Vision Source, LP
Vision Source is North America’s most extensive network of independent optometrists, and once again ranks as the No. 1 group in the VM Top 50 Optical Retailers report. The organization, which was founded in 1991, consists of more than 3,100 locally owned optometric practice locations with 4,500 doctors.

In 2021, Vision Source said it expanded upon the single private practice initiative “that actively provides solutions for all of the life cycle challenges of optometrists, ‘Vision Source Next.’”

With the resources that Vision Source said it has available, the organization is able to support ODs who are looking to start-up new practices, add associates, explore and/or prepare for the transition to another private practice owner. “We introduced the Vision Source Next Fund to support practice owners with supplemental funding to enable more private practice startups, expansions and transitions,” executives told VM. “We will continue to invest in Vision Source Next in 2022.”

Also during 2021, the Vision Source Foundation, whose purpose is to provide financial assistance to any OD who has been impacted by catastrophic events such as natural or other disasters or serious health-related events, financially supported 41 ODs during their times of difficulty.

In its planning for 2022, Vision Source said it expects the group’s greatest investment will be in the Vision Source infrastructure, which remains essential to delivering results for members. “We continue to invest in people and programs anchored to our purpose of ensuring our members’ practices are winning. We have nearly 350 people, including 180 local doctor leaders and 100-plus local staff leaders, dedicated to helping ensure the success of our member practices and other qualified private practice owners who wish to join,” executives said.

Luxottica Retail
Luxottica Retail is a part of the retail network of EssilorLuxottica (Bloomberg:EL:FP). Luxottica Retail store brands/dbas in the U.S. and Puerto Rico include, at the end of December 2021, LensCrafters (923 total locations including 96 LensCrafters inside Macy’s); Pearle Vision collectively 517 locations: (Pearle corporate: 59 locations, Pearle Franchise: 458 locations); Target Optical (548 locations), Oliver Peoples (25 locations); Persol (2 locations); Ray-Ban (24 locations); OSA (3 locations); and Alain Mikli (1 location).

In its year-end report, the Group said that its retail sales in North America experienced positive comps. LensCrafters opened its latest “flagship store” in San Francisco in November 2021 following two previously opened flagship stores in New York City the prior year. At the time, Alfonso Cerullo, general manager of LensCrafters North America said, “We look forward to advancing the LensCrafters brand this year. The expanded assortment of luxury optical and sun styles along with superior lens design and technology by Essilor, will give the brand a larger footprint in the eyewear market.”

Last fall, LensCrafters initiated the “See Clearly, Drive Safely “ campaign, a 360-degree marketing initiative that highlights the importance of having a personalized vision solution for driving, in support of EssilorLuxottica’s partnership with FIA. This year in February, Golden Globe award-winning actress and producer Sharon Stone became the face of the LensCrafters’ new 2022 “Your Eyes First” communications campaigns.

Pearle Vision, a mix of corporate and franchised locations in the U.S., grew the number of its franchised offices in 2021. Target Optical experienced strong growth as well, expanding by 12 locations inside Target Stores in 2021 for a total of 548 locations, doing sales of $450 million, a VM estimate.

In July of 2021, EssilorLuxottica completed 77 percent of its transaction for GrandVision (it concluded its tender offer for outstanding shares in early 2022). GrandVision operates leading optical retail banners in more than 40 countries across Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia, including the For Eyes locations in the U.S.

In February of 2022, VM reported exclusively that EssilorLuxotica N.A. created a management services organization option to invest in practice transitions. Referred to internally as “TeamVision,” the MSO assumes non-medical responsibilities of the practice, including product, inventory, staffing and marketing.

In May 2022, EssilorLuxottica also announced the launch of OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation, a move which unites Vision for Life, Essilor Vision Foundations in North America, India, Southeast Asia and China, Fondazione Salmoiraghi & Viganò in Italy and the company’s long-term global partners OneSight and the Vision Impact Institute.

