Responding to COVID-19, National Vision and Warby Parker Extend Store Closures, National Vision Moves to Trim Expenses

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NEW YORK—Two leading optical retailers announced late last week that they are extending the time period in which their stores will be closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. National Vision said in a statement that it will extend the temporary closure of its retail locations beyond March 28 as part of its COVID-19 response, and also will take other steps to reduce operating expenses. Separately, in an updated post on its website, Warby Parker said it will extend its store closures beyond the previously announced date of March 27 "until it is responsible to open."

National Vision noted that, in the coming weeks, it intends to begin selectively re-opening retail stores to the public with increased safety protocols and a focus on serving the most urgent eyecare needs of patients and customers. The company also intends to implement initiatives across the organization to reduce expenses and capital expenditures, including a pause in new store openings and reduced near-term marketing, among other actions.

As part of these initiatives, chief executive officer Reade Fahs has elected to reduce his base salary to $1 for the remainder of 2020. The two senior executives at the AC Lens division also agreed to work at the rate of $1 for 2020, and the company’s other executive officers have elected to reduce their respective base salaries by 30 percent, according to the statement.

National Vision’s board of directors elected to reduce the remainder of their annual cash retainers for 2020 to $1, and the company has taken action to reduce compensation and work hours across the organization as it continues to closely evaluate and monitor the situation.

“This is, of course, such a complex dilemma,” Fahs said. “As individuals, companies, and as a country, we are balancing trying to stay physically safe and healthy while also trying to ensure our ongoing financial wellbeing. As the road to recovery across the country remains uncertain, National Vision is taking actions to manage our costs and strengthen our financial flexibility so that our patients and customers can continue to depend on us for low cost eye health care, eyeglasses and contact lenses long into the future. Concurrently, our team is focused on plans to begin selectively re-opening retail stores to the public in the coming weeks with increased safety protocols and a focus on serving the most urgent eyecare needs of patients and customers.”

In the Warby Parker post, co-founders Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa wrote, "Since we announced the closure of our 120 stores on March 14, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened in the U.S. and Canada. We know that each one of us has been affected by this global crisis, and we hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. With the health and well-being of our retail employees and customers in mind, we have decided to keep our stores closed until it is responsible to reopen—and we are committed to ensuring our team members are supported as this global crisis evolves."

The post said every retail employee will be paid, at a minimum, through the first four weeks of the store closures. "Our retail employees will continue to be paid and receive benefits for as long as possible without endangering the long-term viability of the business and causing the elimination of jobs in the future."

Warby Parker will continue to provide services through its optical lab in Sloatsburg, N.Y. The lab is open with enhanced social distancing, best practices for sanitation and other proven safety measures. The post said the company has expanded its leave policies to accommodate personal or family health circumstances created by COVID-19, including recovering from an illness, caring for a sick loved one, mandatory quarantining, or handling child care challenges due to school closures.

The note added that the company's online e-commerce and Prescription Check apps remain live.

In its statement, National Vision said its practice banners America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses and Eyeglass World are continuing to serve customers through their websites, americasbest.com and eyeglassworld.com, respectively.

Additional updated information on store openings, customer care and service of urgent eyecare needs is available on the company’s brand websites. National Vision’s other e-commerce websites, including discountglasses.com

discountcontacts.com also remain fully operational.