Hoya Launches No Frills Prescription Lab Service
Hoya Vision Care has launched a new business unit that offers customers an economical alternative to standard lab services and products. The web-based business, called Uncuts Direct, offers low prices on branded and private label lenses.
Although there is no mention of Hoya on Uncuts Direct’s website, Hoya’s director of online optical, Clay Musslewhite (pictured here), confirmed the company’s involvement. He said Hoya decided to take a no-frills approach to satisfy customers who asked for a more affordable prescription service.
“A lot of what customers pay for is the warranty and the bells whistles of the sales rep coming in,” Musslewhite said. “Our idea is to offer lab services in a simple, straightforward way. We have a much more slimmed down offering than what many labs offer. And our prices are lower than Hoya typically sells things for. This gives us more opportunities to touch more customers.”
Uncuts Direct offers Hoya lenses as well as other popular brands. Prescription orders are processed at various Hoya labs, Musslewhite noted.
X-Tra Lite Optical Announces New Location And New Digital Surfacing Lab
X-Tra Lite Optical has moved to a new location in and added a new digital surfacing lab to support their on-going growth. The new lab space and acquisition of new digital technology from Schneider Optical Machines will allow X-Tra Lite to produce digital lenses in-house.
X-Tra Lite’s new facility in Huntington Beach, Calif. has over 5500 square feet and it built to support further expansion. This new lab will allow X-Tra Lite and its employees to comfortably expand without further need to relocate.
“X-Tra Lite has always been committed to providing our customers with the best service and the best products,” said Kenneth Lin, vice president of X-Tra Lite, who is seen here in the new Schneider-equipped facility. “Our expansion plans dictated that we move to a larger facility to support our growing customer base. We also needed the larger space to accommodate the added equipment investment to bring digital processing in house to X-Tra Lite.”
Kevin Cross, Schneider’s director of sales for North America, commented, “Working with Ken and his team at X-Ttra Lite has been great. It is very rewarding to see the growth they’ve experienced and how hard they have worked. We look forward to continuing our relationship for many years to come.”
US Optical Makes Dalai Lama’s Lenses
Wholesale lab US Optical manufactured three pairs of spectacle lenses for the Dalai Lama's eyeglasses while he was in Syracuse, N.Y. for a panel discussion and concert at Syracuse University on October 8 and 9. In a note to the Dalai Lama, the owners of US Optical, Ralph, Ron and Robert Cotran, wrote, “It was an honor for US Optical to manufacture prescription lenses for your holiness.”
A customer of US Optical, optician Jim Morrison of Renken & Morrison Opticians recommended the East Syracuse lab. While in the Syracuse area, the Dalai Lama, who is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, also had an eye examination from Fayetteville-based ophthalmologist Dr. William M. Tucker.
Keeping Pace With Change
It’s been a pleasure writing for this column for the last three years. We’ve tried to bring relevant, current topics to lab owners in an effort to provoke reflection on your businesses. We’ve been through the record keeping process with an emphasis on accounting practices. We’ve gone through the decision making process with an emphasis on whether or not to invest in a project. We’ve talked taxes and their impact to your business, and we’ve also talked about the consolidation that continues to happen in this industry.
The most feedback I’ve ever received was from commentary on change. I started working in the wholesale optical industry almost 15 years ago. I have to say that there is not much of what was there then that now is in the same form. True, there are many of the same actors, but what they are doing is very different. And some of the actors are gone. Most recently, we’ve discussed politics, the fiscal cliff, and healthcare reform.
Regardless of what all of our personal views are on the topics, there will continue to be change. My sincere hope is that you as business owners are able to brace yourselves for that change or ready to embrace it. We will see what happens over the next few years, but my bet is that you will continue to face the challenges with the same courage you have always had. You don’t need to be afraid of the change occurring, but you do need to “fear” it by staying current with the issues and preparing yourselves and your lab for what is to come.
