There are many lenses with which to examine The Year That Was 2020. VM’s signature Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers Report is just one of those. But the optics within our 2021 report reflect many stories about what happened among the bigger players and point to several future trends. How you react to them depends on your vantage point.

Acting fast to pivot. This was the challenge for every single player on our list, national and regional. Just as it was for all the smaller groups and independent ECPs out there, too. Taking an assessment of what a sudden shutdown of business due to a pandemic meant to safely manage patients, associates and operations was critical. Having the systems and numbers at the ready to determine what that impact would be was critical. Having a capable team to steer what had to be done in the face of all that was paramount to success. Acting fast is here to stay.

Eyecare is essential. We all knew that, as eyecare and eyewear business insiders. But this was not an automatic development in those first weeks and thankfully, after much work and discussion among health care authorities and boards and the CDC, it was considered as such in most cases, in many states. And this is a reminder of how important advancing and elevating the relevance and value of eyecare to all is going to be in the coming months and years.

Technology is your friend. Yes, sometimes it is complicated, risky, overwhelming even. But it was a savior last year and continues to be for this year and will be for the next few. Mostly because if you could access it, you could adopt it. Fast. Communications, messaging, virtual visits, virtual tests, virtual exams (maintaining a standard of care), appointment-making, order taking, previewing, show-and-telling, show-and-selling. It’s here. it’s a complement to what you do in the physical space of an office or a store. It’s an extension of relationships and forges new ones.

Consolidation Continues. This stopped for a few months but resumed by fall to further reshape the optical landscape. It is both from private equity and organic investments. Operating efficiently and being mindful of the bottom line, not only the top line, is a new business mandate. It’s not counterintuitive to serving patients first and best. It’s a way forward for many.

People and good training can be game changers. Many discovered this during their shutdown times, but it continues past the Zoom and hybrid meetings. This is related to keeping and finding good people. This issue of cultivating and finding talent and how people want to work will accelerate.

Expanded access is the opportunity. Yes, there is intense competition. These top retailers compete against each other and, perhaps, against you, too. But let’s all agree that expansion and increased access to eyecare and eyewear, at all levels of the market, regardless of price or positioning or formula will be the big post-pandemic trend of all.