Growth Plans: The Expanding Universe of Multiple Location Regional Retailers

Eye-Trepreneur Norman Childs’ growing group of optical locations leads off this month’s e-newsletter, “dba: Doing Business in Optical’s Local Markets.” At, read about how his business and brands (Eyetique, 3 Guys Optical, Norman Childs Eyewear) have doubled in size over the last three years.

Also in this month’s dba, contributing writers Jay Binkowitz and Evan Kestenbaum of GPN cover saving money by hiring students to accomplish tasks that don’t generate revenue for your practice.

Returning to the growth theme, this month’s dba q&a asks mid-size regional optical retailers about expansion. The economy’s continued sluggishness has not kept these savvy regional retailers from strategically adding locations they’ve purchased outright or built anew. Here are some excerpts from the online version of this month’s dba q&a describing recent and planned expansions:

David Sheffer
Executive Vice President of Corporate Development
Vienna, Va.

What expansion have you recently experienced?
Largely through acquisition, we have grown from 41 offices at the start of 2013 to 91 offices today. Our expansion to date has been focused on Virginia, Maryland, D.C., North Carolina and Georgia.

What expansion plans do you have for 2014?
We have had an exciting start to 2014 with the acquisitions of Doctors Vision Center in North Carolina and Lord Eye Center in Georgia. We will build on our strong regional presence through additional growth in North Carolina and Georgia while entering new geographies.

What factors are influencing your expansion?
The primary influence is the demand by high quality ODs to align with a larger group practice, while transitioning ownership so they can focus on patient care.

Robert Evangelista
Co-Op Optical

What expansion have you recently experienced?
In late 2012, we acquired and re-launched a regional retailer. [WCE LLC acquired Co-Op Optical.] In 2013, our sales were up 38 percent following strong growth in lens sales.

What expansion plans do you have for 2014?
We are looking to expand further outside of our current eight-store regional footprint. We anticipate opening two to three new locations and will also consider acquiring practices.

What factors are influencing your expansion?
Detroit is not exactly booming. However, leveraging the history of our stores in their communities, the deep, multi-generational patient base and the genuine relationships between our customers and our staff, we are seeing strong growth.

Alan Ulsifer, OD
CEO and President
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

What expansion have you recently experienced?
Our model was built for growth and consolidation. To grow in a manageable way, we have invested heavily in infrastructure and systems. We acquired Vision Source Canada in October and are beginning a steady stream of rolling independent practices into our platform. We have also recently created a vision care benefits program in cooperation with VSP Canada and have become the exclusive optical provider for Aeroplan, a large Canadian loyalty card program.

What expansion plans do you have for 2014?
We will continue to add new clinics on a monthly basis. There continue to be many consolidation opportunities in Canada, and our doctors want to lead that consolidation. We have a keen interest in the U.S. market and hope that we will begin our U.S. business in 2014.

What factors are influencing your expansion?
Despite an economy nobody is excited about, we feel there is opportunity for unrestricted growth. There is plenty of uncommitted capital out there, but it is more selective than it has been historically. If the model is profitable, sustainable, and has a good growth story, funding is not an issue. To really grow in today’s market and to be able to find the best partners, it is all about the story and potential of your business. The opportunities are endless.

Daniel Stanton
CEO Stanton Optical
Palm Springs, Fla.

What expansion have you recently experienced?
During 2013, Vision Precision Holdings introduced 13 new Stanton Optical and My Eyelab stores in Alabama, California, Florida and Texas. A majority of the retail stores were established in Florida.

What expansion plans do you have for 2014?

We’re preparing to launch 10 more retail stores across the country.

David Brown, ABOC, NCLE
Optical Director
Houston Eye Associates

What expansion have you recently experienced?
For 2013, Houston Eye Associates acquired three offices, opened two new door fronts, and relocated a current practice into a new build-out for last year.

What expansion plans do you have for 2014?

Our immediate plans are to open up three new locations this year while also relocating a current practice into a new building later in the year.

For more from the current edition of "dba: Doing Business in Optical’s Local Markets," (as well as archived issues), click here.