Essilor ECP Forums Frame Issues Facing Independents

By Andrew Karp: Group Editor, Lenses + Technology

Essilor’s Howard Purcell speaking on a Web simulcast of Essilor’s forum on independent optometry, held Oct. 16 in Anaheim, Calif.
ANAHEIM, Calif.—Issues facing independent optometrists took center stage at a series of meetings hosted by Essilor of America in four cities over the past few weeks. The meetings, in Chicago, Anaheim and Kansas City, Mo. were attended by a select group of independent optometrists in each city. Moderated by Howard Purcell, OD, FAAO, vice president of customer development for Essilor of America, the meetings featured guest speakers Tim Jankowski, OD, FAAO, immediate past chair of VSP Global and Dan Humphreys, optometry director, VSP Vision Care. Along with Purcell, they discussed a broad range of topics based on a Bain & Company study commissioned by VSP which found that the independent optometry industry faces major challenges, including competition from large national retail chains, increased consumer adoption of online purchases and desire for greater price transparency; and a shift from the personalized shopping experience toward a more efficient retail environment.

Speaking to the Anaheim audience and to other independent optometrists via a Web simulcast, Purcell said, “There are threats to independent optometry, significant threats, that I really didn’t realize until fairly recently. We can either wait for these threats to realize themselves in here in the U.S., and react or we can candidly start to prepare for them.”

Purcell also focused on international developments that he said will pose new competitive threats to independents in the U.S. He cited SpecSavers, a successful U.K.-based optical retail chain that offers what Purcell called “a high-end exam and low-end retail experience” and has “every intention of coming to the U.S.”

“It’s a business model that’s quite different than what we’re used to seeing,” said Purcell, adding, “I don’t believe we can wait. We have to understand the model they’re bringing to the table and how we can thrive as independents.”

Essilor said it will share with independent optometrists a compilation of findings generated through the forums as well input gathered on a website,, that addresses the same issues that were discussed at the forums.