Mark Tosh, Senior Editor

Mark covers news and feature coverage of national and regional optical retailers, managed vision care organizations, software systems and technology. He works closely with other members of the VM editorial staff to monitor developments in online optical retailing and other industry issues. Mark is a contributor to dba, a twice monthly e-newsletter profiling successful local and regional retail/optometric businesses while addressing their decision-making needs. Contact Mark at mtosh@jobson.com.

Historic First: Seven of 10 Students Who Entered Optometry Schools This Fall Are Female

By Mark Tosh
Wednesday, November 27, 2019 2:22 PM For what is believed to be the first time, the percentage of women who entered North American schools and colleges of optometry this fall increased to the 70 percent plateau, Women In Optometry reported this month. The publication cited data from the 25 optometry schools surveyed for its report, which also found an overall increase of 28 students in optometry schools this fall compared with a year ago.

Specialized Optometry

By By Marge Axelrad, Andrew Karp, Mark Tosh and Brian Dunleavy
Monday, November 11, 2019 12:30 AM NEW YORK—We are living in an age of specialization. Today we can get virtually anything we want from a business whose only business is delivering a certain type of product or service, whether it’s a vegan restaurant or Victoria’s Secret. Optometry, like many medical professions, is being reshaped by the specialization trend. Modern living has changed the way we use our eyes, and many optometrists, particularly those in private practice, have responded by developing specialties to address specific patient needs. Some specialties, such as pediatrics and low vision, have been long established in optometry, while others, like dry eye management and neuro-optometry are more recent additions. Yet all seem to be benefitting from the advent of new technologies and treatment methods which are bringing exciting changes to vision care.

Digging into Digital Ad Trends

By Mark Tosh
Monday, November 11, 2019 12:00 AM From a media perspective, staying on top of internet advertising trends is a “must-do” today. But marketers, too, have more reason than ever to be aware of the developments taking place in digital advertising.

Tricks, Treats and Tweets from Optical's Halloween

By Mark Tosh
Friday, November 1, 2019 4:00 PM Halloween may date back almost 2000 years, but as holidays go it certainly has aged well. Indeed, one might say Halloween is looking better than ever. The proof is all over social media. And the optical community – judging by the numerous posts we spotted on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – appeared to have an outrageously good time celebrating Halloween this year. Costumes, cookies and comic images were ubiquitous on social media for many eyecare practices and their staffs, from New York to Los Angeles and just about everywhere in between.

Dashboard Data

By Mark Tosh
Monday, October 21, 2019 12:30 AM From health care to retail, data has become an invaluable resource for businesses and practitioners. It’s what many see as the key ingredient to better meeting, and exceeding, consumer or patient expectations, and it provides a critical yardstick for measuring success across a variety of metrics. In eyecare and optical retailing, the growing interest in data also has led to an increase in the number of options partner companies are developing that collect, track and analyze the data for ECPs to draw upon to manage their practice. From software and tech companies to alliances and large retail groups, a dashboard or other analytical tools have become part of the de facto offering to member ECPs.

Talking Baseball, Eyewear and the World Series: Five Stories for October

By Mark Tosh
Friday, October 4, 2019 8:00 AM Spoiler alert: at the end of this story, we pick the likely winner of this year’s World Series. Hint, it won’t be the Red Sox. (Or the New York Mets.) But that’s getting ahead of the point here in this Today’s Read feature. Since it is October and World Series season, baseball seems like an appropriate topic to address. Also, it’s a perfect topic because almost everyone loves baseball and its lore, or at least a large group of us over the age of 40 still do.

TSO Finds Success by Focusing on Convenience for the Patient

By Mark Tosh
Monday, September 16, 2019 1:00 AM HOUSTON—There’s really no secret sauce or magic ingredient that goes into Texas State Optical’s (TSO) formula for success, according to president John Marvin. It all comes down to a “pretty basic” approach to managing a business on the foundation of sound core values and a resolute mission statement. And, perhaps most importantly, serving patients as effectively as possible—with plenty of emphasis on meeting the patients’ needs even as they evolve in a digitally driven marketplace.

Looking to the Future of Contact Lens Development With BCLA Medal Winner Lyndon Jones

By Mark Tosh
Friday, September 6, 2019 8:00 AM It’s been a busy 2019 for the contact lens sector of eyecare. Alcon once again became an independent company (following its spinoff from Novartis) and Johnson and Johnson debuted Acuvue Oasys with Transitions lenses, a first-of-its-kind contact lens that can sense lighting conditions. 

