Mark Tosh, Senior Editor

Mark covers news and feature coverage of national and regional optical retailers, managed vision care organizations, software systems and technology. He works closely with other members of the VM editorial staff to monitor developments in online optical retailing and other industry issues. Mark is a contributor to dba, a twice monthly e-newsletter profiling successful local and regional retail/optometric businesses while addressing their decision-making needs. Contact Mark at mtosh@jobson.com.

TSO Finds Success by Focusing on Convenience for the Patient

By Mark Tosh
Monday, September 16, 2019 1:00 AM HOUSTON—There’s really no secret sauce or magic ingredient that goes into Texas State Optical’s (TSO) formula for success, according to president John Marvin. It all comes down to a “pretty basic” approach to managing a business on the foundation of sound core values and a resolute mission statement. And, perhaps most importantly, serving patients as effectively as possible—with plenty of emphasis on meeting the patients’ needs even as they evolve in a digitally driven marketplace.

Looking to the Future of Contact Lens Development With BCLA Medal Winner Lyndon Jones

By Mark Tosh
Friday, September 6, 2019 8:00 AM It’s been a busy 2019 for the contact lens sector of eyecare. Alcon once again became an independent company (following its spinoff from Novartis) and Johnson and Johnson debuted Acuvue Oasys with Transitions lenses, a first-of-its-kind contact lens that can sense lighting conditions. 

How Consumers Feel About Brands Expressing Opinions on Social Issues

By Mark Tosh
Friday, August 23, 2019 8:00 AM With many Americans polarized around social and political issues, it has become more important for brands that decide to take a stand to have some understanding of the risks that are associated with their decisions. With this in mind, research firm YouGov reviewed its data to compare the point of views of consumers from the U.S. and Britain. The objective was to explore whether consumers think it’s appropriate for brands to comment on social issues and to what extent this would depend on the industry. More than half (52 percent) of people in Britain think that brands should be able to express how they feel on a certain topic, compared with 61 percent of those from the U.S. “What’s more, just under half (48 percent) of Americans say they like brands that are willing to get involved in social issues and 42 percent of Brits say the same,” YouGov reported. Read the YouGov report here.

In addition, about six in 10 (59 percent) people in both countries don’t think brands should express views on social or political issues, but often this depends on the industry and the issue. “This indicates that it’s up to the brand itself to weigh up the risk versus the reward and understand what causes will resonate with their own audience and what will put them off,” the report said.

A Survey of Americans and What They Think of Shopper Loyalty Programs

By Mark Tosh
Sunday, August 18, 2019 7:00 AM Just about everyone is a member of one or more customer loyalty programs. These programs come in various shapes and sizes, in part because of variations by industry, by demographic and by brand, as a YouGov survey recently noted. “Customers in certain industries are motivated by different benefits and identifying the proper framework can lead to increased customer satisfaction,” the research firm noted. 

In an effort to uncover how consumers feel about these programs, YouGov conducted a survey of American consumers earlier this year to get a better understanding of this phenomenon. The firm discovered via its research that roughly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) are members of at least one program. 

The complete report can be downloaded here.  

“Savvy customers now want and expect a brand to reward their loyalty,” the research firm noted. “At a glance, women (68 percent) are more likely than men (59 percent) to subscribe to a loyalty program, and engagement, while high among older Americans (69 percent), tends to lag among young consumers (43 percent).” The analysis also indicated that among people not yet subscribed to a loyalty program, “there is a chance of winning them over with the right messaging and benefits offering.” 

YouGov also noted that among 18 to 24 year-olds, two in five (40 percent) men and three in 10 (30 percent) women report they have never subscribed to a loyalty program. “The reasons behind this are likely complex: their life stage suggests less experience with money and less exposure to loyalty programs overall,” the firm noted. 

Among loyalty programs, the most popular seems to be supermarket loyalty programs, which have a 65 percent penetration among people who belong to at least one loyalty program. The second most dominant sector proves to be pharmacies (56 percent), likely driven by programs such as CVS ExtraCare Pharmacy & Health Rewards and Walgreens Balance Rewards, the research firm said

Seeking Solutions

By Mark Tosh
Monday, August 12, 2019 12:30 AM In the world of optical retailing and eyecare, the arrival of the year 2020 might be seen as the best of times for the profession. Demographics, especially an aging population, higher incidence of diseases that may impact eye health (such as diabetes), and new areas of practice focus—namely myopia and blue light protection—are opening up avenues of opportunity for eyecare professionals.