I wish you Happy Holidays and a bright and prosperous New Year.—Jason A. Meyer, managing director, HPC Puckett & Company.
Based in San Diego, Calif., HPC Puckett & Company specializes in mergers and acquisitions of wholesale optical laboratories. You can send comments or questions about this article or any other Dollars & Sense articles to Jason A. Meyer at email@example.com.
First Look Optical's Ron Jackson
By Judith Lee
To summarize First Look Optical’s customer strategy in a phrase, you might say: “Snuggle up, baby, it’s cold outside!”
“In today’s competitive climate, we are staying closer to our customers than ever before,” noted Ron Jackson, director of optical manufacturing for the Wood River, Ill. lab. “We have increased the level of support provided by our customer service department and we’ve maintained a strong focus on turn-time reduction.”
First Look is a division of NuCrown, which owns 30 retail stores. Their orders represent 40 percent of First Look business. The other 60 percent of business comes from independent ECPs across the U.S.
One way that First Look adds fuel to the fire is by responding to market trends.
“We’re paying attention to market trends of patients, both positive and negative. Currently the major customer focus are in the areas of free form which we provide as MasterPiece HD and we continue to provide specialty lens processing (slaboffs, high powers, high prism) for several key accounts,” Jackson said.
Enabling that response is an investment in technology initiated in 2011 with a DVI lab management system installed in January, followed by Schneider digital equipment installed in February and MasterPiece HD free-form progressives installed in March 2011.
The investments came at a cost that Jackson described as “character building.”
“I attribute our success to the hard work and dedication on the entire management team. Six months of controlled dysfunction, and I would not recommend it to anyone,” he said.
Still, it has paid off; currently MasterPiece HD represents one third of total shipments and continues to be a strong revenue generator through 2012.
First Look Optical is not resting on its laurels, as a new Satisloh AR coating system is being installed this month, and MEI edgers are coming early next year.
Increased automation has not reduced the workforce, but expanded it from 22 to 30 in response to increased orders. First Look plans to hire three more in early 2013.
The upside for customers is that First Look Optical now offers a wider range of products, including digitally designed lenses from Seiko and IOTA, with Definity, EDO and Shamir on the horizon.
“The new technology provides greater precision and efficiency,” Jackson noted. “We work closely with our suppliers to provide and materials and services that meet our customer’s needs and wants then deliver on them appropriately.”
Improving Your Grades
By Judith Lee
First, the good news. Like students who choose to sit in the front row, your customers have been listening. Optical dispensers have noticed:
- You’ve invested in digital technology
- Your lab is turning out consistent quality lenses
- Your staff is capable and productive with digital lens surfacing
But like all good students, your customers have a few things to teach the teacher. If they were grading your performance, they would give you an “A for effort” but something like a “B” for your overall grade. It’s not a bad grade, but probably not the very best you can do. This experienced group of dispensing opticians provide these simple suggestions to bring up your grade to a solid “A.”
#1 Base Curves Count More Than Ever
With the freedom that digital free-form lenses allow, it’s important for labs to realize that “close” is no longer close enough, says master optician Barry Santini of Long Island Opticians, Seaford, NY.
“As long as the requested base curve is available for the material/lens design chosen, no substitutions should be made by the lab,” Santini said.
He explained that optical retailers are attempting, more than ever, to try to maintain authentic frame appearance and fit.
“When using the new free-form lenses, it is not uncommon for us to deviate from traditional ‘best form’ curves to more accurately mimic the way the frame templates fit the frame. By doing so, the frames keep their ‘off-the-shelf’ cosmetics and fitting quality,” Santini noted.
When the lab is exacting with order specifications, your customer is happier because his or her customer is happier.
“With closely frame-matched curves, customers no longer ask to see ‘the model they tried on.’ The finished Rx pair fits and looks just like the sample they tried on!” Santini said.
Find out six more suggestions from your customers by reading the entire article on the newly redesigned LabTalk website.