VM REPORTS: Top 50 Retailers Snapshots of Optical’s 10 Largest U.S. Retail Players By Marge Axelrad and Mark Tosh Wednesday, June 23, 2021 12:25 AM RELATED CONTENT Crafting a Comeback Consolidation, Balanced by Hard-Won Gains and Some Declines, Shape VM’s Top 50 VM's Top 50 and Top 10 Shares Grew, in a Challenging Year Key Optical Players Ranked by U.S. Sales in 2020 In a Down Year, Mass Merchants Still Outperform Overall Optical Market Vision Source, LP Vision Source is a part of Essilor of America, which is a division of EssilorLuxottica. In accordance with franchise law, Vision Source is a franchisor, and its members are franchisees who own their respective practice(s). The collective revenue of those practices are reported in VM’s annual ranking. Essilor acquired Vision Source in 2015. Collective revenues of the group were reported as $2,587.8 million for the 12 months ending December 2020, a slight decline from total revenue of $2,883.3 million in the year prior. Vision Source consisted of 3,143 locations in 2020, compared to 3,250 in 2019. The company told VM, “Vision Source member practices continued to outpace industry growth rates during this historically challenging year. The highly collaborated community were able to successfully navigate the pandemic through our COVID-19 Resource Center and Practice Acceleration Resource Center to support members in readying, relaunching and rescaling their practice activities.” This year’s Exchange, the group’s annual meeting, will be held in early August in Houston. Vision Source plans to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its founding. Vision Source noted that The Exchange has helped to “shape the industry and champion private practice” since 1990. Luxottica Retail Luxottica Retail is a part of the retail network of EssilorLuxottica. The Group operates optical, sun and brand stores around the world, however in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, Luxottica Retail store brands/dbas include, at the end of Dec. 2020: LensCrafters (919 total locations including 97 LensCrafters inside Macy’s); Pearle Vision, collectively 500 locations: (Pearle corporate: 58 locations, Pearle Franchise: 442 locations); Target Optical (536 locations), Oliver Peoples (25 locations); Persol (2 locations); Ray-Ban (19 locations); OSA (3 locations), Alain Mikli (1 location). During the year, 40 LensCrafters stores were closed and did not reopen due to the pandemic and many of those were among the units inside Macy’s. One new LC store in 2020 was a former freestanding Sears Optical location, converted to a LC. As of February 2020, all Sears Opticals were closed. In late 2020, LensCrafters opened two of the company’s first flagship stores in New York City and plans more in 2021. National Vision Holdings, Inc. Despite the impact of COVID-19 on its operations, National Vision (NVI) was able to achieve record-breaking profitability and continued growth in 2020. The company moved up one spot in the VM Top 50 rankings this year. National Vision has been publicly traded on the Nasdaq (EYE) exchange since October 2017. Its 1,205 stores span 44 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In 2020 NVI operations included: America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses (773 locations); Eyeglass World (119 locations); Vision Centers inside Walmart (230 locations); Vista Opticals in select Fred Meyer Stores (29 locations); Vista Optical in select military exchanges (54 locations). Its year-end revenue also includes revenues reported for its Corporate/Other segment in 2020, which includes the results of the e-commerce platform of 15 dedicated websites managed by AC Lens. That e-commerce business consists of six proprietary branded websites, including aclens.com, discountglasses.com and discountcontactlenses.com, and nine third-party websites with established retailers, such as Walmart, Sam’s Club and Giant Eagle as well as mid-sized vision insurance providers. In 2020, once reopened, stores mostly operated normal hours with reduced appointments to accommodate enhanced cleaning protocols. The company employs over 13,000 people, including a network of more than 2,000 optometrists. The group has formally adopted an ESG (environmental, sustainability and governance) strategy, created new leadership positions on its senior team as well as its board of directors. 20/20 Quest, a National Vision sponsored charitable foundation, was chartered for the purpose of providing screenings, eye exams, eyeglasses and refractive error solutions to the optically underserved in both the U.S. and the developing world. NVI was one of the first optical groups to support The Black Eyecare Perspective’s IMPACT HBCU program, a recruitment and awareness event to introduce more students to the eyecare industry and support future Black optometrists on their journey. In May of 2021, NVI’s CEO Reade Fahs became a signatory to the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion (CEO Action) pledge. National Vision is the first optical retailer represented in the growing coalition of nearly 2,000 business leaders across 85 industries committed to advancing diversity and inclusion goals in the workplace. The company told VM, “We expanded our ability to make a positive impact on people’s lives at a greater scale than ever before in the company’s history.” Walmart Walmart continued enhancing and fine-tuning its moves in the health care space, and also last year added several of the recently launched Walmart Health Center locations (which debuted in September 2019 in Georgia). Walmart Health is designed to be a “first-of-its-kind health center to deliver primary care, vision care, urgent care, labs, dental, hearing, counseling, x-ray and diagnostics services all in one facility at affordable, transparent pricing regardless of a patient’s insurance status.” In May, a Walmart spokesman told Vision Monday there are currently 20 Walmart Health Centers in operation in three states. The centers are staffed by qualified medical professionals, including optometrists, physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists, and behavioral health providers. Walmart also filled some high-level posts in its health care operation last year. In December, the retailer named Dr. Cheryl