Coronavirus BRIEFING

Optical Retailers, ECPs Assess the Damage as Some Protests Spur Vandalism

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CNN's helicopter view of the vandalized Moscot store on L.A.'s Melrose Avenue.
NEW YORK—As protests emerged across the U.S. over the past weekend and continue into this week, as thousands sought to express anger and outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and also to support the rights of African Americans and people of color, many demonstrations were peaceful but several transformed into dangerous riots and looting in many cities and towns. Optical retailers, both large chains and small eyecare professionals, found themselves in the middle of explosive violence.

Dozens of optical stores and optometric offices were vandalized and physically damaged. Coming as a second blow, on top of the coronavirus pandemic, optical ECPs and executives reached by VMAIL said they are still trying to assess the physical damage and financial loss, and many remain closed or chose to close proactively, Some of the destruction came even as ECPs planned to reopen yesterday for the first time. Others came just on the heels of reopenings, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in the past few weeks.

While most of the people VMAIL spoke with said they understood the primary message and goals of the protest, they were clearly dismayed about the episodes of violence and looting. Among smaller independents, and there were dozens of offices hit across the country, from Los Angeles to Sacramento, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, Indianapolis, Washington D.C., New York City, Atlanta and more. VMAIL was able to reach some of these businesses at presstime.

In L.A., Moscot's store was vandalized and appeared on CNN's evening broadcasts. Said a spokesperson, "Unfortunately our Melrose Shop was burglarized by looters that do not represent the broader message and what started as peaceful protests earlier in the day." She added, "We had actually reopened on Saturday, closed early due to protests. The shop is now boarded up and we will repair and open at a later date.The NYC shops are okay."

The damage was severe inside Moscot's L.A. location.

Optometrix's Beverly Hills store was smashed and robbed; it will reopen.

Optometrix's Beverly Hills location was shattered and products stolen. Myles Zackheim OD, told VMAIL, "It's very disturbing of course, but overall, we sustained minimal damage but lots of frames were looted. We'll be back in action in a few days."

In New York, Ruth Domber of 10/10 Optics, learned of the break-in at her store and optometric office on Madison Avenue late at night when security cameras started recording the event and sounded an alarm. "We arrived to find the police at the store and much damage. But really, we are more than broken glass. We sustained damage, certainly but we have let our patients know we are open, ready and able to serve as we have been doing for the last 40 years." Domber posted her messages to Facebook and Instagram and vowed, "We will not let this stop us from doing what we love "

10/10 Optics in NYC posted a "We're stronger than broken glass" message to its customers after its break-in.
In Minneapolis, where there was much disturbance among the calmer protests, eyecare professional Linda Chous, OD, considered herself very lucky when the destruction stopped a few blocks short of where her Glasses Menagerie practice is located. She opened on Saturday morning, she said, "to see patients who had been rescheduled from earlier dates due to COVID and we closed at noon to avoid being trapped by the huge gathering of protesters and freeway closures." She intended to go back Tuesday morning.

At AEG Vision, which operates retail groups under various banners across the country, a spokesman told VMAIL, that the downtown Pittsburgh location (Eyetique) was damaged this weekend and will be temporarily closed starting today. The practice was closed at the time and no one was harmed."

Among larger companies, a spokesperson for Luxottica Retail told VMAIL that some 25 locations of the group's stores were damaged and/or looted over the weekend. Among these were some LensCrafters, several Pearle and Sunglass Hut locations including one Ray-Ban store in L.A. and some Target Opticals. The company was still assessing damages at Target Opticals where several of those stores were closed.

At MyEyeDr., about nine offices were vandalized in Chicago, Indianapolis, Washington D.C. and Alabama, according to CEO Sue Downes, and Angela McCoy, MyEyeDr.'s chief administrative officer. Further, the group shut down 35 offices early to due either states of emergency, impending protests or curfews called in some cities, McCoy noted. Execs and managers were focusing on "People first, property second," McCoy emphasized, adding that fortunately, no doctors or store associates were hurt.

Some 9 MyEyeDr. offices were damaged, including this one in Wash D.C.'s Dupont Circle.

At National Vision, Inc., (NVI) (Nasdaq: EYE), a spokesperson noted, "With the situation being so fluid and evolving across the country, we don’t have a specific number to share at this point, but we do have several stores impacted by local curfews and shopping center closings and more than a dozen that have been vandalized in some capacity."

National Vision operates America's Best and Eyeglass World stores, among others. NVI CEO Reade Fahs told VMAIL, "The acts of violence we are seeing across our country are heartbreaking, and our thoughts are with all people whose lives have been impacted in any way. National Vision is closely monitoring the civil unrest that continues to unfold in response across our nation, and the safety of our team members, patients and customers is our top priority.

While several of our stores were affected during the protests and others are closed or operating with reduced hours, we are attempting to focus on helping identify solutions to our nation’s broader problems so the communities we serve can begin the process of healing.

"We recognize that people are heartbroken and upset and that many communities are in pain right now. Tragedies require us to look inward as individuals, as organizations, and as a society. Americans everywhere are speaking up to make that known. As a company, we fully support people’s rights to peacefully assemble," Fahs said.