The Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers Hit Record Sales Over $12B

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NEW YORK—The Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers achieved record collective sales of over $12 billion for calendar year 2015, according to Vision Monday’s estimates. The dollars reflect a respectable sales performance for most of the year, and include revenues from the retail sales of products, eyecare services and, when applicable, a small percentage of online sales.

But most of the movement in the Top 50 rankings for the period, particularly among the Top 10 and Top 25, was, propelled by the effect of a number of private equity investments in the optical market which created both consolidation—absorbing formerly independent regional operations—as well as expansion among several new market leaders.

The composition of the VM’s Top 10, for the 2015 period, remained the same among the top four companies: Luxottica Retail at #1 (part of the large publicly-traded global group), Vision Source at #2 (which itself was acquired by Essilor in 2015), Walmart Vision Centers (including Sam’s Club) at #3 and National Vision at #4. (National Vision saw an investment by prominent group KKR in 2014).

Among the others in the Top 10 are familiar national market leaders like Costco at #5 and Visionworks at #6. Refac Optical Group maintained its post at #8, while MyEyeDr./Capital Vision Services jumped from 10 in last year’s ranking to #7 this year. MyEyeDr.’s ranking was fueled by its assertive expansion of both smaller independent offices and regional groups which it brought under its banner, helped by the company’s own new equity investment in August 2015 as a group led by Altas Partners and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), two large investment firms who did so in partnership with co-founder and CEO Sue Downes and other members of management.

Cohen’s Fashion Optical, now a franchise-only operation, moved up to the Top 10 this year from last year’s rank of 11. Also appearing for the first time in the Top 10 is Eyemart Express, on an expansion pace for its value retail formats and with the investment help of FFL Partners, a private equity firm that took an interest in the chain just at the end of 2014.

Noteworthy, too, is Eyecare Partners, ranked at number 11 based on 2015 yearly sales, a new entity consisting of Clarkson Eyecare, which had previously acquired Thoma & Sutton and this year added to its group with the acquisition of EyeCare Associations and eyecarecenter p.a.

It should be noted that global retail optical player, GrandVision, made its first move in the U.S. optical market in 2015, with the acquisition of family-owned For Eyes Optical.

Collectively, the VM Top 50 account for 35.3 percent of the total U.S. vision care market, which is estimated by VisionWatch to be $34,446 million in revenues in 2015. The Top 50’s dollar share equals $12,151.6 million. The Top 10 of those Top 50 command a major proportion of those sales. The Top 10 alone account for about 30.5 percent of the total vision care market’s sales. Mass merchants and wholesale clubs together account for estimated sales of $3,242 million, or 9.4 percent of the total U.S. vision care market’s revenues.

And, yes, for the first time, VM has attempted to rank Warby Parker on its VM Top 50 Retailers list. While Warby Parker has not disclosed or corroborated its total sales estimates, the online player, which had opened a few showroom locations in 2014, expanded more significantly into the retail sector last year. Warby Parker operated 20 stores as of December 2015. In 2016, the company has stated that it intends to open another 15 to 20 locations, either freestanding or within other host locations or venues.

A few of VM’s Top Retailers are already selling eyewear products online, particularly contact lenses, and revenues, where applicable are included in their total revenue report or estimates. Luxottica Retail’s estimate now also includes revenues from its Glasses.com site. And Visionworks, after a year in development, launched its own e-commerce presence this year.

Omni-channel, blurring the boundaries of brick and mortar with click and order, is starting to be felt in the optical retail category, no doubt, and so is reflected in VM’s signature report this year.

maxelrad@jobson.com