Wal-Mart Teams with 1-800 CONTACTS to Expand Vision Care Offerings and Increase Customer Savings

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BENTONVILLE, Ark. and DRAPER, Utah—Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) announced a long-term agreement with 1-800 CONTACTS. The alliance of nearly 3,000 Wal-Mart and Sam's Clubs and 1-800 CONTACTS “will create efficiencies across their call centers, Web sites, purchasing, and distribution efforts—resulting in customer savings the companies estimate could reach $400 million over the next three years,” the companies said in a joint statement, adding, “By offering greater accessibility and savings on contact lenses, the alliance also aims to make it easier to replace lenses according to a schedule doctors recommend, a practice that may result in better eye health.”

The announcement cited a 2004 Federal Trade Commission report and a McKinsey & Company survey showed that contact lens wearers use lenses longer than their doctor prescribed. Some consumers in that same survey specifically cited cost and "purchasing them is inconvenient" as reasons for over-wearing their lenses, the companies pointed out in their joint statement.

"Our $4 prescription program is proof that Wal-Mart is committed to meeting America's healthcare challenges. Our commitment to affordable eyecare is no different," said Dr. John Agwunobi, senior vice president and president for Wal-Mart's professional services division. "Lowering costs and increasing convenience will make it easier for patients to follow their doctors' advice and replace their lenses as recommended."

Jonathan C. Coon, chief executive officer of 1-800 CONTACTS stated, "The majority of contact lens wearers experience high prices and limited service. This alliance can save these customers nearly 20 percent on their contact lenses while also offering the convenience of 24/7 live service from an associate by calling 1-800 CONTACTS or online at www.1800contacts.com."

The companies expect to integrate store, Web, and phone service this fall, the announcement said.