MyEyeDr.: Valuing Doctor-Patient Loyalty

By Mark Tosh
Monday, August 12, 2019 12:28 AM

EyeCare Partners: A Doctor-First Approach

By Mark Tosh
Monday, August 12, 2019 12:27 AM Right behind MyEyeDr. in terms of size and scope is EyeCare Partners of St. Louis. The group has almost 300 locations where doctors see patients and is now in 11 states following a move into Alabama in March. EyeCare Partners launched in April 2015, when the private equity firm FFL Partners invested in St. Louis-based Clarkson Eyecare group, which had 63 locations at that time.

Acuity: Launched in 2017, but Growing Quickly

By Mark Tosh
Monday, August 12, 2019 12:26 AM Perhaps one of the newer PE-backed management groups in the eyecare sector is Acuity Eyecare Group, which was formed in early 2017 when Riata Capital acquired Crown Vision Center, Eyetique and International Eye Center and combined the practices under the Acuity management services umbrella. The group has now expanded to almost 125 locations following a pair of late July acquisitions that added 11 locations and marked the group’s entry into Texas. Acuity jumped four spots and ranked No. 17 in VM’s recent list of Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers.

Keplr: A Change of Name, But Not Philosophy

By Mark Tosh
Monday, August 12, 2019 12:25 AM Keplr, another private equity-backed firm, debuted in July as the management platform that rolled up two of the PE firm’s portfolio companies: Total ECP and optical retail company Visionary Partners. Under the new name and combined businesses, Keplr currently has about 80 eyecare clinics across 19 states under its corporate umbrella. It seeks to provide “exceptional levels of clinical, operational and marketing support with its more than decade-old and highly successful business services platform,” the company announced at its launch.

Vision Source Next: Building a Community of Support for Independent ODs

By Mark Tosh
Monday, August 12, 2019 12:24 AM Even as its member practices have compiled several successive years of above-average growth, Vision Source leadership has made it a priority to stay abreast of the fast-changing health care landscape, particularly as its relates to value-based care and even industry consolidation. The impact of the latter already has been felt across the independent pharmacy sector, and that experience has not gone unnoticed by the Vision Source management team.

VSP Ventures: Care-Focused Alternative for ECPs in Transition

By Mark Tosh
Monday, August 12, 2019 12:23 AM As private equity-driven deals in the eyecare sector seem to occur with more frequency, options for eyecare professionals who are seeking other means to address their ownership or financial structure are increasing, also. Pearle Vision launched an “Ignite” franchise option last year, and VSP Global introduced VSP Ventures this past spring as a way to facilitate practice transitions for eyecare professionals—to name just two of the transition alternatives.

Pearle Vision’s Ignite: Providing a ‘Strategic Conversion’ Program

By Mark Tosh
Monday, August 12, 2019 12:22 AM Another option for ECPs seeking to transition practice ownership is Pearle Vision’s Ignite program. Pearle launched “Ignite” as a way to offer “a strategic independent optometrist conversion program,” which Pearle said was tied to its commitment to growing the Pearle brand in new communities. The announcement noted that the Ignite program would provide “an attractive opportunity for independent eyecare practice owners” looking for options to manage their own business.

‘Demystifying Private Equity’ Seminars Launched by Review of Optometric Business

By Mark Tosh
Monday, August 12, 2019 12:21 AM DALLAS—“Demystifying Private Equity and Its Role in Optometry,” a seminar series for OD-owners, was launched with a premier event in Dallas on July 20, 2019. The event, which was attended by about 40 OD-owners as well as about 15 representatives from PE-backed companies, was developed by Review of Optometric Business. Sponsoring the event was Acuity Eyecare Group, EyeCare Partners, Kavanagh Consulting, MyEyeDr., Total ECP (now Keplr Vision) and VSP Ventures.

Read Any Good Books Lately? Asking for a Friend

By Mark Tosh
Friday, August 9, 2019 8:00 AM What are you reading this summer? Well, in some circumstances, this can be a loaded question. If a work colleague or even your boss asks you about your beach reading list, it’s probably best to avoid talking up anything from the science fiction, romance or sports categories on Amazon. Better to choose one of The New York Times’ bestsellers in the business category, something like “Dare to Lead” or even Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.”