DULUTH, Ga.—National Vision Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: EYE), one of the largest optical retail companies in the U.S., reported its financial results for the first quarter ended March 30, 2024. Net revenue increased 4.2 percent to $542.5 million compared with the first quarter of 2023 and was primarily driven by growth from new store sales, higher revenue from the company’s AC Lens business, and the effect of unearned revenue compared with the prior-year period. Net revenue includes a 0.5 percent impact from the timing of unearned revenue in the current-year period compared with the prior-year period, according to an announcement from the company.

National Vision’s cash balance was $150.0 million and total debt was $458.9 million, as of March 30, 2024. Cash flows from operating activities for the first quarter of 2024 were $24.0 million compared with $74.1 million for the first quarter of 2023.

During the first quarter of fiscal 2024, the company ceased providing management services to Walmart stores, as reported by VMAIL. This included supplying and operating Vision Centers in 225 Walmart stores, providing contact lens distribution and related services to Walmart and its affiliate, Sam's Club, and arranging for the provision of optometric services at certain Walmart locations in California. The company has also commenced the process of winding down its AC Lens operations, including the closing of its Ohio distribution center, and expects the AC Lens operations to be included in discontinued operations in the second quarter of 2024.

“We delivered first quarter results in line with our expectations, reflecting a sequential improvement in the second half of the period. While weather and a slower start to the tax refund season at the beginning of the quarter adversely impacted sales, our teams remained focused on the areas of our business that we can control and continued to make progress on our strategic initiatives,” said Reade Fahs, National Vision’s CEO.

“We built upon the actions we put in place to improve doctor recruitment and retention, and we furthered our rollout of remote technology and electronic health records in our stores. Thanks to our team’s dedication and agility, we delivered increased revenues and profitability on a continuing basis despite operating in what remains a challenging macroeconomic environment. We are committed to continuing to build our foundation for growth to drive shareholder value,” Fahs said.

The company opened 14 new stores, and converted 20 Eyeglass World stores to America's Best stores, and ended the period with 1,201 stores. Overall, store count grew 6.5 percent from April 1, 2023 to March 30, 2024, the company said.

Based on independent research, the company is raising its whitespace opportunity for its America’s Best brand by 350 stores, for a new total of at least 1,650 locations. The analysis assumes maintaining the whitespace opportunity for Eyeglass World of at least 850 locations. In total, the company now believes its whitespace opportunity to be at least 2,500 stores.

During a conference call, Fahs noted that the company will continue to leverage flexible scheduling options and remote capabilities to drive ongoing improvement in retention and recruiting efforts. He commented that the company plans to deploy remote capabilities to at least 150 additional America's Best locations, including Texas. Overall, he said that the company should have 700 remote-enabled locations this year.

He commented that other strategic initiatives will continue, including the plan to have EHR installed in all America's Best locations; planning to enhance the company’s marketing message to broaden appeal for America's Best and Eyeglass World and continue to attract consumers via a variety of omni-channel offerings; and the expectation to open 65 to 70 new stores in fiscal year 2024.

Fahs also commented about the “exciting opportunities with artificial intelligence," noting National Vision’s investment last year in Toku Inc., a leader in applying AI-powered diagnostic and screening tools to retinal imaging.

National Vision also reaffirmed its total company fiscal outlook of $1.965 billion to $2.005 billion with adjusted comparable stores sales growth of 2.0 percent to 4.0 percent.

National Vision Holdings, Inc. has more than 1,100 stores in 38 states and Puerto Rico.