Refac, Nationwide Deal Closes, Management Teams to Pursue Expansion Goals

Al Bernstein.
GLENDORA, N.J.—On Sept. 30, Refac Optical Group (ROG) and Nationwide Vision closed the transaction previously announced between the two optical retail companies earlier in September, as reported by VMail. Refac’s CEO, David Pierson told VMail that Nationwide, ROG’s freestanding division, will now be known as the Nationwide Optical Group, which is actively pursuing growth and acquisition opportunities. He added, ROG’s strategy for its U.S. Vision (USV) division is to continue to organically grow its host optical brands by adding new stores to existing hosts and pursuing new host business relationships.

The USV host business continues under the direction of George Gorman, president. Gorman has been with U.S. Vision for 17 years, and had extensive merchandising and store operations experience at Strawbridge and Clothier before joining the company. U.S. Vision currently operates optical departments within JCPenney, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Meijer, Sears, Boscov’s, Hudson’s Bay, Macy’s and Belk. Recently, U.S. Vision began a pilot program with Belk Stores with two locations and has begun an aggressive expansion in Meijer Stores.

George Gorman.
With the acquisition of Nationwide completed, Al Bernstein, who had previously run that chain, the largest in Arizona, will assume the role of president and CEO, Nationwide Optical Group. Bernstein and his management team will lead the expansion of ROG’s freestanding strategy in Arizona through Nationwide Vision openings and working together with Pierson and the ROG team to pursue other acquisitions in the freestanding store category. Pierson said, “ROG’s freestanding strategy is to maintain the local and regional brand equity that has been developed in their respective areas while bringing the necessary financial resources to grow within their marketplace.”

Other members of the Nationwide Optical Group team include Vince Hayes, SVP, managed care, and Tom Hull, SVP, finance. Laura O’Neil will continue to work closely with the company’s frame product team.

To support the anticipated growth of the whole group, Pierson said a strong experienced product team has been developed under the direction of Peggy Deal, EVP of sales development. Prior to this role, Deal successfully led the BJ’s Optical business, doubling the sales volume since its acquisition in 2008, he noted. Marj McGraw, a long-time, experienced executive in the frame category, has joined USV as vice president of frame product. In addition, Dave Saulino joined USV earlier this year as vice president of lens products where he will oversee both spectacle and contact lenses. Saulino has been with CIBA and B + L.