Vision Group, one of the leading Italian retail players, said that it was interested in studying the takeover of the 174 Italian stores to be divested if EssilorLuxottica and GrandVision eventually agree on the planned takeover. The divestment, which is a prerequisite for the European Commission to authorize the transaction, concerns 72 stores trading under the “GrandVision by” banner and the whole Vistasì chain currently owned by EssilorLuxottica.

Marco Procacciante, CEO of Vision Group, told us that, thanks to the financial backing of the Arcadia Fund, the company was now also looking at investing in directly operated stores, beyond its main activities as a franchising group. Vision Group has been controlled by the private equity fund Arcadia since 2014, when it subscribed a 46.3% capital increase, with the rest of the capital belonging to a holding controlled by the group’s opticians.

Since then and following the agreement with Arcadia, Vision group progressively transitionned from a buying group to a franchising group business model, with the majority of independent optical stores switching to the Vision Group franchise. The same process is currently taking place with the Netcity’s 900 optical stores that joined Vision Group at the beginning of January. With the acquisition of Netcity, Vision Group has largely increased its retail footprint in the Italian market, becoming the market leader in number of stores with 2,680 units, of which 310 operate under the VisionOttica banner and 24 are directly owned shops.

Vision Group’s business transformation was accompanied by significant digital investments, both at the wholesale and consumer levels, which contributed to the reduction of the network’s management costs and an improved productivity. The group has implemented a new B to B digital platform based on Salesforce technologies, allowing the centralized management of orders, logistics and services for its members. In the customer marketing area, Vision Group developed a marketing automation system with CRM-driven advertising campaigns aimed at designing omni-canal and drive-to-stores’ consumer journeys.

Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 crisis, Vision Group has in fact accelerated its investments in the digital field and supported its network of optical stores with specific communication campaigns. The group said that, thanks to these investments, its reduction in revenues at retail level was limited to 11% in 2020, reaching about 750 million euros, in an Italian market which dropped by 14 percent last year according to the research company GFK. Central invoicing dropped down by 23 percent though, as retailers tended to reduce their inventory and limit their orders because of the pandemic.