Patrick Cherrier is one of the globally recognised personalities in the optical world. He has over 45 years of work experience in the industry of which the last 24 years were with Essilor till he retired in 2017.
VisionPlusMag.Com recently met up with him to have his independent views on the current situation when the world is reeling under the pressure of COVID-19 pandemic.
When asked, what he thinks about the effect of the pandemic on the optical industry he said, Optical products are products that people cannot avoid to have. “It is their vision. This is critical as more than 80% of the information we get is through the eyes. They can postpone the purchase but will need to buy at a later time.” He also added that “Therefore, experience has shown that each time there was a slump it was followed by a bump. We can expect a good rebound in the market after the crisis. Optical is not like a normal consumer product like Coke. If you do not buy one today, you would not buy two tomorrow. I hope my message is clear enough.”
According to Patrick, the effect of COVID-19 might be quite short as people will immediately do and purchase glasses as they need them for their daily life. However, customers might look for cheaper products or buy lenses and not purchase new frames. Though as soon as the pandemic goes much down there will be a surge in business in India as it is seen in other countries.
He also said, “Optical business has enormous opportunities to grow. Firstly just by the population numbers, there are more and more vision correction required. Due to a high number of a young population using digital pieces of equipment which affects the vision, there is a rapid growth of myopia in the world. These types of equipment require more and more special fixtures to the lenses to protect the users against adverse rays produced. On top of that technology brings more and more products which will create demand. We must not forget that only half of the people who require vision correction are actually corrected.”
As for the new trends that could emerge in the coming days he felt new products will continue to develop and follow the life trend of people. Until now lenses were more to correct vision. Lately, lenses add other benefits like protection against UV or other types of light like blue light. Many fixtures will be added to the lenses. “You will soon have digital lenses with smartphone connectivity” he added.
Asked about his independent view on the now trending make in India concept, he responded saying that today the biggest part of lenses sold in India are made in India through the big number of labs existing in the country which need to make the lenses to the prescription of each customer according to the optician specifications. He also added, what is being imported currently are the semi-finished products.
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On changing the topic of discussion to what Patrick thinks about ONLINE business in an optical line which is seen as a disruption in the retailing side of it, this is what he said, “Only very basic glasses can be provided Online. To see well, you need a good refraction and a very good optician to recommend to you the best product for your need and to adjust it to your profile. So to me, the optician channel is still today the best way to have a perfect pair of spectacles and clear vision. Most important is opticians must emphasize the need for a professional to recommend a good pair of spectacles.
To overcome the threat of online business in retail he said, because of the changing environment opticians need to become real advisers to understand the exact lifestyle of each of their customers to recommend the perfect products and based on its lifestyle may recommend several pairs. “Years back opticians were just prescribing to give a clear vision but now they need to advise considering the lifestyle. The customer needs to not only see well, but his eyes are to be well-protected depending on the activities done and also look good” he concluded.
Patrick Cherrier was a global executive with more than 45 years of experience – 40 of those in Asia (China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, ASEAN, India, Australia/NZ) – creating brand and shareholder value. Before retiring in April 2017, he served as CEO and Executive Director of the Essilor International AMERA region (Asia-Pacific, Middle-East, Russia and Africa), a leading Optical company. He was a member of the Corporate Executive Committee. While he was the CEO of the AMERA region, he was responsible for the strategic management and direction of 135 subsidiaries in this vast region. During Patrick’s 24 years of an illustrious career with Essilor, he has spearheaded the company’s aggressive market expansion through organic growth, joint-ventures and acquisitions into countries in Asia, Oceania, Africa, Middle East, the Mediterranean & CIS region and Russia increasing his sales by more than 75 times to 1.9 Billion USD. His extensive global managerial experience was gained through his 40 years in Asia Pacific region respectively in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan, before joining Essilor 24 years ago.