2009 Optical Sales: $2,558M (est.)
2009 Optical Units: 2,952
Luxottica Group’s Luxottica Retail division, heading the VM Top
50 Optical Retailers list for the 11th consecutive year, battled the
recession throughout 2009, although Luxottica’s chief executive officer,
Andrea Guerra, cited signs of a turnaround beginning early this year.
After closing stores during 2009 under several of its retail
brands, this year Luxottica Retail is focused on improving
comparable-store sales rather than opening new locations. In 2010, its
flagship LensCrafters chain is putting more emphasis on one-hour
service, multiple-pair sales and the sunwear and premium lens
To help boost traffic for LensCrafters, marketing this year is
focusing on “tangible” assets such as one-hour service and its
satisfaction guarantee, according to Kerry Bradley, who was named
president of Luxottica Retail North America in 2009.
2. Wal-Mart Stores
2009 Optical Sales: $1,374M (est.)
2009 Optical Units: 2,995 (est.)
Approaching its 20-year anniversary in the optical business,
Walmart continues as the nation’s second-largest eyewear/eyecare player.
Part of Walmart’s health and wellness segment, the mass
merchant’s optical operation manufactured more than 5 million pairs of
eyeglasses last year, despite having halted production at its Columbus,
Ohio, optical laboratory in March 2009.
Walmart’s vision centers also sold more than 11 million boxes of
contact lenses, a big jump over the previous year that was due in large
part to its early-2009 alliance with 1-800 Contacts.
Jeff McAllister, who had headed Walmart’s optical business since
January 2006, moved on within the company early in February 2010;
McAllister was succeeded as senior vice president for health and
wellness by Paul Beahm, a veteran of Walmart’s pharmacy business.
3. HVHC Retail Group
2009 Optical Sales: $673.7M
2009 Optical Units: 528
The retail operation of HVHC, a Highmark company, added 13 new
locations during 2009; HVHC is expected to open more than 20 additional
retail locations this year.
One key focus of attention for HVHC Retail Group has been its
optical laboratories, which also serve outside retailers as well as
eyecare practitioners who are providers for HVHC’s Davis Vision
managed-care business. A new optical lab near Eye Care Center of
America’s (ECCA) headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, became fully
operational in June, dramatically reducing turnaround times while
lowering costs, according to David Holmberg, HVHC’s president and chief
Holmberg has talked of plans to consolidate some of HVHC’s
multiple store names under its two largest retail brands, EyeMasters and
Visionworks, beginning in the second half of this year.
4. National Vision
2009 Optical Sales: $558M (est.)
2009 Optical Units: 597
National Vision’s acquisition of the 64-store Eyeglass World
chain from Vision Care Holdings in late January 2009, coupled with
consumers’ embrace of the “everyday low price” concept as the recession
lingered throughout last year, helped boost the company into fourth
place on VM‘s Top 50 Optical Retailers listing.
The company’s America’s Best Eyeglasses & Contacts chain grew
by 26 stores—to 237—during 2009, after adding 42 new locations the
previous year. America’s Best now tops National Vision’s leased optical
departments inside Walmart stores in terms of store count.
National Vision plans to continue to open additional America’s
Best locations this year, while starting to expand the Eyeglass World
chain it acquired last year, according to Reade Fahs, National Vision’s
chief executive officer and president.
5. Costco Wholesale
2009 Optical Sales: $540M
2009 Optical Units: 404
Costco Wholesale continued to grow last year despite the
recession, adding another 12 everyday-low-price Costco Optical vision
centers within its U.S. warehouse clubs during 2009.
With more than 56 million warehouse-club cardholders, the Costco
Optical locations have a built-in traffic flow of regular visitors. And
like other “value”-oriented eyewear/eyecare retailers, parent Costco
Wholesale is weathering the recession on a positive note so far this
year: the company’s overall comparable-store sales were running 3
percent ahead of the previous year for the first half of its 2010 fiscal
6. Refac Optical Group
2009 Optical Sales: $226M
2009 Optical Units: 701
Under president and chief executive officer Dave Pierson, Refac
Optical Group continued to boost its sales and store count last year,
despite the recession.
