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    What the Essilor-Vision Source deal means for you

    Dallas—Essilor recently announced it had acquired independent optometric service alliance Vision Source, raising questions about the future for thousands of Vision Source members and Essilor customers across the country.

    The initial reactions have been mixed in the eyecare community. 

    "I think the purchase is a big win for independent practice," says Scott Schachter, OD, Vision Source administrator in Pismo Beach, CA. "Essilor has been an excellent partner to Vision Source for many years, providing proprietary products at exceptional value. In addition, Essilor has supported our practices with staff training and education, sponsoring the Vision Source Representative program for many years, and more."

    Previous acquisition deals have several ODs cautious about what the Essilor acquisition of Vision Source means for independent optometry. 

    "Virtually every time something gets a big foothold in optometry, it screws us," says Steve Nelson, OD. "That's true whether it's Luxottica or VSP. They virtually all start out as a 'partner to optometry' and all end up getting too large to be a good partner to us and end up with a business model using optometry to generate huge profits.

    "At that point, we are too invested to back away and we just have to take it. I'm not saying this will screw us because maybe this time will be different, but history certainly suggests we should view this with a fair measure of skepticism," he says. 

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    But Vision Source Administrator Ed Melman, OD, of Voorhees, NJ, disagrees. 

    "Essilor has always been a major partner with Vision Source and apparently felt that increasing its involvement was a worthwhile investment," says Dr. Melman. "This is nothing like Luxottica's buying spree where it exerts almost total control over its stores. Vision Source doctors retain control over their practices but have more options available. It's no secret that Vision Source is trying to market quality care and network training to attract contracts with good plans. It remains to be seen how this move will affect our ability to increase our market." 

    How the deal came about

    In an exclusive interview with Optometry Times, Glenn Ellisor, OD, executive chairman and founder of Vision Source says the company was looking for a long-term partner in order to allow the company to make long-term investments.

    “When we wanted to partner with someone who had a lot of resource, industry experience, and insight, when we looked at all the different companies available, hands down the best choice for us and our members was Essilor,” he says. “It’s really fantastic to partner with the leader in the industry. We really believe that Essilor is committed to independent optometry. It’s 30-year track record with independents I think speaks for itself.”

    And Essilor saw an opportunity for growth, says Howard Purcell, OD, FAAO, senior vice president of customer development at Essilor.

    “Let’s be honest: as the independent does well, so does Essilor,” he says. “If we can support the independent to grow for the future, we believe this is one of several vehicles that we can support that will be enabled for that. I don’t think anyone has done a better job than Vision Source has of achieving that with independent optometry.”

    Next: What it means for you

    Colleen E. McCarthy
    Colleen McCarthy is a freelance writer based in the Cleveland area and a former editor of Optometry Times. She is a 2010 graduate of the ...

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