National Vision Holdings, Inc.
For National Vision Holdings (NASDAQ: EYE), 2021 was highlighted by record sales and profits, and the company began 2022 with plans to increase its store-opening program by at least 80 new locations this year while building upon a successful “remote medicine,” or telehealth, pilot project. For the full year 2021, National Vision reported sales climbed 20.6 percent (compared with fiscal 2019) to $2.08 billion, marking the first time the company has exceeded the $2 billion sales mark. Comparable-store sales growth was 15.1 percent and adjusted comparable-store sales growth was 14.7 percent, the company reported.

Net income increased 291 percent in 2021 to $128.2 million. And the company grew its overall store count 11 percent from Dec. 28, 2019, to Jan. 1, 2022. The company added 73 net new locations last year, and ended the year with 1,278 stores, including 840 America’s Best locations.

CEO Reade Fahs noted that an expanded focus on its remote medicine pilots “will ensure that [we] can serve ever-increasing patient demand.” At year-end 2021, he said, “Given the success of these pilots, I’m pleased to report remote exams are currently offered in over 100 locations. In 2022, we plan to expand the remote medicine offering and expect to have a total of at least 200 store locations by year’s end. Simply put, we believe everybody wins with remote medicine. Optometrists like the flexibility that it provides, while patients benefit from the increased exam availability.”

National Vision also is adding a proprietary electronic health record (EHR) system, further digitizing the patient’s customer experience, Fahs said.

The company’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) efforts have been a priority. National Vision expanded this last year, including several firsts, such as completing its first greenhouse gas emissions inventory, and publishing its first corporate responsibility report.

In May 2022, the company launched its first Pride Collection, a limited series of gender-neutral eyewear celebrating Pride Month in June and the LGBTQ+ community. The capsule was available in America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses stores and Vision Centers brought to consumers by Walmart. In conjunction with the launch, National Vision is donating $25,000 to support the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

National Vision’s 1,278 stores at the end of 2021 include America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses (840 locations); Eyeglass World (125 locations); Vision Centers inside Walmart (230 locations); Vista Opticals in select Fred Meyer Stores (29 locations); and Vista Optical in select military exchanges (54 locations).

Walmart has been a big player in the U.S. optical retail market for many years, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the big retail company has its sights set on the wider health care market. Indeed, this spring the company opened five new Walmart Health centers across North and Central Florida. The openings marked Walmart Health’s expansion into Florida. As of this spring, Walmart operated 24 Walmart Health locations in four states.

“Two years after the launch of Walmart Health, we continue evolving and growing to make health care even more accessible to the communities we serve,” Dr. David Carmouche, senior vice president of Omnichannel Care Offerings at Walmart, said at the time. “With only one primary care doctor per 1,380 Florida residents, these Walmart Health centers will help address the demand for care in three major cities in the Sunshine State, delivering quality health care at the right time in the right setting, right next to where many Floridians get their groceries.”

In its optical business, the number of departments at Walmart and Sam’s Clubs remained steady at 3,422 locations and the company continued to rank No. 4 in the VM Top 50 Optical Retailers report.

With its nationwide store base, Walmart has grown to a position in which 90 percent of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of one of its stores, and 70 percent of the population lives within 5 miles of a Walmart store. Executives also noted that Walmart has achieved an NPS (net promoter score) of 80 with its health care offerings, and that the retailer is set up to provide telehealth services across all 50 states via its 2021 acquisition of MeMD, a multi-specialty telehealth provider.

Eyecare Partners
The year 2021 was quite busy for the EyeCare Partners (ECP) organization. ECP added 20 new practice groups and more than 200 sites of service to its organization. As a result, ECP has moved up two spots to No. 5 in this year’s VM Top 50 Optical Retailers report.

In 2021, ECP finished the year with 686 locations. Optical sales also rose significantly, increasing 70 percent to almost $1.6 billion.

David Clark, chief executive officer of St. Louis-based ECP, said he expects the group to be active again in 2022. “Our first quarter this year is actually more active than it was last year,” Clark told Vision Monday in an interview this past spring.

