Buying Group Roundup
Here is a look at some of the buying groups throughout the U.S., along with some of their specifics.
For more on both buying groups and alliances, go to the May issue of Eyecare Business.
Block Buying Group
How it Works: ECPs obtain healthy product discounts on frames, lab services, and contact lenses from this buying group, which also handles all invoicing paperwork and payments for products purchased. While membership is “free,” Block does take a percentage of the discounts offered by vendors to its members to support operations. Extras offered include dated payment terms and the online Block Board where members can buy and sell items plus list and find jobs.
Number of Members: About 4,000
On the Web: www.blockbg.com
C&E Vision Buying Group
How it Works: C&E offers its members substantial product discounts on frames, lab services, and contact lenses while also offering consolidated billing. Also operating on the classic buying group model, this buying group takes a percentage of the discounts offered by vendors to its members instead of charging an administrative fee. Extras include web-enhanced services such as its Beyeright Program that reveals the top-selling frames from each vendor it works with. C&E also offers members a Virtual Frame Board online where they can select images of frames from vendors to pace on their own “board.” The company also recently launched a Social Media Resource Center, which provides ECPs with tools to help them integrate social media into their practice.
Number of Members: Around 4,000
On the Web: www.cevision.com
How it Works: Also a traditional buying group, HMI offers product discounts on frames, lab services, and contact lenses from this buying group with no administrative fees attached (save for the small percentage of vendor discounts taken to run operations). HMI also handles all billing paperwork for products purchased. Extras offered include practice management content on the HMI website, including the educational blog of Jerry Hayes, OD, HMI founder and president.
Number of Members: About 4,500
On the Web: www.hmibg.com
How it Works: This buying group works only with a select group of product vendors in an effort to save ECPs time and money. Because Preferred Select is run by Soderberg Ophthalmic Services, which offers lab services to ECPs, it is a single source for lab work and product purchasing needs. There is no fee to join this buying group but a small administrative fee is charged.
Number of Members: N/A
On the Web: www.soseyes.com/preferred
How it Works: Founded by Jerry Hayes, OD, Red Tray is an offshoot of the behemoth 4,000-member HMI Buying Group. It is a lab-focused purchasing group that offers significant discounts on lab services and frames. There is no initial fee to join the group, which does handle product billing paperwork and payments despite its alliance model inspirations, but a small administrative fee is charged based on ECPs' lab business volume. Beyond discounts, Red Tray's real focus is on providing business-building education for its members.
Number of Members: About 400
On the Web: www.redtraysaves.com
How it Works: Founded as a non-profit run by the California Optometric Association, Vision West is today a privately held buying group that donates millions of dollars to state optometric associations across the country on a yearly basis. Members receive healthy discounts from a wide variety of labs plus frame and lens vendors and Vision West handles all related billing paperwork and payments. While Vision West does not charge a membership fee, have a minimum purchase requirement, or require a contract, it does have a tiered administrative fee based on each member's purchase volume ranging between 1.5 to five percent. Vision West also offers billing statements online, which include SKUs broken out on invoices for easier, more sophisticated invoice and inventory reconciling.
Number of Members: Over 3,000
On the Web: www.vweye.com
Villavecchia Buying Group
How it Works: This family-owned buying group also operates under the classic model with no fees charged save for the small percentage of the discounts taken off what is offered to its members. Because it is a smaller group with lower operating expenses, Villavecchia says it takes less off the total discount offered than other groups. ECPs are asked to purchase from three different vendors on a monthly basis to maintain their membership.
Number of Members: N/A
On the Web: www.villavecchia.com
Vvs Buying Group
How it Works: The Vvs Group offers members a simple, detailed monthly statement plus healthy discounts on a variety of products. There is no fee to join the group and Vvs passes along 100 percent of the discounts plus any prompt-pay discounts to members for on-time payments. There is a small administrative fee of between three-and-a-half and five percent charged, dependent on the amount of monthly purchased through the group.
Number of Members: 1,468
Contact: 1-800-345-1976 or firstname.lastname@example.org