industry which continues to demonstrate spectacular growth,' said Anne Chick, senior exhibitions manager of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. Attracting a high number of foreign visitors, the fair last year drew 10,064 buyers from 88 countries and regions, an increase of 14 per cent from the previous year. This year, buyers can check out famous brands such as France's Alain Mikli and Harry Lary's; Japan's Yellows Plus, Solid Blue and Masunaga; and Switzerland's Gotti. For frame makers Good Quality Optical Manufactory, the fair is an opportunity to secure orders expected to total some 400,000 pieces. Christopher Yeung, sales and marketing manager, said the event was a chance to meet new customers and present its products. The new collection featured a sparkling powder that is engraved on to the side of the frames. While the company exports worldwide to countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy, Germany, Russia and Brazil, Mr Yeung said the firm was also looking at customers in Africa. As mainland China's economy grew, he said, labour shortages in factories were becoming more common. 'People [in the mainland] have better opportunities than they did five years ago,' he said. 'Before, they worked in factories or the fields, now they have much more choice.' Connie Siu Shiu-shan, sales manager of Chu Kong Optical Manufactory, said the fair was a chance for existing customers to follow up on projects and orders. The new designs in optical frames featured metal decorations and laser patterns. Ms Siu said manufacturing costs in the mainland have increased. 'Many factories in the mainland have the same problem: the appreciation of the yuan, a higher minimum wage and maximum working hours [for workers] has increased the running costs of business in the mainland and made making a profit more difficult.' With customers in the US, Germany, France and Britain and an annual turnover of US$9million, Ms Siu believes the Japanese market has the biggest growth potential. The company, which outputs 3million pieces a year, is also focusing on sunglasses, as more people are treating them as fashion accessories that need to be updated each year. Ms Siu said, 'People buy them for different occasions, and to match their clothes and style.' Weimen Ng, owner and founder of Catini Optical Manufacturing, also believed Japan's optical industry had room to grow. However, Mr Ng sees the mainland as an increasingly difficult base in manufacturing. 'The exchange rate is a problem, not only for the optical industry, but for all fields,' he said. 'Also, the labour cost is high and it's not easy to find workers.' As an exhibitor at the fair for the past 10 years, Mr Ng has witnessed a change in customers' buying strategies. 'They no longer want low-quality products. The mainland began making high-end products five years ago, and that's what people want. If you have good quality optical [products], people will buy them.' With offices in Taiwan and Hong Kong, Tony Optical Enterprises is expanding business with a new factory in Zhangzhou. It specialises in sport sunglasses, goggles, reading spectacles, fashion eyewear and children's glasses. Sales manager May Lin said the new optical frames featured dual colours of black and red; blue and red; and brown and grey. The firm also produces polarised sport lenses that cut out glare to allow anglers to see fish below the water surface. Futis (Hong Kong), whose Taiwanese parent company was established in 1978, is known for its Kaleido and Haruka brands, showcases sunglasses, optical frames, reading glasses and polarised lenses. Apart from making frames from titanium, aluminium and injection plastics, it uses TR90 which, product planner Phoebe Chen said, was 'a more flexible plastic that doesn't easily break and can be sprayed any colour'. Shop owners can improve their retail spaces with ideas and products from 38 exhibitors at the Retail & Shop Design, Equipment and Technology section. Items include point-of-sale equipment and technology, furniture and fixtures, lighting technology and packaging services. With past clients including Calvin Klein Jeans and Converse, the Clifton Leung Design Workshop will be exhibiting its interior design services for the first time. The fair gives the Hong Kong-based company direct access to optical product companies and optical retailers. 'The optical fair is large, and there are so many international companies,' said Derek Leung, communications and development manager. 'We can [not only] show off our shop design services, but also directly visit other exhibitor booths.' The Optometric Instrument, Equipment and Machinery section features seven companies from Hong Kong. There will also be the 5th Hong Kong Optometric Conference with six speakers from Australia, Denmark, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the mainland discussing key optometric issues and the latest optometric developments, with topics including myopia, the effects of vitamin E on steroids-induced cataracts, macular degeneration, ametropia, LASIK updates and contact lenses. The Trade Development Council will offer a free interpretation service for Spanish and Russian at the Dragon Lounge.