Eyecare Business April

APR 2017

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Caption here...... B U Y E R ' S F O R U M 36 E y e c a r e B u s i n e s s . c o m April 2017 Evaluate. Adjust. Repeat. The 40-store Wisconsin Vision is rockin' and rollin', opening new locations in hip locales while staying true to its loyal customer base—a balancing act that's paying off he largest optical retailer in the state, the nearly 40-year-old Wisconsin Vision is on a roll. In fact, the chain opens its 39th and 40th locations this spring. The secret sauce to its success? President and CEO Darren Horndasch explains that Wisconsin Vision's accomplishments in today's challenging optical market require solid vendor partnerships, the willingness to tap employees for ideas and adjust to shifting demographics, and the ability to adapt to the ever-evolving demands of managed care. Founded in 1978 as a family-owned business serving local unions, Wisconsin Vision is now the largest independent optical retailer in the state, employing about 275 people (including doctors), with locations in nearby Indiana and Illinois (oper- ating as Heartland Vision and Eye Boutique). This chain sits in the sweet, midtier spot of optical retailing—neither a high-end boutique nor a value, BOGO player. But, as it expands into more upscale locations, Horndasch and his team are leveraging their relationships with existing vendors to bring in higher-profile, higher-priced brands and allowing those vendors to "bring their A game" to dedicated wall space and marketing opportunities. He credits constant evaluation and t nimble adjustment as the keys to surviving (and growing) in today's unique optical market. Here, we sit down with Horndasch to learn more about this retailer's secrets to success. eb: How will these newest stores play a role in your expanded vision for your company? dh: We are in all sorts of regions, and the newest [store], No. 40, is our first experience in a "lifestyle mall" setting—that is, [a mixed-use commercial development] with apart- ments, a grocery store, and restaurants. It's our first venture into a lifestyle location, and because the main tenant is [upscale department store] Von Maur, it has the potential to drive a different clientele than our base locations. eb: How will your product assortment and retail environment differ in the new, more upscale locations? dh: We look at demographics. In No. 40, we have complete exclusivity, which means there will be no other optical competitor— no Sunglass Hut, no Solstice—and it's open seven days a week. We're going to increase our non-pre- scription sunwear to pull in walk-by traffic. "We look at our Internet pres- ence as a living, breathing organ- ism by keeping it updated. People want to know what you are doing tomorrow, not what you did yesterday." Artist's rendering of the new Wisconsin Vision in The Corners of Brookfield lifestyle mall in Brookfield, WI

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