CHARENTON-LE-PONT, France, and MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.—EssilorLuxottica has entered into an agreement to acquire Walman, the largest independent optical laboratory group in the U.S. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Walman, which is employee-owned and operated, has long been a top wholesale distributor of Essilor lenses in the U.S. It has been a leading partner to vision care practices around the country since its founding in 1915. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., the diversified company operates a network of 35 facilities across the U.S., including prescription lens-finishing labs and hubs for optical instruments and other vision care products. It generated approximately $500 million in revenues in 2020, according to EssilorLuxottica and Walman.

“Walman is a company we’ve admired as a longtime partner—they share EssilorLuxottica’s customer-first sensibility and our relentless pursuit of higher service standards,” commented Francesco Milleri and Paul du Saillant, respectively CEO and Deputy CEO of EssilorLuxottica. “They also share our history of employee shareholding, which makes them an ideal cultural fit for our family. Walman has cultivated broad recognition and relationship equity and we will invest in the areas that make them such a great partner to the industry.”

As part of EssilorLuxottica, Walman will continue to serve the market under the Walman brand, delivering “the same customer intimacy, service and solutions their customers have come to expect,” the companies said in a joint statement. Walman will draw on EssilorLuxottica’s focus on product and service innovation to create growth opportunities in areas such as the progressive lens and anti-reflective lens categories as well as developing solutions like Myopia management require resources to grow, the companies said.

“EssilorLuxottica’s investment in Walman is an important next step for our customers and employees,” said Marty Bassett, president and CEO of Walman. “It was time for Walman to find an investment partner to support its future success. We chose EssilorLuxottica because of our shared values and their proven history of working with independent businesses to accelerate growth while supporting the entrepreneurial spirit and company culture that made each business successful in the first place.”

Walman will continue to operate under the Walman brand name and will provide “the same high level of service its customers have come to expect,” EssilorLuxottica told VMAIL. Bassett will continue as president, and the Walman team will drive the commercial identity and customer intimacy that has made the company the success it is today, the company said, adding that the agreement will provide Walman with future growth opportunities by leveraging the global EssilorLuxottica organization and its capabilities.

“The Walman agreement is a defining moment in our strategy of building lab offerings that celebrates customer choice through differentiated service and offerings,” said Rick Gadd, president of Essilor North America. “Because of Walman’s reputation as a reliable and highly valued business partner for the customers they serve, we will offer more choice and a more complete local lab footprint within our lab network to ensure customers have the option that meets their specific business need.”

The transaction is expected to close in the coming months pending regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.