Eyecare Business

OCT 2016

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50 E y e c a r e B u s i n e s s . c o m October 2016 I entered optical shortly after EB was birthed. What strikes me most about the three decades since then is that someone in the industry was almost always saying independents were knocking at death's door. NINE INCH NAILS In just its first few years, EB reported on a string of stories that some saw as nothing short of nails in the independent's coffin. They included: VSP's addition of an Exam Plan in 1988; the Academy of Ophthalmology encouraging members to dive into dispensing in 1992; and the rise of vertical integration with Luxottica's purchase of LensCrafters in 1995 and Essilor's Benson buy (including Omega Labs) a year later. All that before EB was even 10! Simply put, the independent O.D. was supposed to be all but gone by now. As for the inde- pendent optician, that "dinosaur" was to have been nothing but a pile of bones two decades ago. TAKIN' CARE OF BUSINESS What's wrong with that picture? Everything! It helps that the O's have grabbed a bigger bite of managed visioncare dollars and that buying groups and alliances helped level the playing field. Sure, independent practitioners have had their ups and downs—losing traction to other formats from 2005 to 2007, for example—but they've also pounded home success by growing their market share pretty much every year since then. As for formats, remember how malls were supposed to have massacred Main Street? By now, downtowns were expected to be desolate and Main Street boarded up. Instead, the consumer's love of local will continue to keep savvy indies just that…independent. NO, NO, NANETTE The Vision Council reports that in Q1 2016, independents (three doors or less) rang up 52.8% of frames sold—6% more than 12 months earlier. Take that, naysayers! Speaking of business, it was a word to be uttered in hushed tones back in 1986. Several indus- try leaders warned me to use the "B word" sparingly…and never in the same breath as optometry. I thought that odd at first, but not as bizarre as my first optical trade show (pre-Expo for sure!). Visitors to one tabletop exhibit were welcomed by a smoking chimpanzee. Another offered a look through View-Masters of women wearing nothing…but eyewear, that is. To say optical has moved on up in the past 30 years is an understatement. In celebration, I raise my glass(es) to all of you and offer a toast to tomorrow…and optical's next 30 years! Stephanie K. De Long Editorial Director Emeritus Eyecare Business magazine STATE OF THE MARKET: 2006 5 "Five to 10 years from now we could definitely see more fusion between eyewear and high-tech." —"Trends for Tomorrow" March 2006 issue Independent's Day Fond memories of 30 years in optical EB A T 3 0 T H R O U G H T H E Y E A R S

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