Today’s Important Consideration: It’s Not Big vs. Small, It’s Fast vs. Slow

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Every year that Vision Monday undertakes the task to quantify the largest U.S. optical retailers, the challenges get harder; the numbers get bigger and the reaction to terms like “billions” becomes more pronounced and sharper.

The Top 10 retailers are substantial—accounting for some 35 percent of the total market now. Certainly, recent consolidation has made some of those leading players larger. Private equity-backed expansion, which has changed the composition of the VM Top 50, has played its role—and it continues to do so in the landscape among Top 50 #s 11 through 50, along with the dozens, even hundreds, of smaller independent offices out there who have chosen to become part of those businesses, too.

Let’s also not forgot to observe that “value” messaging and accessible positioning about eyewear among many of the leading U.S. optical retailers is resonating well with consumers today and many businesses are growing organically, capturing more sales and market share.

Sure, there are wide operational and resource differences among big vs. small businesses.

But is “big” always “bad” and “small” always “good?” Generalizations have been hard to make on that score, and with good reason. They simplify things too easily.

Today, the adoption or embrace of digital technology—impacting how consumers feel about all businesses (health care and retail, optical and vision care)—is the game changer. Retailers and practices that employ tech tools to change patient and consumer experiences are the ones winning out in businesses of all sizes.

And, in fact, as those in attendance at our recent VM Global Leadership Summit, “Decoding the Consumer,” heard first-hand, the more important distinguishing factor identifying success or not-so-much-success today are the attitudes and capabilities of “fast” vs. “slow.”

Speed and agility characterizes what it takes to excel now. And making the decision to utilize digital technology to manage even a small business is more important than ever.

Does speed and agility favor smaller, independent businesses who can zig and zag faster than large regional or national companies?

It does if they actually use the new tools—and combine it with their traditional assets of knowledgeable, personal expertise and service. That’s the takeaway that should mean the most.

maxelrad@jobson.com