CVS opened five optical locations in 2015 as a pilot program. They apparently liked what they saw, because they have announced that they plan to open 19 further opticals this year, with locations in Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. While VSP was involved in the pilot program, none of the new locations will be in the VSP network, according to a VSP spokesperson.
If there’s any good news here, it’s that there are a lot of people who believe in the long-term viability of brick-and-mortar optical. Like Walgreen’s, which is also experimenting with optical, CVS is run by very smart people. They think in terms of revenue per square foot, and they wouldn’t commit in-store real estate to an optical department if they weren’t pretty sure they’d get a good return.
The bad news is that everybody seems to want a slice of the optical pie. And there’s really no way to make that pie bigger except through population growth, so new optical customers for CVS have to come from somebody else’s optical.
We don’t talk about this stuff just to be gloomy – we talk about it because it’s important to be open about where the market’s going, because that’s the only to be prepared for what happens next. Ultimately, the only way you can keep patients from being lured away from your optical to offer an affordable alternative that meets the high performance standards you insist on for your patients’ vision.