FFL Private Equity Firm to Make Growth Investment in Eyemart Express

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SAN FRANCISCO— FFL Partners, a private equity firm focused on growth investments in middle market companies, announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to make a growth investment in Eyemart Express a leading independent, value-focused U.S. optical retailer. Terms of the private transaction, which is expected to close in mid-December, were not disclosed. Eyemart founder Dr. Doug Barnes, Sr., will remain as chairman of the company and Doug Barnes, Jr., will remain as CEO.

One of the Top 10 optical retailers in the U.S., according to Vision Monday’s latest report, Eyemart, headquartered outside Dallas, was ranked the 8th largest optical retailer in the U.S., with over 150 stores in more than 30 states. The company, founded in 1990, provides a broad selection of high quality private label and branded products. Since 2008, the company has more than doubled revenue on an organic basis, growing more than four times the industry average, a statement said. The company also operates stores under the Vision4Less, VisionMart Express and Eyewear Express brands.

“We are very excited to partner with FFL as we look to build upon the strong foundation we have established,” said Dr. Barnes. “FFL’s financial and operational support will help us supply an even greater number of people with affordable eyewear—which has been our focus for almost 25 years,” added Doug Barnes, Jr.

“Eyemart is a standout performer with a proven model of working with top-performing doctors and delivering an excellent customer experience,” said Chris Harris, director of FFL. “We look forward to working alongside Dr. Barnes, Doug Barnes Jr., and the rest of the Eyemart management team as they enter this next phase of growth.” Harris declined to provide further detail about the financial aspects of the agreement, but told VMail, “Both FFL and the Barnes’ will be significant shareholders going forward.”

Harris also told VMail, “We have spent a lot of time exploring the vision care market over the last two years. We have met with more than 25 companies, representing some 3,600 locations, so we got to know the industry a bit. We really believe that Eyemart Express is a special company and asset in this space. They provide an excellent customer and patient experience in their locations. Our expansion strategy for the future will be ‘more of the same.’ We see that there is a lot of space to build out more locations and serve more customers.”

Harris added, “Today, Eyemart Express is really a national brand. Going back many years, people sometimes still think of the business as one focused on Texas and Oklahoma, but really, they are in 32 states today and the brand is known to consumers across the country. Based on an extensive survey we’ve done with customers, too, we learned that their reputation is very strong, and their net promoter score is also very high. Eyemart Express is satisfying customers and they are building loyalty.”

Eyemart was advised on the transaction by HPC Puckett & Company.

For over 15 years, FFL has helped build industry-leading companies, providing capital and advice to exceptional management teams to grow businesses and unlock value. FFL has deep experience in investing and operations, and has brought large-company best practices and professional networks to smaller companies. Business growth has provided over 75 percent of the value created by FFL for its investors. FFL manages over $4 billion of capital, and invests in consumer products and services, financial services, health care services and business services.