Pegus as executive vice president, health and wellness. Dr. Pegus was charged with further developing Walmart’s “bold health care vision, leading health and wellness across the Walmart enterprise,” the retailer said in its announcement at that time. Dr. Pegus reports to Walmart U.S. chief executive officer John Furner, and her first day with Walmart was Dec. 21, 2020. She succeeded Sean Slovenski, who led the health and wellness business as senior vice president for two years before departing in August. Dr. Pegus joined Walmart from Cambia Health Solutions, where she was president of consumer health solutions and chief medical officer. Walmart also has taken steps to become more active in telehealth. In May, the company entered into an agreement to acquire MeMD, a multi-specialty telehealth provider. In 2020, Walmart also extended a contact with National Vision for managing some of its optical departments (about 230 locations) for three years into 2024. There were about 2,875 Walmart-owned and operated optical departments at the end of last year, and an additional 547 Sam’s Club optical departments. Costco In spite of the challenging operating conditions of 2020, the Costco Optical departments turned in a solid performance last year. Costco added three additional optical departments last year (compared with year-end 2019 total), finishing the year with 532 locations. Sales, which were impacted by a 2½-month shutdown, declined on an overall basis for the year, but still topped $1.1 billion. Costco continued to rank as the No. 5 optical retailer in the U.S. The company noted that one of its key achievements was to reopen all pandemic-related closed locations in a 42-day period. Costco Optical is owned by Costco Wholesale Corp., one of the largest and most successful retailers in the U.S. In 2019 pre-pandemic, Costco Optical added 20 additional optical departments, increasing its optical location total to 529 clubs at the end of the year. Also, in 2020 at the Transitions Academy meeting in Orlando, Fla., Costco was a finalist in the U.S. Retailer of the Year category (which was won by Henry Ford OptimEyes of Detroit). The award recognizes commitment to the Transitions brand and improving patient vision. Costco Optical prides itself on having some of the most knowledgeable employees in the industry. The staff consists of trained opticians that are well regarded in the optical industry. The optical departments carry a wide range of contact lenses, brand-name designer frames and sunglasses and offer the latest technology in high-definition lenses. A Costco membership is not required to receive an eye exam at Costco warehouse clubs, but it is required to purchase frames and/or lenses from the optical department. Costco optical centers offer a variety of prescription and special lens options for Costco members. Many Costco optical departments also have an independent optometrist (OD) in or near the optical department. MyEyeDr./Capital Vision Services, LP After finishing 2020 with a flurry of new locations, MyEyeDr. continued its rapid growth in May 2021 with the acquisition of Rx Optical and its 54 locations across Michigan and Indiana. The deal brought the total MyEyeDr. office count to 731 over 26 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, the Rx Optical partnership further solidified the presence of MyEyeDr. in the Midwest. (Rx Optical was founded in 1947 in Kalamazoo, Mich.) Since partnering with Goldman Sachs Merchant Banking in 2019, MyEyeDr. (the dba name for Capital Vision Services LP) has added 185 offices to its list of optometric practices. MyEyeDr. finished 2020 with a net addition of 90 new locations (with some existing locations consolidating, it was roughly 100 practice additions) and finished 2020 with 659 locations total, an increase of more than 15 percent compared with 2019’s 569 offices. Virtually all of the dealmaking occurred in Q1 and the August-December period. Annual revenue increased year-over-year, also, which MyEyeDr. attributed to the addition of the 90 net new locations. On a same-office basis, the comparisons were down for the year—the first time in MyEyeDr.’s 20-year history—but started bouncing back in the fourth quarter. The company reported a strong fourth quarter and “a very good first quarter,” with same-office locations trending positively. Patient demand for exams has remained strong, but safety processes has limited availability of office visits in the early part of 2021, MyEyeDr. said. For calendar 2021, MyEyeDr. is planning to achieve approximately 20 percent growth. “That has been our history. We’re in the business of taking care of the patient, but we also are in the business of growing. Those are two not competing priorities, but they are two that we have to have top of mind with every decision,” chief growth officer David Sheffer told Vision Monday in a recent interview. EyeCare Partners After a year of continued growth in 2020, St. Louis-based EyeCare Partners announced a leadership transition in April. Less than a year after joining the network, David A. Clark was promoted to chief executive officer. Clark had joined EyeCare Partners as president in July 2020 after 20 years with MEDNAX Inc., where he was chief operating officer. Kelly McCrann, who had served as chief executive officer of EyeCare Partners since December 2016, shifted to the role of operating director on the company’s board of managers, where he focuses on industry relations and mergers and acquisitions. Both moves came as part of a completion of a planned leadership transition for the company that is owned by Partners Group, a global private investment manager, according to an announcement at the time. Partners Group made “a significant equity investment” in EyeCare Partners in December 2019. EyeCare Partners, the leading network of integrated ophthalmology and medical optometry practices, serves patients across the vision care continuum. McCrann led ECP through significant growth during his tenure as CEO, nearly tripling the company’s clinics and ambulatory surgery centers from 250 to 700 and more than doubling annual revenue, which is expected to exceed $1 billion this year. Some of this growth came in the latter half of 2020 and extended into the first quarter of 2021. ECP said in April