ECP – which is a portfolio company of the global private markets firm Partners Group – now provides care for more than 3 million patients annually across the U.S. From October 2021 through the end of the year, ECP partnered with 12 new practices, including CEI Vision Partners (CVP) in Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia; and The Eye Institute of West Florida (EIWF).

Like the practices that are already part of EyeCare Partners, these new practices bring incremental knowledge and experience to the national network, which is a crucial and foundational component of its continued success as the nation’s leading provider of clinically integrated eyecare. As of March, ECP had more than 8,400 team members in 680-plus locations across 18 states. This includes more than 1,000 doctors, including optometrists and ophthalmologists.

In 2022, one of the main goals and greatest investments will be elevating the experiences of patients and care teams with the E360+ platform. In support of this, ECP will pilot a new clinically integrated electronic medical record in a handful of practices this year.

ECP notes that its focus is to work toward developing a clinically integrated model across its markets.

The Costco Optical departments turned in a solid performance last year. Costco added 11 additional optical departments last year, finishing the year with 543 locations. And the group turned in a banner sales year, also, with optical sales rising almost 27 percent to $1.4 billion, yet Costco dropped one spot to No. 6 in the VM Top 50 Optical Retailers report this year. (No. 5 retailer EyeCare Partners also had a banner year in 2021 as it added more than 200 locations.)

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.

As of March 2022, Costco operated 828 warehouses, including 572 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, 105 in Canada, 40 in Mexico, 30 in Japan, and 29 in the United Kingdom, among other nations. The company also operates e-commerce sites in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and Australia.

Visionworks of America operates stores under the Visionworks and Empire Visionworks names. Visionworks closed the year with 716 locations, a net gain of 18 new locations. For the 2021 calendar year, Visionworks operated 631 Visionworks stores, which generated sales of $913 million, the company said. The 67 Empire Visionworks locations in 2021 generated sales of $228.3 million, the company reported to VM. The company stated its biggest achievement in 2021 was “to provide safe quality eyecare to our customers post COVID while driving record sales and profit.”

Visionworks also reports that 1 percent of its sales are online sales of eyewear, breaking out to 25 percent contact lenses and 75 percent eyeglasses. The company also said that it did add technologies to enable “remote” eye exams for patients and added that it intended to expand the capability in 2022.

In December of 2021, Pete Bridgman, president of Visionworks, assumed an expanded role as VSP Global’s new chief network officer. He is leading the organization’s network strategy and associated business areas, including network development and management, VSP Ventures, onsite clinics, Eyeconic and Visionworks.

Greg Hare, who had taken over as interim president of Visionworks after Bridgman’s role was expanded, was named president of Visionworks in May of 2022. He previously was the organization’s chief customer officer. He joined Visionworks in 2018 as senior vice president of strategy and transformation.

The company noted that one of the key priorities in 2022 is adding a “new technology platform that will allow for simplified customer experience.” VSP Global, rebranded as VSP Vision in April of 2022, acquired Visionworks in October 2019.

MyEyeDr. (Capital Vision Services) achieved several milestones in 2021, including crossing the threshold of the $1 billion revenue mark. The group finished the year with revenue of $1.1 billion across 817 locations. The company operated 659 eyecare locations at the end of 2020.

Among the key additions in 2021 for MyEyeDr. was the Rx Optical group (a former Top 50 Optical Retailer) with its 54 locations across Michigan and Indiana. In addition, the Rx Optical partnership further solidified the presence of MyEyeDr. in the Midwest. (Rx Optical was founded in 1947 in Kalamazoo, Mich.) Other key additions included Associates in Eye Care in Northern Virginia/Washington, D.C.; MVC Eyecare in New Hampshire; and Dr. Michael Reade’s Texas State Optical (TSO) practices in Houston.

Also in 2021, MyEyeDr. invested significantly in efforts to improve the patient experience, with the creation of an online scheduler and patient portal to give staff more time to focus on patient care and less time on administration. The number of appointments booked online has more than doubled since the launch of the new scheduler, the organization noted.

