The company also made the decision to update the interiors of its stores and remerchandise the frame selection and flow for customer shopping ease. “When we made the decision to rebrand, we said, ‘We’re not just going to change the name, but we’re going to change the look of the stores as well as the experience for the customer,’” Eisen recalls. “We had stores that hadn’t been touched in years. [We wanted] to give the customers that ‘wow’ factor when they come into our store.”
But before it made the changes, Visionworks again talked to its consumers about how it could improve its locations. “We spoke to [them] about store design and merchandise organization, what they liked and didn’t like: and we listened to them,” Eisen says.
Ultimately, the company made design changes and grew the stores’ merchandise assortments. “We now have an average of 2,000 frames per store – that’s more than any other competitor in our space. [We also] made sure that when we invite the customer to come in to Visionworks, we always put our best foot forward,” he says. “Regardless of whom the customer is, a retail customer, or a Davis Vision member, we provide an outstanding experience for them. We do this by delivering on our brand promise of offering the most frames, the best people and the right prices for any budget.
“By the end of 2013, when we completed this process, we not only had one national brand, but we had an updated portfolio of stores,” Eisen says, noting that it has 653 stores today and expects to keep growing. “In 2015, we’ll open approximately 50 [more] stores.
“As part of our rebranding initiative we relocated our headquarters from North Central to downtown San Antonio in 2011,” he says. “Our people have absolutely loved it. Our team was excited about the move and is still very excited about being downtown.
“We have formed a strong partnership with the city of San Antonio, led by our city manager, Sheryl Sculley,” he continues. “To prepare our associates for the move, we did an internal marketing campaign, getting people information on restaurants, child care and things to do downtown. We put together a nice brochure and took field trips down here. It was all about getting everyone comfortable with where they were going. Only two people from our previous office said they weren’t able to make the trek downtown.
We occupy around 160,000 square feet of office space and a Visionworks store and have almost doubled the number of jobs in our HVHC corporate office to over 450.
“One outcome of the move was to capitalize on the synergies between Visionworks and Davis Vision,” Eisen says. “The strategy combines value eyewear with managed vision care.” This plan was developed in 2008 when the company concluded that the value space was the biggest opportunity out there, combined with the importance of managed vision care and its ability to fabricate high-quality eyewear in its five U.S. based manufacturing facilities.
“Managed vision care will become even more important with aging baby boomers and the economy.”
Visionworks’ current incarnation has only existed for a relatively short amount of time, but the company is working hard to increase its brand awareness. “We feel we have a great brand; one our team is very proud of,” Eisen says.
The customer marketing strategy is a multi-faceted plan including television, print, digital and social. Although the company had advertised via local TV commercials in the past, it now has a national presence due to rebranding to one name.
“In Chicago, we were already Visionworks, but in San Antonio, we were Eyemasters,” he says. “Because of the re-branding and what we did between 2011 and 2013, we were able to move to national TV which supports our current markets and builds brand recognition for new markets in the future.”
The company also was able to completely redesign its website from 16 different outdated sites to one digitally optimized site with a virtual try-on tool, lens finder, printable and digital coupons, detail pages for each store and much more.
On the E-Commerce Road
Visionworks has not made a complete move into e-retailing, but it recently launched a website where its customers can buy contact lenses. “We’re also working right now on a full e-commerce platform for both Visionworks and Davis Vision,” Eisen says.
“We’re very excited to truly become a multi-channel optical retailer who can deliver choice to our customers,” he says. “You’ll be able to pick out, get fitted for and receive your eyeglasses at your home or in our stores.”
Eisen is a long-time veteran of the eye care service industry. Although he started in the jewelry business, “I moved into optical with Cole Vision in Cleveland in 2001,” he says, noting that he joined Visionworks in 2008.
He is very proud of the workplace environment at HVHC. “We have a tremendous team that works together collaboratively,” he says. “I would describe our organization as more of a matrix than the traditional organization chart configuration.
“We believe in having a very open, collaborative environment and one where we can work together, make decisions quickly and work well cross-functionally,” he says. “We’ve created a culture that I would have to describe as being very positive and fun, and focused on the customer.”
Eisen also has strived to be supportive of his associates. “My philosophy is simple,” he describes. “If you build positive relationships and you treat people the right way, you can do great things together. I believe that I am accountable to our 9,000 associates and their families.
“My style is to create the kind of relationships where people feel empowered, they feel like they have a voice, and quite frankly, they feel like they can make mistakes,” he says. “All we ask is that they correct it and learn from it.”
Additionally, “We have the good fortune to have a positive impact on people’s lives,” Eisen says, noting that at HVHC “we really want to help people see better and care for the health of their eyes. When you have that component in your culture, it really goes a long ways towards nurturing [strong values].”
A Nice Situation
When hiring at Visionworks and HVHC, Eisen looks for people that will fit into its culture. “[We need] people that can embrace the mission, vision and values in this company and can thrive in that type of environment,” he says.
“We’re very fortunate at HVHC to have many associates that have been with the company 15-plus years and have incredible expertise. We also have added new talent as we’ve grown,” he says.
Eisen sees a strong future for HVHC, Visionworks and Davis Vision. “We have a strategy in place to grow,” he says. “We have a strategy to continue to grow both sides of our business, on the retail side as well as the managed vision care side.
