RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif.—VSP Global is announcing today an expanded retail strategy which includes its intent to open three brick-and-mortar Eyeconic locations as well as the launch of VSP Ventures, a new business unit designed to offer a care-focused choice for doctors looking to transition their practices. “Benefits managers are demanding more substantial retail options and doctors have been asking VSP to create a doctor-centric alternative to private equity. It’s critical for VSP to ensure this evolving landscape serves both our members and VSP network doctors in mutually beneficial ways,” said Michael Guyette, president and CEO of VSP Global.

“A well-defined network strategy, which includes retail, allows us to provide a variety of options for doctors at every career stage and in every kind of practice setting—from privately owned, to dispensary-managed, to VSP-owned and operated.” A VSP spokesperson defined "dispensary-managed" as "a model that allows for either co-ownership of the dispensary (frames, lenses, etc.) or one where the practice agrees to deploy technologically advanced tools that enhance the consumer experience and that drive value and profitability to the doctor."

VSP Ventures will facilitate practice transitions for doctors looking to retire or evolve to a different model. Additional details will be announced soon, the company said.

The three Eyeconic stores will open in the Chicago market throughout 2019 and create new access points for retail-minded consumers who are looking for experiences that bridge the divide between digital and physical, VSP said. The stores will be an extension of VSP’s ecommerce site, eyeconic.com, connecting products, services and a VSP network doctor to a customer base that is otherwise choosing mass or specialty retail. Details and exact locations of the Eyeconic concept stores will be announced in the coming months, the company said.

“In collaboration with our innovation lab, The Shop, we’ve identified a unique, uncommitted customer who seeks a differentiated eyecare and eyewear-buying experience,” said Bill Vaughan, president of VSP Retail. “In partnership with a doctor of optometry, Eyeconic is well-positioned to meet changing customer requirements by creating a digital and physical brand environment based on personalization, choice and well-being.”

The Shop conducted ethnographic consumer research, which was then augmented by VSP’s own extensive market and insights data, the VSP spokesperson told VMAIL, adding, "The innovation lab has also played a role in helping design a differentiated consumer experience in the stores. More details will be shared about the store’s unique offerings in the coming months."

Each store will be wholly owned and operated by VSP with a sublease model for VSP network doctors. Market selection was strategically focused on regions that have shown high numbers of out-of-network claims at optical chains and mass retailers, the company noted.

“Our goal is to create more opportunities for doctors,” said Guyette. “Without a strategic retail footprint, we risk closing the door on key clients, as well as the 20 percent of consumers who are choosing retail and even online-based eyewear stores over private practice. This is about smart growth that allows VSP to win more contracts and, in turn, more patients to drive into Premier Program practices.”

A VSP spokesperson explained that the data stems from an extensive 2018 survey VSP conducted with U.S. consumers, 18+, who wear glasses/contacts and have had an eye exam within the last three years. Twenty percent reported only ever going to a retail location and only ever intending to go to retail for their exam and materials.

“As a doctor-governed organization, VSP is continually looking for ways to advantage doctors in the decisions we make and this comprehensive retail strategy is no exception,” said Gordon Jennings, OD, VSP Global board chairman. “This is about growth that helps doctors achieve long-term success, while allowing VSP to fulfill its mission of providing access to quality eyecare and eyewear to as many people as possible.”

Those interested in learning more about VSP’s strategic retail announcements, including Eyeconic and VSP Ventures, can visit JustTheFactsVSP.