Leonard Green & Partners Invests in Eyemart Express

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DALLAS—Private equity investment firm Leonard Green & Partners (LGP) has completed a strategic investment in Eyemart Express, a leading national value optical retailer, according to an announcement Tuesday. Los Angeles-based private equity firm LGP joins majority stakeholders FFL Partners (FFL) and the founding Barnes family in the ownership of the retailer, which operates 223 stores in 41 states. The financial terms of the private transaction were not disclosed, but the announcement noted that the new LGP investment “will not add any incremental debt to the Eyemart Express balance sheet.”

Eyemart Express ranked as the No. 10 eyewear retailer in the U.S. in the most recent Vision Monday Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers report with annual sales of $295 million in 2019.

“We are very excited to welcome Leonard Green & Partners to Eyemart Express,” Michael Bender, chief executive of Eyemart Express, said in the announcement. “The team at LGP shares our vision about the significant market opportunity ahead, and their experience and insights, in partnership with FFL, will enable us to continue to grow our market share, innovate and deliver best-in-class customer service.”

Headquartered in Farmers Branch, Texas, Eyemart Express operates value-oriented optical retail stores that combine an independent doctor of optometry for eye exams and an on-site lab for prescription eyewear in one convenient location. The company, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020, has generated nine consecutive years of same-store sales growth, the announcement noted.

“We were attracted to Eyemart due to its long history of consistent growth in the value optical sector, which has only accelerated in recent years under the leadership of Michael and his team,” Alyse Wagner, a partner at LGP, said in the announcement. “We have been impressed by the management team’s industry experience, the company’s entrepreneurial and collegial culture that attracts top-talent and drives success, and its high marks for customer satisfaction.”

Since FFL’s initial investment in 2014, Eyemart has become a leader in the fast-growing value segment of the optical industry, opening 78 new stores since 2014. During this period, Eyemart Express grew its management team and invested to strengthen a variety of operations and systems such as finance, marketing, and new store development. Investments in IT have focused on point of sale, e-commerce, and business intelligence reporting, the announcement stated.

“Supporting Eyemart Express throughout this latest period of growth has been tremendously rewarding and we’re confident the company’s success will only accelerate through our new partnership with LGP,” FFL Partners’ Chris Harris said. “LGP’s strong experience building retail businesses will be incredibly valuable as Eyemart Express continues to capitalize on its strengths and serve more customers through organic growth and strategic acquisitions.”

Since its inception, LGP has invested in over 95 companies in the form of traditional buyouts, going-private transactions, recapitalizations, growth equity, and selective public equity and debt positions. LGP primarily focuses on companies providing services, including consumer, business, and health care services, as well as retail, distribution, and industrials.

Evercore acted as lead financial advisor and Barclays and BofA Securities acted as advisors to Eyemart Express and FFL Partners, the announcement noted.