In addition, MyEyeDr. partnered with the American Optometric Association (AOA) to roll out a technician training program across its organization, and invested over $6 million in 2021 in optometry equipment to support its doctors.

As of March, MyEyeDr. operated more than 820 locations, with 1,400 optometrists and 6,400 non-optometrist staff members.

MyEyeDr. has seen significant growth in top-line numbers and physical locations since it partnered with Goldman Sachs Merchant Banking in 2019. Executives also noted that MyEyeDr. had partnered with many practices at the end of 2021 and, as a result, used the early months of 2022 to integrate these practices with system conversions and other integration programs.

Warby Parker
2021 marked a major milestone for Warby Parker which issued its initial public stock offering on Sept. 29 (NYSE: WRBY), becoming the first “public benefit corporation” to go public through a direct listing. Overall, Warby Parker generated total sales for the calendar year ending 2021 of $540.8 million with a total of 161 stores, including 3 in Canada. In the U.S., VM estimates that with 158 Warby Parker stores and its direct-to-consumer online business that the company generated sales of $534 million.

As reported, Warby Parker experienced double-digit sales increases for both the fourth quarter and full year of 2021, as the company opened 35 new stores during the year. The company said it expects to open an additional 40 stores in 2022, primarily in existing markets, as it moves to surpass the 200-store mark by the end of 2022.

On the bottom line, for the full year 2021, Warby Parker said its net loss was $144.3 million, with full-year adjusted EBITDA of $24.9 million. The adjusted EBITDA margin improved 270 basis points year-over-year to 4.6 percent.

Simultaneously with the IPO, the company launched the Warby Parker Impact Foundation, a nonprofit organization, with a mission “to advocate for wider access to vision services.”

In 2021, Warby Parker authorized up to 1 percent of the company’s outstanding shares for future grants to the foundation or other like-minded charitable organizations. In 2021, Warby Parker distributed 10 million pairs of glasses through its Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program.

The company published its 2021 Impact Report in April 2022. Also last year, the company opened its second in-house laboratory in Las Vegas. It first lab in Sloatsburg, N.Y. opened in 2016, has since expanded to a 52,000-square-foot facility. With the Las Vegas lab, the company said it will be able to better serve West Coast customers through the new 69,000 square foot facility.

The Virtual Vision Test by Warby Parker, introduced in July, is an app that allows eligible users to renew a glasses and contact lens prescription from anywhere, at any time, using an iPhone. Users take a quiz and if eligible, they’re guided through a 10-minute vision test and within 48 hours a doctor reviews the results and provides a renewed prescription (if the user’s vision has not changed) at a cost of $15 for each renewed Rx.

Keplr Vision
After a busy year of adding new partnerships and practices in 2021, Keplr Vision moves into the Top 10 U.S. Optical Retailers list for the first time. As of March, Keplr Vision consisted of 286 practice locations in 35 states, with 600-plus ODs and 3,000-plus members of the Keplr Vision team. Keplr added roughly 100 new locations in 2021, and it is an OD-owned and led organization.

The organization has a diverse set of goals for 2022, including the effort to adopt standards from award-winning health care organizations, particularly around data collection and analysis. The belief is that the group will become even stronger in terms of performance through data-driven decision-making.

The group saw improvement in operating metrics through most of 2021 as eyecare and other business sectors recovered from the depths of Covid-19 in 2020. But, like other eyecare groups, the Omicron variant wave led to some setbacks in late 2021 and early 2022. But by March, trends had begun to improve and the strong growth trends of 2021 had returned, the organization noted. Keplr has budgeted for another strong year of new partnerships in 2022, while at the same time it will work through the integration of the 100 offices added in 2021.

In addition, Keplr Vision continues to focus on full-scope optometry in the U.S. Keplr Vision was formed in July 2019 when two portfolio companies of Imperial Capital of Canada —Total ECP and Visionary Eye Partners — merged to operate as a combined entity under the Keplr Vision name.