How Consumers Feel About Brands Expressing Opinions on Social Issues

By Mark Tosh
Friday, August 23, 2019 8:00 AM With many Americans polarized around social and political issues, it has become more important for brands that decide to take a stand to have some understanding of the risks that are associated with their decisions. With this in mind, research firm YouGov reviewed its data to compare the point of views of consumers from the U.S. and Britain. The objective was to explore whether consumers think it’s appropriate for brands to comment on social issues and to what extent this would depend on the industry. More than half (52 percent) of people in Britain think that brands should be able to express how they feel on a certain topic, compared with 61 percent of those from the U.S. “What’s more, just under half (48 percent) of Americans say they like brands that are willing to get involved in social issues and 42 percent of Brits say the same,” YouGov reported. Read the YouGov report here.

In addition, about six in 10 (59 percent) people in both countries don’t think brands should express views on social or political issues, but often this depends on the industry and the issue. “This indicates that it’s up to the brand itself to weigh up the risk versus the reward and understand what causes will resonate with their own audience and what will put them off,” the report said.

A Survey of Americans and What They Think of Shopper Loyalty Programs

By Mark Tosh
Sunday, August 18, 2019 7:00 AM Just about everyone is a member of one or more customer loyalty programs. These programs come in various shapes and sizes, in part because of variations by industry, by demographic and by brand, as a YouGov survey recently noted. “Customers in certain industries are motivated by different benefits and identifying the proper framework can lead to increased customer satisfaction,” the research firm noted. 

In an effort to uncover how consumers feel about these programs, YouGov conducted a survey of American consumers earlier this year to get a better understanding of this phenomenon. The firm discovered via its research that roughly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) are members of at least one program. 

The complete report can be downloaded here.  

“Savvy customers now want and expect a brand to reward their loyalty,” the research firm noted. “At a glance, women (68 percent) are more likely than men (59 percent) to subscribe to a loyalty program, and engagement, while high among older Americans (69 percent), tends to lag among young consumers (43 percent).” The analysis also indicated that among people not yet subscribed to a loyalty program, “there is a chance of winning them over with the right messaging and benefits offering.” 

YouGov also noted that among 18 to 24 year-olds, two in five (40 percent) men and three in 10 (30 percent) women report they have never subscribed to a loyalty program. “The reasons behind this are likely complex: their life stage suggests less experience with money and less exposure to loyalty programs overall,” the firm noted. 

Among loyalty programs, the most popular seems to be supermarket loyalty programs, which have a 65 percent penetration among people who belong to at least one loyalty program. The second most dominant sector proves to be pharmacies (56 percent), likely driven by programs such as CVS ExtraCare Pharmacy & Health Rewards and Walgreens Balance Rewards, the research firm said

Seeking Solutions

By Mark Tosh
Monday, August 12, 2019 12:30 AM In the world of optical retailing and eyecare, the arrival of the year 2020 might be seen as the best of times for the profession. Demographics, especially an aging population, higher incidence of diseases that may impact eye health (such as diabetes), and new areas of practice focus—namely myopia and blue light protection—are opening up avenues of opportunity for eyecare professionals.

MyEyeDr.: Valuing Doctor-Patient Loyalty

By Mark Tosh
Monday, August 12, 2019 12:28 AM

EyeCare Partners: A Doctor-First Approach

By Mark Tosh
Monday, August 12, 2019 12:27 AM Right behind MyEyeDr. in terms of size and scope is EyeCare Partners of St. Louis. The group has almost 300 locations where doctors see patients and is now in 11 states following a move into Alabama in March. EyeCare Partners launched in April 2015, when the private equity firm FFL Partners invested in St. Louis-based Clarkson Eyecare group, which had 63 locations at that time.

Acuity: Launched in 2017, but Growing Quickly

By Mark Tosh
Monday, August 12, 2019 12:26 AM Perhaps one of the newer PE-backed management groups in the eyecare sector is Acuity Eyecare Group, which was formed in early 2017 when Riata Capital acquired Crown Vision Center, Eyetique and International Eye Center and combined the practices under the Acuity management services umbrella. The group has now expanded to almost 125 locations following a pair of late July acquisitions that added 11 locations and marked the group’s entry into Texas. Acuity jumped four spots and ranked No. 17 in VM’s recent list of Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers.