Vision Source, the largest alliance of independent eyecare professionals in North America, has agreed to be acquired by Essilor of America, a division of Essilor International. Founded in 1991, this buying group currently has around 4,000 members. Jobson ranks it as the second-largest player in the U.S. market in terms of retail sales, which amounted last year at around $2.2 billion via more than 3,000 stores
The deal, whose terms were not made public, is expected to close over the next couple of months, depending on regulatory approvals. One of the seller is an investment firm in Dallas, Brazos Private Equity Partners, which acquired an undisclosed stake in Vision Source four years ago.
The alliance will reportedly continue to be run by its current management team including Glenn Ellisor, the company's founder and executive chairman. A new board will be appointed by Essilor of America after the acquisition to oversee the operation. Company executives told VMail that the members of Vision Source would continue to buy from other vendors besides Essilor.
Asked by a financial analyst whether Essilor intended to move into the retail sector, Hubert Sagnières, chairman and chief executive of the group, said it had no such intention, and he was partly right because Vision Source doesn't own the stores it services. Essilor has become increasingly active in the direct-to-consumer channel, particularly in North America, through its long-standing Eyebuydirect and Framesdirect websites.
It made a big investment in this domain more recently with the acquisition of Coastal.com, which has been renamed as Clearly to signify its diversification from contact lenses to ophthalmic lenses, prescription frames and sunglasses. The business has become profitable after closing all its 50 physical stores.
Sagnières explained that Essilor was investing in websites to adapt its strategy to better serve consumers, who are going to the internet more frequently to find out about its products.
Prior to the acquisition of Vision Source, Essilor had continued with its acquisition strategy, striking nine deals during the first six months of 2015 that will generate annual revenues of €137 million, based on last year's figures.
In addition to the agreement with Vision Source, Essilor has signed four other deals since July 1 in Turkey, India and Australia. Together, the five dealJ should result in additional full-year revenues of around €76 million.