“We want to continue to add stores and providers where we have Davis Vision insured members, giving them more access points across the country. “
Visionworks and Davis Vision also take part in various types of charitable work. Last month, it was announced that Visionworks and Davis Vision formed a partnership with the American Diabetes Association.
The companies will sponsor the association’s Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes, through their Focus on America community outreach program. Employees of Visionworks and Davis Vision will participate in the walks throughout the United States to show support and rally communities.
According to Visionworks, the leading cause of blindness in working-age American adults is diabetes, and many do not know that an annual eye exam can uncover such conditions early. “Through this sponsorship, Visionworks and Davis Vision’s goal is to educate and encourage both children and adults to get yearly eye exams in an effort to protect eyes and overall health,” the company says.
Visionworks has doctors of optometry at or next to every store. Visionworks doctors and doctor partners take appointments as well as walk-ins and most stores are open seven days a week. Visionworks President and HVHC CEO Jim Eisen emphasizes, “We know people are busy, but taking care of your health is important. We offer the convenience of evening and weekend hours so our customers can visit Visionworks when it fits into their schedules because we’re passionate about helping people maintain healthy vision throughout their lives.”
Eisen commented in a statement, “Given that diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among adults in America, we are proud supporters of the Association’s Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes and gratified to collaborate in an effort to raise awareness of diabetes and the negative effects it can have on vision.”
The association’s interim chief executive officer, Suzanne Berry, also was pleased by Visionworks’ involvement. “With the help of Visionworks, we are confident we can continue to improve the lives of people living with diabetes,” she said.
Visionworks also is the latest industry partner to support Think About Your Eyes, a national public awareness campaign aimed at educating consumers on the benefits of vision health. The addition of Visionworks to this industry initiative, presented by The Vision Council and the American Optometric Association, continues the campaign’s impressive growth and reflects the increasing importance of getting an annual comprehensive eye exam.
“Visionworks is committed to providing our customers with the best possible eye care, and working to ensure that all consumers are informed on the importance of vision health to an overall healthy lifestyle,” Eisen said. “As a supporter of the Think About Your Eyes campaign, we’re able to further spread awareness of the benefits of a comprehensive eye exam, and join other industry leaders in making annual eye exams a standard part of everyone’s life.”
“We’re excited to welcome Visionworks as a partner in the Think About Your Eyes initiative, and thrilled to see the dedication to consumer eye health coming from the industry’s retail leaders,” said Mike Daley, chief executive officer of The Vision Council. “Since the campaign’s national launch, eye exams have increased 5.0 percent, leading to an additional 7.4 million annual eye exams and the diagnosis of more than 800,000 previously undiagnosed eye diseases. The success of this campaign is entirely due to the support of industry partners like Visionworks, who have joined the effort to bring awareness to the importance of vision health to an overall healthy lifestyle.”
The Think About Your Eyes initiative employs national television, radio, print and online/digital advertising to share educational and motivational messages about eye disease, eye strain, children’s vision and how regular eye exams can positively affect overall health. The campaign is designed to encourage consumers to schedule an eye exam by visiting thinkaboutyoureyes.com. The site, which has received more than 1.2 million visitors, features a comprehensive locator tool where visitors can easily find local Think About Your Eyes member eye care providers.
Visionworks’ charitable work is not limited to just these associations. “We have had a long-standing commitment to give back to the communities we serve.” Eisen says.
Since 2009, “We’ve performed free vision screenings for over 14,000 children and adults,” he says. “We’ve given over 5,000 children free eye exams and glasses.”
To date, the company has provided more than $10 million worth of complimentary services. “It is very humbling to have the opportunity to do the right thing and help people,” he says. “That’s very important to us and the communities where we work. That’s a big part of who we are.”
This February, Visionworks announced new spring fashion trends in eyewear. “When it comes to the top trends for celebrating spring, Visionworks loves fashion influenced by a unique blend of materials and a palate of both bold and subtle colors with fun details in many shapes and sizes,” the company says. “This spring promises to be a season filled with retro-modern newness, inviting all eyeglass wearers to indulge in fresh color combinations, making a bold fashion statement,” Visionworks Executive Vice President and Chief Merchandising Officer Sherry Lay said.
“For men, the detailing we saw in fall [continues] with handsome accents of visible nail heads and hinges to wire, giving him a gallant, yet daring appearance,” she continued. “For women, we love marbled tortoise shell frames, which are always a classic, as well as new lightweight metals, giving the appearance of a plastic frame. And of course, oversized frames continue to be a hit with fashionistas.”
Visionworks is adding and/or expanding fashion brand frames from Diane von Furstenberg, Anne Klein, Just Cavalli, Nine West, Lacoste, Diesel and Timberland to its lineup. “New styles will be available in select stores across the U.S. in spring 2015,” Lay adds.
For men, spring trends also include two-tone frames. “Subtle color variations offer an update to men’s frames and highlight temple details like logos, metal plaques and laser cutouts,” Lay says.
For everyone, there is tortoise shell eyewear that is “available in spotted or marbled effect, subtle torts with vibrant pops of color that give a new dimension,” explains Lay. “Tortoise is a classic that never goes out of style.”
And, to let customers view these trends at home, Visionworks features the Better You Frame Finder tool on its web site to help customers find the right frames for their faces. “Shoppers simply upload their photo and virtually try on frames that fit their personal style and face shape,” Jim Eisen said. “Customers can even share photos wearing their frame choices with Facebook friends and get their votes before they come into the store.”