Factory Optical Has New Locations in Saskatoon
There is no doubt the retail optical world is changing, and nobody knows that better than Stephen McIntosh, president and founder of the Factory Optical and Optiks International group of companies: “Smaller one-off merchants are having a tough time competing, and the inevitable response to that is market consolidation. If done correctly, the act of consolidating markets may confuse customers of businesses which have been acquired, but it reduces the ‘noise’ out there and provides those same customers with much more value.”
Eyes on Idylwyld and Vision Makers Optical have recently been purchased by Factory Optical and Optiks International group of companies — the latest in an exponential and decade- long growth program initiated by the Regina-based retailer. McIntosh explains: “We have grown organically to this point, meaning we have built new stores only. With the recent purchase of the three-store Eyes International chain, along with a fourth independent retailer in Saskatoon, we are executing on our new five-year plan to add upwards of 45 locations to the 27 that we currently have, and to do this as often as possible by acquisition.”
From an academic standpoint, the optical retail landscape in Canada is charting a similar course to that of the retail pharmacy industry 20 years ago. “To a certain extent, industry consolidation favours the strong and punishes the weak,” McIntosh adds. “From a customer standpoint, this means larger companies can retain the very best talent, and through their larger size, buy better and pass the savings and value on to their customers.”
“We are experiencing a sort of ‘sea change’ in our world, which sees the dominant vendors and wholesalers concentrating on larger accounts by shutting down smaller ones,” McIntosh continues. “This has resulted in deeper wholesale discounts to these fewer, larger accounts and access to product being denied to many of the smaller one-offs. As an example, we recently brought a very high-end frame line to 18 of our stores, and the vendor closed 54 small accounts to accommodate this. We already know that only larger companies can support their own in-house lens manufacturing capacity, which is an enormous relative savings. How a company chooses to spend these efficiencies is up to them.”
McIntosh adds that Factory Optical/Optiks International has chosen to merchandise themselves as the provider of the broadest Designer 2for1 offer in Western Canada. “We do this every day. As a key account-designated retailer of largest frame vendors in Canada, and now the fifth largest optical company by revenue in Canada, the gap continues to widen, especially when you consider other initiatives we are involved in.”
More specifically, the Factory Optical group is in the midst of rolling out a customized POS/software platform in all of its stores, which will significantly improve its ability to engage and maintain dialogue with its customers. “We can wand product in process, issue status updates to customers, identify behaviour and tastes, and communicate new opportunities to customers in response. Beyond that, we are adding new cutting-edge designs to our suite of progressive lenses. Early in the New Year, we will roll out a new store/merchandising concept (think Winners ™ for eyewear) that we will test in Regina. In 2019, we expect to launch our online contact lens solution, unique insofar as it combines eye exams and lens fitting into a bundle that can also tailor or mismatch payment with product delivery, and allow subscribers the discretion to time those deliveries themselves.”
In purchasing the former Vision Makers store in Saskatoon, the plan was always to take the 1,000 square feet next to it in Lawson Mall, gut the entire space, add a full-time optometrist, and then reopen with twice the product in a shiny new upscale boutique. “We’ve done just that, and could not be happier with the customer response,” adds McIntosh. “Add to this its original yet bolstered, all-star team of opticians, Kel Evans and Arlene Roseveare, and I think we have a lethal operation in Lawson Mall.”
The former Eyes store on Idlywyld has gone through an identical transformation, rebuilt on the inside to create a beautiful boutique, new luxury label products and the largest designer 2for1 offer in Western Canada. “You would have a difficult time recognizing the place. The Saskatoon retail optical market is suddenly a prime example of this sweeping change,” says McIntosh.
Change can be a good thing in any industry if done correctly. Through buying stores, retaining stellar employees, enhancing the product offering, and passing efficiencies and value directly to customers, the Factory Optical and Optiks International group is embracing change and more ready than ever to serve you.
3010 Preston Ave. S. #140
134 Primrose Dr. A-20 (inside Lawson Heights Mall)
116 Idylwyld Dr. N.
Photos Raw Photography