Villavecchia Buying Group
Villavecchia Buying Group, created in 1980, is one of the nation’s oldest buying groups for eyecare professionals and optical retailers. It continues to operate as a family-owned business, and is led today by Brian Villavecchia, a grandson of Alfred Villavecchia Sr., the founder. Al Villavecchia Jr., Brian’s father, retired in December 2015. (Brian and his father are shown in photo.) The family has been involved in the optical business for over four generations.
“My great grandfather was an optician and he had a retail optical and jewelry store in Union City, N.J. in the early 1900s,” Brian Villavecchia, now president of the group, told Vision Monday in an interview. “My grandfather, also an optician, took the business over from him in around 1945. Then my father, another optician, took over the retail business in 1975.”
A combination of brainstorming and too much free time led to Brian’s grandfather and father coming up with the idea of creating a buying organization in New Jersey that began with 32 opticians getting together to negotiate volume discounts on frame purchases from a few large suppliers.
Much has changed in optical retailing over the past 35 years, and Villavecchia has seen many other organizations come and go. Today, Villavecchia continues to pride itself on many of the same qualities that it was founded upon, including a reputation for accurate, prompt and detailed monthly statements for its members. The group also provides a yearly summation of purchases.
“We started rather small because my grandfather was doing [all the bookkeeping] by hand on ledger paper,” Villavecchia said. The group has now grown to more than 1,400 accounts across 22 states, with the majority of members in the Northeast. Villavecchia said he also has noticed that membership is growing more rapidly among ODs rather than opticians. “Years ago, the independent optician was doing a large amount of the dispensing. Now, ODs are taking on both sides of the business and putting dispensaries right into their practices.”
Among the group’s goals for 2018 is to work on strengthening vendor relationships, and perhaps developing rewards or rebate programs for loyal customers, and also creating more small-group meetings for members. “We’re always working to improve existing processes and to streamline the day-to-day operations,” he added, noting that the firm has cut almost in half the number of days required to run the end-of-month statements for members.
The small-group meetings are designed to provide a focus-group like environment for meetings with one or two vendors “to give them a better setting to discuss concerns,” he said. These meetings have been held in the Northeast, including at venues in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.