Since taking over operation of 156 leased vision centers in BJ’s
Wholesale warehouse clubs from Luxottica Retail in February 2008—its
first venture into the warehouse-club optical arena—Refac has added
nearly 20 more BJ’s optical departments. Host BJ’s plans to add from
seven to nine new warehouse clubs during 2010 (including one relocation)
indicate Refac’s vision center count there could increase this year.
Refac’s major host, JCPenney, on the other hand, has slowed its
own expansion. Last year, JCPenney opened just 17 new department stores;
in the year ahead, the chain will add just four new locations.
7. Eyemart Express
2009 Optical Sales: $140M
2009 Optical Units: 102
Having hit the 100-store mark in September 2009, then opening two
additional locations later last year, Eyemart Express has benefited
from its longstanding commitment to the “value” eyewear business,
according to chairman and founder Doug Barnes, OD, and president
Jonathan Herskovitz, who took on that position in March of last year.
As of last month, the chain was operating about 125 stores in 26
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Eyemart Express
continues to stress its “everyday low price” philosophy, focusing on
“two-pair” deals such as two pairs of single-vision eyeglasses at
$67.92, while offering single pairs beginning at $38.74. In addition,
the chain offers one-hour eyeglass service on many prescriptions.
The Carrollton, Texas-based retailer also is expanding Vision
Vantage, its eyecare discount program.
8. Cohen’s Fashion Optical
2009 Optical Sales: $124M
2009 Optical Units: 117
Since Houchens Industries purchased its franchise division early
in 2008, Cohen’s Fashion Optical has been aggressively seeking
additional franchisees, both those with optical experience (including
existing stores to be converted to Cohen‘s franchises) and those
without. The chain currently has 117 locations in seven Eastern states
plus Puerto Rico; Robert Cohen, OD, Cohen’s president and chief
executive, continues to direct the chain’s daily operations.
The Cohen’s stores actively work to retain patients through eye
exam recalls, direct mail programs and Internet marketing, including
frequent discount coupons available in the Cohen’s Fashion Optical Web
site. In addition, an Internet Eye Exam Scheduler available to every
Cohen’s location allows patients to set up their eye exams online.
9. For Eyes/Insight Optical Mfg.
2009 Optical Sales: $103.6M (est.)
2009 Optical Units: 140 (est.)
Since 1972, For Eyes has positioned itself as a value provider in
the eyewear/eyecare industry; executives of the chain describe For Eyes
as the first optical company to offer consumers a high-value package
price combining frames and prescription lenses.
In 2009, For Eyes invested in its digital infrastructure to
increase online retail opportunities, embrace new marketing channels and
extend its “smart choice” message to new consumers by offering two
pairs of eyeglasses for $99 through its Web site. For Eyes also invested
in its existing portfolio of stores with an aggressive renovation
For Eyes has stores in major market areas on the East Coast from
Boston to Florida and in the Midwest, with a large concentration in the
greater Chicago market. The chain also has stores throughout California,
where it operates a specialized heath plan, For Eyes Vision Plan.
10. ShopKo EyeCare Centers
2009 Optical Sales: $82M
2009 Optical Units: 136
Rejoining the Top 10 segment of VM’s Top 50 Optical Retailers
this year, mass merchant ShopKo Stores’ optical division 134 ShopKo
EyeCare Centers in its discount stores plus EyeCare Centers in two of
its six ShopKo Express drugstores.
ShopKo Stores opened its 141st retail location in March 2009, its
fourth new store to use a new retail concept that puts the optical
department right up front.
ShopKo’s eyecare operations—first launched in 1978—include online
ordering of contact lenses via its Web site. The company’s affiliated
optometrists perform more than 380,000 eye exams each year, according to
ShopKo, and dispense nearly 700,000 prescriptions for eyewear annually.