Article

THE 2020 RETAIL SURVIVAL GUIDE

Expert O.D.s weigh in on how to prep your practice for changes in the eyecare landscape—from focusing on new technologies to mapping out an exit strategy

Who will win the optical retail race? Those businesses that adapt, change, and deliver cutting-edge tech will certainly rise to the top.

In today’s optical retail world, competition is fierce.

The ever-expanding number of players—from corporate opticals and private equity firms to independent practices and online innovators like Warby Parker (which recently announced its own new low-cost contact lens brand)—are slicing the pie in entirely new ways.

For corporate optometrists, even as optical chains continue to expand their reach and store count across the country, optical retail’s increasing competition has set the stage for O.D.s and their need to define—or refine—their own approach to practice growth.

With all this in mind, in this special feature, COT! delivers a blueprint of what optometrists can do to help meet—and even capitalize upon—the big and constant changes taking place in the eyecare landscape today. Here, four ways to survive—and thrive.

1.
PROMOTE YOUR MEDICAL EDGE.

The medical model has become the main mode of practice for many corporate O.D.s as they adapt to the industry changes. To start promoting the medical model in your office, help your patients understand that an eye exam is more than just a prescription for glasses.

To further adapt to change—and keep your clinical knowledge on the cutting edge—stay up to date through continuing education. Bring that knowledge to your office to educate your staff and patients.

2.
GEAR UP WITH TECH.

Equip your office with new technology to help retain your patients and provide higher-quality eye exams.

As technology becomes mainstream, you do not want to be the office that is left behind as patients accept tech as commonplace in the exam. Promoting eye health through technology adds the “wow factor” for patients. It will keep patients coming back to your office or entice them to follow you wherever you may go throughout your career.

Jeremy Ernstes, O.D.
Walmart leaseholder
Tampa, FL

• “I finally added a retinal camera this year, and the results have been amazing. Only wish I had done it sooner.”

—Jeremy Ernstes, O.D., a Walmart leaseholder in Tampa, FL

3.
SEIZE OPPORTUNITY.

Corporate optometry has many opportunities. In today’s business climate, being able to adapt, pivot, and change can help guide you to opportunities that are out there.

Find which corporate optical brands best align with your vision of your future.

Many companies are looking to expand and open new locations, and being flexible and nimble is key to success in today’s retail world.

• “When my corporate optical location closed, I decided it was time to start my own private practice, Sampalis Eye Care, and it was a great decision.

“At the same time, I also took on fill-in work with For Eyes. I developed a great relationship with the organization, and we ended up opening a new location together. The balance between the two practices has been perfect.”

—Maria Sampalis, O.D., owner of Sampalis Eye Care in Cranston, RI, and sublease at For Eyes by Grand Vision in Rhode Island

4.
MAP AN EXIT STRATEGY.

If all else fails—and you are concerned by retail’s uncertainty—map out an exit strategy. Ideally, this is mapped out from the beginning of your sublease agreement.

If private practice is your goal, then focus on building a patient base and a brand, and develop relationships with other eyecare and healthcare professionals.

Don’t forget about commercial real estate, as this is an unknown for many corporate O.D.s. Become familiar ahead of time about what the rent per square foot is in your area, how much space you might need, what a lease contract might look like, and how much time it will take to build out if needed. Understanding these things will help you determine how much income you might need to start your new private practice.

An additional option for an exit strategy is to partner with a local optometrist or ophthalmologist to rent space from their office to move your practice.

Of course, moving to another corporate optical situation that may seem more in line with your goals is also an excellent option.

Andrew Blankenship, O.D.
Angelo Eye Center,
San Angelo, TX

• “If the O.D. wishes to stay in a corporate setting, a strong exit strategy would be to analyze the top corporate brands, establish a connection with the corporate recruiter of that brand you want to work with (or next door to), and start looking at where you’d like to set up your practice. Most corporate contracts let you out of your lease with a 60-day notice, so you need to review your contract and see what your terms are. The important thing is to find a place you’ll be happy, can grow a practice, and make money.”

—Andrew Blankenship, O.D., of Angelo Eye Center, located next to a Walmart Vision Center in San Angelo, TX