After looking at other strategic options, the Devlyn family has bought all the shares it didn't own in Grupo Devlyn, one of the largest optical retailers in Latin America and presumably the largest privately owned optical retailing group in the world. It has bought back the minority stake that Linzor Capital, a private equity fund, had held for years, in connection with a merger with Grupo Colsa, another Mexican retail chain of more than 300 optical points of sales, mainly located in big-box stores.
The latest transaction was funded through the asset management division of Credit Suisse. At the same time, Devlyn refinanced its short-term credit lines through its long-time banker, Citi-Banamex.
Founded 85 years ago in Mexico, Devlyn currently runs a network of about 1,050 points of sale directly. They are mostly located in Mexico, but many of them are also in Guatemala and El Salvador.
Most of its free-standing stores operate under the Devlyn banner, which enjoys a spontaneous recognition rate of more than 90 percent in Mexico. Besides another high-end banner, called Vetro, the group operates in the lower segment of the market with two other banners, Inmoda Opticas and Optimart.
In addition, the group runs about 60 optical departments in major department stores, supermarkets and price clubs including El Palacio de Hierro, Sears, Coppel, Chedraui, Soriana, City Club and Walmart. The entire network is serviced by a recently opened state-of-the-art optical laboratory and more than 60 smaller local labs.
The group is run by the Delvyn family in its third generation. Melanie Devlyn, who heads up the group as chairman along with a cousin, Michael Delvyn, as chief executive, states that the latest transaction has placed the group in a position to explore new alternatives for the Mexican optical market in both the physical and digital channels.
Devlyn has already made some interesting moves in the online space. Devlyn launched its first online store in 2013 on an open-source internet platform, Magento. It upgraded it two years later by using Magento's order management solution to offer click and collect, ship-from-store and ship-to-store options in its own stores. At the end of 2016, Devlyn went one step further by introducing an “endless aisle” function that allows the stores to offer products to the customers from a single virtual inventory, effectively raising their individual stock levels from as little as 500 to more than 10,000 SKUs.
The company was founded 82 years ago by Frank Devlyn sr., an American optometrist of Irish descent, along with two other members of his family, Jesse and Pat Devlyn. They acquired a strong reputation in Mexico over the years, even beyond the optical retail sector. Among other things, Frank was world president of the Rotary Club between 2000 and 2001.
The Devlyn family's foundation is involved in a number of charitable sight-related activities. Partnering with other foundations, it carries out around 150,000 free eye examinations in marginalized areas of Mexico and delivers more than 100,000 free pairs of eyeglasses.
A few strategic changes have taken place within the group within the last few years. After setting up a few stores in the U.S., it decided to divest them at the beginning of 2017 and to transfer them to another member of the family, Jessy Devlyn, who is running them under a licensing agreement along with other operations.
The group also had a joint venture with the Luxottica Group for a chain of more than 150 Sunglass Hut stores in Mexico, to which it contributed its own Solare stores. It got out of the joint venture in mid-2016, and the management says it has no plans to have any new sunglass stores.