that it had added 16 new partner practices to the organization between October 2020 and mid-April. Despite the enormous challenges of 2020, EyeCare Partners said it “adapted and continued to expand its footprint in the vision care field.” Between the end of last year’s third quarter and April, EyeCare Partners added 95 offices, 11 ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) and 165 doctors. Visionworks Visionworks of America was acquired by VSP Global in a deal that closed in September 2019. At the time, VSP Global said the deal “furthers its vision to provide more access to affordable, high-quality eyecare and eyewear.” Visionworks is based in San Antonio, Texas. Visionworks started the year 2020 with 710 locations. But there were certain planned closures and other new store openings deferred, due to the pandemic. The group ended the year with 698 locations, but reported that by May 31, 2021, it is now operating 703 locations. Visionworks acknowledged that its achievement in 2020 was to “Safely and successfully provide access and quality care to our patients while protecting our associates throughout the pandemic.” Warby Parker Warby Parker was one of the first optical retailers in the country and in the optical market to close its stores on March 14, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It pivoted to provide PPE to those on the frontlines. Warby started the gradual reopening of its locations in mid-May. As the year went on, Warby also restarted its new store openings around the U.S. and finished the year with 123 stores in the U.S., as well as another three locations in Canada. The company continues its brick-and-mortar expansion this year. The pandemic’s stay-at-home mandates in the second quarter subsequently also had a profound impact on the way many Americans shopped and Warby Parker was one of the companies which benefitted as its online eyewear sales grew significantly, even while its stores were shuttered. VM’s estimates of $515 million in calendar year 2020 combine Warby Parker’s online and in-store sales. In August, the company announced a $245 million fundraising effort, with investment from D1 Capital Partners, Durable Capital Partners, T. Rowe Price, and Baillie Gifford. According to a source familiar with the company’s financing, the new investment values the e-commerce/brick-and-mortar retailer at $3 billion. The company had previously raised a total of $290 million, as VMail reported in March 2018. Warby would not comment further but its senior executives said in an interview in March 2021 that they “have always viewed an IPO as a financing opportunity though we don’t have any immediate plans to go public at this time.” From its origins as an eyewear e-commerce retailer just over 10 years ago, Warby Parker had social purpose as a core part of its business approach. The company’s “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” concept helps support the work of VisionSpring and has also resonated with consumers drawn to connecting purchases to a good cause. In 2020, Warby took steps to promote more diversity and inclusion initiatives, which has included publishing a more robust Racial Equity Strategy, partnering with New England College of Optometry to provide scholarships to Black optometry students, and stepping up as one of three lead sponsors (along with National Vision and MyEyeDr.) with Black Eyecare Perspective on career fairs at HBCUs across the country. In 2020, Warby Parker joined with other corporate leaders to take steps to encourage both employees and customers to vote in the upcoming election, including providing employees with paid time off to vote and volunteer as poll workers. The company is a partner to Civic Alliance, Business For America, and Time to Vote. More recently, Warby was one of 23 companies who pledged to support The Tent Partnership for Refugees, a network of over 130 major companies committed to integrating LGBTQ refugees, and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC), the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, joined forces for the program. The company continues to be transparent about its activities and values through its Impact Report, which is available on its website. A 2020 Impact Report was recently posted at https://www.warbyparker.com/assets/img/impact-report/Impact-Report-2020.pdf. Eyemart Express It has been a busy 12 months for Eyemart Express, a leading national value optical retailer. The most significant development came in October 2020 when the private equity investment firm Leonard Green & Partners (LGP) completed a strategic investment in the retailer. Los Angeles-based LGP joined majority stakeholders FFL Partners (FFL) and the founding Barnes family in the ownership structure. The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the announcement noted that the investment “will not add any incremental debt to the Eyemart Express balance sheet.” “We are very excited to welcome Leonard Green & Partners to Eyemart Express,” Michael Bender, chief executive of Eyemart Express, said at the time. “The team at LGP shares our vision about the significant market opportunity ahead, and their experience and insights, in partnership with FFL, will enable us to continue to grow our market share, innovate and deliver best-in-class customer service.” Its growth continued in April 2021 with the initial expansion move into Tennessee. A 3,500-square-foot Eyemart Express in Jackson marked the retailer’s 230th location across 42 states. (The company was founded in 1990.) In May, Eyemart Express named Femi Enigbokan as the company’s first chief growth officer. Enigbokan is focusing on expanding the optical retailer’s footprint, which currently stood at 231 stores throughout the U.S., and maintaining Eyemart Express’ position as a leader in the optical industry. In March, Eyemart Express launched a flexible payment option in stores as part of an effort to find “innovations [that] make quality eyecare more affordable, convenient, and safer than ever.” The retailer said it believed it was among the first value optical chains to launch a “buy-now, pay-later” (BNPL) option for patients. The BNPL program, which debuted in partnership with Sunbit, gives consumers a three-month, no-interest plan to buy eyewear.