Mass Merchants, Clubs Account for One-Quarter of U.S. Top 50's Sales

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NEW YORK—With the addition of an estimated 72 optical locations, sales by leading mass merchandising chains and warehouse clubs grew by an estimated 4.5 percent from an estimated $2,551.4 million in 2012 to an estimated $2,665.7 million in 2013. However, their share of the overall Top 50 U.S. Optical Retail sales fell from an estimated 31.6 percent in 2012 to an estimated 25.7 percent in 2013.

Much of this drop is due to Vision Source entering the main VM Top 50 chart with an estimated $1,969.0 million in sales. The combined number of in-store vision centers in mass merchandising chains and warehouse clubs grew an estimated 1.6 percent from an estimated 4,494 locations in 2012 to an estimated 4,566 locations in 2013.

Number one Wal-Mart Stores, with almost double the retail sales revenue of number two mass merchant Costco, firmly held its position with an estimated 2,884 optical locations generating an estimated $1,499.0 million in sales for 2013. That’s up 2 percent from the $1,469.0 million that was generated by 2,837 Walmart Vision Centers in 2012. That total for Walmart’s vision business includes the estimated $1,328.5 million in sales from Walmart’s own optical departments plus the estimated $170.5 million from those operated by National Vision.

With approximately half the sales revenue of Walmart, Costco remains well ahead of Sam’s Club in the number three mass merchants/clubs’ spot and the others that round out the chart—Shopko, Target, BJ’s and Fred Meyer.

Highlights during 2013 from some of the leading mass merchandising chains and warehouse clubs are as follows:

Walmart and Sam’s Club began a new online and telephone contact lens program in early 2013 when they parted ways with 1-800 CONTACTS. Walmart also introduced an Equate private label brand of contact lenses at that time.

Costco signed an agreement to join managed vision care company Superior Vision’s eyecare provider network, introduced its new Kirkland Signature HD Digital Progressive Lens, partnered with New Eyes for the Needy and created an eyeglass donation program in all Costco warehouses.

National Vision, which operates Vista Optical locations in select Fred Meyer stores along with Walmart optical leased locations, was acquired at the end of the first quarter of 2014 by KKR from Berkshire Partners for an undisclosed amount that is reportedly in excess of $1 billion. ■

jsailer@jobson.com