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More expansion for branded optometry chains

04/04/2018By Matthew Woodley
A leadership change has another optometry chain poised to expand in Australia, with LensPro set to join the likes of Specsavers, OPSM, George & Matilda, and Bailey Nelson in jockeying for market share.

The Queensland-headquartered business, which was recently acquired by a new entity, has been in Australia for more than 10 years, but had previously been controlled by internationally based owners. However, after providing technical expertise in 2016 as a consultant, new co-owner Mr Conan Lomas said he could see massive scope for improvement in the business, which led him and accountant Ms Adriana Pieterse to eventually takeover the chain in late January.

“The business has massive potential, especially in the locations that it currently has. It also has some fantastic people and when I saw that we could acquire it, I just felt it still had huge room for improvement and growth,” he said.

Of LensPro’s 10 locations, seven are in southeast Queensland, with the additional three in Sydney, Melbourne and Tweed Heads. Eight of those stores are franchised, which Lomas said allowed room for experimentation and innovation.


“There are quite a lot of changes going on. I’m sure that the deals that people see will be pretty unique.”
Conan Lomas, LensPro co-owner

“There are quite a lot of changes going on. I’m sure that the deals that people see will be pretty unique, and I think that the services that we offer will be quite unique as well,” he said.

“For example, we already offer a one hour lab service on 70% of our work. The patient can come in and literally walk away with their spectacles one hour later, because we stock lenses within every single practice that we hold.”

Given the raft of changes already underway, Lomas said the first six months were about consolidating. However, he also suggested once this had occurred, expansion was on the horizon.

“We’re going to ensure the longevity of the business’ future first. We’ll get our customer experience right, bring in new products, and streamline the business to be a little bit more efficient. Then we’ll also be designing a new concept store, so the look of LensPro will change from what it currently is,” he said.

“After the six months I think that we’ll probably push on and start to look for new partners and new business opportunities elsewhere throughout Australia.”

George & Matilda expansion

Another indicator of the changing market is George & Matilda, which has continued to attract optometry clinics to its unique partnership model. The business recently announced three new members, bringing to 44 the total number of practices.

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The consistent expansion has belied reports that the eyecare business was in financial trouble, and has it on track to pass 50 locations soon.

CEO Mr Chris Beer told Insight media reports last year suggesting there was doubt about the group’s ability to continue were inaccurate, because while George & Matilda had secured approval for a significant debt facility, this was not completed until after lodgement of the financial results.

“The group’s historic 16 month results did not depict a true picture of its future performance because of significant start- up costs and investments in marketing platforms and supply chain technologies,” Beer said.

“We ended the financial year with 36 practices, however at best, we only traded with all of those practices for six out of the 16 month results period. Although the June 30 2018 results will provide a clearer picture of the group’s performance, investment in platforms and new practices will continue over the next three to four years.”

Beer also said that the group was in active discussions with 170 practices that were exploring a potential partnership with George & Matilda, including significant interest from Victoria where the group currently only has one location.

“Now that we are more progressed in developing the technology and platforms which allow us to deliver significant benefits to our partners in terms of time and costs savings, we are able to look at other regions,” he said.

“Having our partnership development manager located in Melbourne is assisting greatly in advancing these discussions and we look forward to growing our community in this very important region.”

Elsewhere, Specsavers’ previously aggressive expansion has slowed, with its four new locations in the past 12 months bringing the total to 324, while OPSM currently has 325 stores and Laubman and Pank 41. Bailey Nelson’s new joint venture model has seen it partner with three practices since July, in addition to its 30 other stores in Australia.

Image courtesy: Freepik | snowing

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