VSP Global, a vision benefits company providing eye care to 88 million members through a network of 40,000 providers, is moving into brick-and-mortar eyewear retailing. The company plans to open three Eyeconic locations in Chicago in 2019 to serve as physical extensions of the VSP e-Commerce site. Locations and other details of the shops will be revealed in the coming months.
“In collaboration with our innovation lab, The Shop, we’ve identified a unique, uncommitted customer who seeks a differentiated eye care and eyewear-buying experience,” said Bill Vaughan, President of VSP Retail in a statement. “In partnership with a Doctor of Optometry, Eyeconic is well-positioned to meet changing customer requirements by creating a digital and physical brand environment based on personalization, choice, and well-being.”
Optical is a growing industry: the value of the global eyewear market was $114.9 billion in 2017, and it is projected to rise to $177.82 billion by 2023, according to Statista. Other eyewear retailers that began as online pure plays have moved into the physical world, most notably Warby Parker, which now operates more than 85 stores in the U.S. and Canada. But it’s unusual for a vision services provider such as VSP to operate its own branded brick-and-mortar locations.
Each Eyeconic store will be wholly owned and operated by VSP, with a sublease model for VSP network doctors. VSP chose the Chicago area after market research showed that it had high numbers of out-of-network claims at optical chains and mass retailers.
“Our goal is to create more opportunities for doctors,” said Michael Guyette, President and CEO of VSP Global in a statement. “Without a strategic retail footprint, we risk closing the door on key clients, as well as the 20% of consumers who are choosing retail and even online-based eyewear stores over private practice.”
VSP also is launching VSP Ventures, a new business unit that will facilitate practice transitions for doctors looking to retire or evolve to a different model.
“Benefits managers are demanding more substantial retail options and doctors have been asking VSP to create a doctor-centric alternative to private equity,” said Guyette. “It’s critical for VSP to ensure this evolving landscape serves both our members and VSP network doctors in mutually beneficial ways.”