Alex Wilkes, SVP, spoke about Pearle Vision, the franchising optical retailer of Luxottica out of Italy.

 “We’ve been trying to land this plane for over a year now,” says Alex Wilkes, SVP, about his efforts to attract private equity firms to buy independent eye care brands and roll them up under the Pearle Vision platform.

He outlined that goal as one of three key initiatives last year in an interview with Franchise Times, and stated it again at the Franchise Times Finance & Growth Conference today. 

The engine behind that effort and others is Luxottica, the parent company of Pearle Vision and many other eyewear and eye care brands. In 2015, Pearle “began the journey of developing a world-class supply chain solution for our franchisees,” he said. 

“This platform has allowed our franchisees to focus on patient care and growth and it’s brought private equity firms to the table, around how you can leverage Pearle Vision to consolidate what is really a fragmented industry,” he said, saying in a brief interview after his talk that talks with private equity firms are ongoing. “Over 50 percent of the market is run by independent opticians and optometrists.”

A second initiative, to sign area development agreements, has yielded about eight of those agreements for a pipeline of about 50 locations, he said. Those signees tend to be high-net-worth individuals looking to diversify their investments, he said.

And a third, to entice young doctors of optometry into the system as franchisees, with a 100 percent financing program provided by outside financial institutions, is ongoing. Wilkes said that effort is ever harder, as optometry schools are tending to turn out fewer entrepreneurs versus clinicians.

 

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