Ed – Moscon Optics has grown into a huge business. Can you give us a break down of the divisions within the Company?
RL – Firstly, thank you for the opportunity to communicate to the Vision Magazine readership. I have always enjoyed my relationship with Shannon de Klerk and value the great work that Vision Magazine does within the optical industry. I humbly disagree that Moscon is a huge business, as I consider a huge business to be the likes of the Apple organization etc. We are a medium sized business that continues to grow. The divisions within the Moscon Group are; the Optical and Sunglass divisions and since October 2015, the ACUVUE® brand Contact Lens division.
Ed – Mike Esra has been around for a long time. He started out as financial director if I am not mistaken. What is his role today?
RL – Michael is a shareholder within the Moscon Group, as well as the Managing Director. Both Mike and I, oversee the day-to-day running of the business. Mike is more focused on the financial and operational side, whilst I am more involved in the sales and marketing aspect of the company. However, there is overlap within the operational areas in the company.
Ed – Who are the people in your management team?
RL – Michael Esra (Managing Director), Ricky Lewis (Director), Stan Greenberg (Operations Manager), Charl de Klerk, (the new Financial Manager), Neil Ibbitson (National Sales Manager for the frame and sunglass division), Grant Barnett (Regional Sales Manager for the frame and sunglass division based in the Western Cape), Lloyd Smylie (the new ACUVUE®Brand Contact Lens Sales Manager), Carole Lowen (Marketing Manager based in the Western Cape)
Ed – You attended MIDO again earlier this year. Is it still very good and well attended?
RL – Yes, I attended MIDO. It was very cold in Milan, which I am not used to as a South African, but it was a great exhibition as always. There were over 58 000 eye care professionals that attended from around the world with a 4.9% increase in overall attendance from 2017. For any first-time attendee, MIDO is an unbelievable and somewhat overwhelming experience, as one can see the magnitude of our industry. It is crucial that we attend MIDO every year to keep up to date with international trends and to have the opportunity to have face to face meetings with all our preferred suppliers.
Ed – Do you think that a local optical conference and trade show is still a viable option? (If not, what do you think should happen?)
RL – I would love to say that a local optical conference and trade show is still a viable option within South Africa, however, unfortunately the last few conferences have been so poorly attended by the eye care professionals, that as a wholesaler, the high costs in exhibiting does not make such conferences and trade shows economically viable. I remember as a young man, how things used to be different in this regard and how the conferences and trade shows were at some point very important events for local wholesalers in the optical industry. The only way this unfortunate scenario can change is if the eye care professionals in South Africa stand together and make an effort to attend such events. At the end of the day it comes down to numbers and if there are not enough attendees, then from a wholesaler’s perspective, such events are not viable.
Ed – Moscon Optics has been associated with Silhouette for many years. The Titan Minimal Art Collection was launched nearly twenty years ago. How has it stayed in the game, amidst fierce opposition and changing trends?
RL – Silhouette is the benchmark for premium eyewear. Moscon holds dear the thirty-five-year relationship that we have had with the Silhouette organizationin Austria. We continue today to learn so much from this great, privately owned, company. Their professionalism and innovation are still amongst the best within the industry from a global stand point and their production methods are the finest in the world. Silhouette is not just a rimless eyewear brand, but also has unbelievable half-rim and full-rim product, along with a very exciting sunglass collection. Silhouette continues to be one of the leading eyewear brands in the premium eyewear category. Although there are some strong competitors, Silhouette will always have an established niche in the market focusing on lightweight, innovative designs across its collection. It is worth a mention that Silhouette’s iconic rimless Titan Minimal Art collection, is currently worn by over ten million people worldwide, proving that the rimless category will always remain an integral part of the Silhouette offering.
Ed – How has the mix between Labels, Brands and Generic frames evolved as far as sales are concerned?
RL – South Africa has a very diverse market in optics, although somewhat conservative. There is most definitely a large market for both generics and branded eyewear. Moscon is a diverse company that continues to focus on both categories and we will continue to develop both categories within our offering in the future.
Ed – Given that Moscon had no contact lens trading record, it was an amazing achievement to be appointed distributor of the ACUVUE® Brand in South Africa. What tipped the decision in your favour?
RL – I humbly agree that it was an amazing achievement to be appointed the distribution rights for ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lenses. I believe the main reasons we were appointed the ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lens distribution rights is, because Johnson & Johnson Vision Care were very impressed with the fact that we are a preferred supplier to the large majority of the optical industry. They liked our distribution model and the young entrepreneurial spirit within the Moscon Management Team. Moscon was also well geared for the opportunity with our sophisticated SAP Business 1 software system. Ultimately, we at Moscon believe we can take the ACUVUE® Contact Lens brand to the #1 selling soft disposable contact lens brand in South Africa as it is the #1 selling contact lens brand in the world today.
Ed – What do you find to be the biggest challenge in the contact lens business?
RL – The biggest challenge is getting the eye care professionals to focus on the category as a very important category in their businesses, if not the most important category in the practice. No other product within an optical practice allows the eye care professionals to engage with their patients more frequently than that of a contact lens wearer. It has been proven that a contact lens patient, who also wears optical frames for corrective vision, is 80%+ more profitable than that of a patient who just wears optical frames over a lifetime of corrective vision needs.
Ed – A bit of nostalgia – you literally grew up in the optical community. What is your earliest memory of the business?
RL – My earliest memory is a very fond memory. This happened when I joined my wonderful mother, Wendy Lewis, at an airport hotel in Johannesburg, when she delivered adidas Sports Performance sunglasses to the South African Cricket team. I remember meeting the likes of Jonty Rhodes, Richard Snell and many other of my sports heroes.
Ed – From your father, Colin Lewis’ legacy at Moscon Optics what was the most important lessons you have gained?
RL – My father was always a great mentor to me in the work place and most of what I know today in business is due to him. I forced my way into his office at an early stage after joining the company because I knew that the best way to learn about business and the industry was from learning how he traded and conducted himself on a daily basis. I think the main lessons I have learnt are “nothing comes easy” and “there is no substitute for hard work”. Another major lesson I learnt from my father that stands out is that if you want something in business or in life go and get – nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. I hope to continue my father’s legacy within the optical industry so that Moscon is successful for at least another generation to come.
Ed – Thanks for the chat Ricky. It is nice to see that the legacy your parents, Colin and Wendy Lewis left behind, is in very capable hands.