They Said What on “60 Minutes”?

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO October 12, 2012

The investigative television show “60 Minutes” recently aired a segment entitled,  “Sticker Shock: Why are glasses so expensive?” CNBC then followed with “Glasses giant crushing the competition.” 

Clearly, the value proposition for eyewear is being challenged. Are industry giants truly crushing the competition?  If so, what is the independent eye care practitioner to do? Needless to say, this increased focus on the eye care industry has created quite a buzz. 

It should be obvious to everyone that competition for the independent eye care provider has intensified. Offers found on the Internet are challenging the benefits of personalized dispensing and are providing a confusing definition of quality. In addition, large corporate competitors like Luxottica have grown via their vertically integrated organizations to increase market share. As a reminder, Luxottica owns LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Target Optical, Sunglass Hut, and the second-largest vision plan, EyeMed.

Never has it been more important to fully understand where the profits go within the industry. It is essential that we independents recognize which players are true strategic partners and which are, in reality, competitors. Are profits reinvested to help me in my business, or are profits being used against me? 

Before you determine who you are going to do business with, I urge you to ask the question, “Just where do your profits go?” Are your partners focused on helping you? When I hear “60 Minutes” say that Luxottica is the biggest eyewear company on earth and that they raked in $8 billion last year, that clearly shows me their focus. 

VSP certainly continues to be focused on the success of independent optometry. In fact, it is the mission of VSP to increase the connection between its 28,000 doctors and 57 million patients, and to create new opportunities for growth. In contrast, shouldn’t we remember that some “partners” are, instead, focused on driving as many patients as possible to their retail stores? 

As I see it, the two television segments clearly highlight areas within our business that should demand our fullest attention. We must be able to clearly demonstrate the value proposition inherent in personalized dispensing. We also must choose our business partners wisely. I would encourage you to view the two segments highlighted above with the goal of sharpening the focus on these competitive challenges.

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