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LensCrafters Inc.

LensCrafters Inc.

4000 Luxottica Place
Mason, Ohio 45040
U.S.A.
Telephone: (513) 765-6000
Fax: (513) 765-6249
Web site: http://www.lenscrafters.com

Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Luxottica SpA
Incorporated:
1983
Employees: NA
Sales: $1.33 billion (2003)
NAIC: 446130 Optical Goods Stores

A subsidiary of Italy's Luxottica SpA's Retail group, U.S.-based LensCrafters Inc. is North America's leading retailer of eyewear. The company was a pioneer of the "superoptical" segment during the 1980s and has grown to more than 880 stores in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Most of the company's stores are found in shopping malls and offer one-hour service, eye exams, contact lenses, and sunglasses. The company experienced significant growth under United States Shoe Corporation during the 1980s and early 1990s. Luxottica bought the company in 1995 and since that time has been building an optical empire by purchasing Sunglass Hut International Inc., OPSM Group, and Cole National Corporation.

Company's Founding in 1983

LensCrafters was founded in 1983 by Dean Butler, a 38-year-old who had previously worked at Procter & Gamble (P&G). A knowledgeable marketer, Butler had managed the Ivory liquid, Cheer laundry detergent, and Folger's instant coffee brands for the venerable Cincinnati consumer goods company.

At that time, the eyewear industry was on the cusp of radical change, a shift spurred by two vital legal decisions passed down in the late 1970s. The Federal Trade Commission freed patient choice by compelling vision professionals to give patients their prescriptions. A separate legal decision allowing advertising in this segment set the stage for the "superoptical" movement.

Butler was not the first to perceive this opportunity. New Jersey-based Eyelab gets credit for pioneering the concept, which featured mall-based stores, extended hours, onsite lens-grinding labs, thousands of frames, and rapid turnaround. Butler left P&G and launched his first 7,500-square-foot Precision LensCrafters (later simply LensCrafters) store just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati in Florence, Kentucky, in 1983. He was soon joined by another P&G colleague, Daniel Hogues.

Butler's version of the superoptical concept promised "glasses in about an hour." Since his stores were located in malls, customers could while away that hour shopping with other retailers. Guarantees helped instill confidence in customers who were accustomed to dealing with doctors. The "no risk sales guarantee" gave clients a full refund on glasses returned within 30 days of purchase. LensCrafters also offered to match competitors' prices as well as free lifetime maintenance. In a 1986 interview with Forbes magazine, Butler noted, "Marketing eyewear isn't much different from selling coffee. Retailing is what you do when customers walk into the store. But with a new idea, marketing comes first. Marketing is how you inspire customers to come to your door."

Notwithstanding naysayers who were convinced that the concept would fail, LensCrafters' first-year sales totaled $2 million. With support from a cadre of investors, the partners expanded to three outlets by early 1984, when their success drew the attention of a powerful backer: United States Shoe Corporation.

Acquired by U.S. Shoe in 1984

Also based in Cincinnati, U.S. Shoe was a billion-dollar company. Over the course of its more than 100 years in business, U.S. Shoe had diversified from its core footwear into retail apparel. Chains included Casual Corner and Petite Sophisticate. U.S. Shoe used its strong cash flow to fund a rapid expansion of LensCrafters.

With this backing, LensCrafters came not only to dominate its own industry, but also to take precedence over its own parent company's footwear and apparel businesses. From 1984 to 1987, LensCrafters' sales multiplied from $13.6 million or 1 percent of U.S. Shoe's annual revenues to 241 units and $305 million in sales. In 1986 alone, the company opened new stores at the rate of almost two per week. In 1987 Bannus B. Hudson, an 18-year alumnus of Procter & Gamble who had come to work for LensCrafters in 1985, took the helm. (Founder Dean Butler had by this time resigned from the business. Following the expiration of a noncompete contract, he opened a rival chain dubbed Lens Lab.) By the end of 1989 Hudson had increased the number of stores to more than 350 and boosted sales to $532 million or more than one-fifth of U.S. Shoe's total revenues. Perhaps more important, LensCrafters' $30 million net income constituted nearly 40 percent of its parent's operating earnings by that time. That year U.S. Shoe tried to divest its lagging footwear business, but could not find any takers.

LensCrafters and other eyewear retailers were not content merely to wait for market growth in the form of aging baby boomers with deteriorating eyesight. Instead, they promoted the concept of eyeglasses as fashionable accessories in the same category as shoes or jewelry. This concept not only encouraged sales of designer eyeglasses, but also ownership of multiple pairs of glasses. As Butler told Forbes in 1986, "Right now, most people buy a single pair of glasses every two or three years. But what if we can sell eyewear as fashion, a tortoiseshell pair for work and some wire rims for play? We could double per capita sales of glasses."

LensCrafters also focused strongly on maintaining a positive corporate culture. This ideal was embodied in a list of nine Core Values enumerated in 1986. They included: nurturing individuals; building on people's strengths; accepting and learning from mistakes; focusing on winning, not individual scoring; pushing breakthrough ideas; thinking and acting like a long-term owner; demanding highest possible quality; constantly, measurably improving; and acting with uncompromising integrity. A tenth value, having fun, was added in 1990.

New Decade, New Leadership, New Strategies

By 1990, LensCrafters had grown to become U.S. Shoe's "crown jewel." That spring, Bannus Hudson succeeded Philip Barach as CEO of the parent company, and 30-year-old David M. Browne advanced to president and chief executive officer of LensCrafters. Browne, a five-year veteran of Procter & Gamble, joined LensCrafters in 1986 as the vice-president of the recently acquired Optica chain of upscale eyewear shops. He inherited a company that, while still successful, was faced with a number of challenges. The new CEO had hoped to launch 100 new stores in 1990, but was forced to scale back that aggressive growth strategy when LensCrafters suffered its first-ever sales decline. The combination of the Gulf War and recession eroded consumer confidence while heavy competition squeezed prices and profits. Instead of pursuing growth, Browne was forced to restructure. He held job cuts to less than 100 of the company's 10,000 positions by relocating hundreds of employees. In spite of its difficulties, LensCrafters surpassed Pearle Vision Centers to become America's largest chain of eyeglass retailers in 1992, with an estimated $660 million or 4.5 percent of marketwide sales volume.

The company's new strategy targeted the bargain-minded customer via a joint venture with Kmart Corporation. In 1993, LensCrafters launched Sight & Save leased departments within existing Kmart stores. This new retail venture allowed LensCrafters to enter the discount segment without devaluing its namesake stores' focus on value and convenience.

LensCrafters' charitable activities started in 1988 as an extension of its optical services. In cooperation with Lions Clubs International, the company recycled used eyeglasses through its "Give the Gift of Sight" programs. Among other activities, this charity fashioned more than three million pairs of eyeglasses for disadvantaged peopleespecially childrenin the United States and abroad from 1988 through 1996. In 1993, the company launched its Hometown Day project, wherein employees of each of the company's stores donated their time and expertise to needy recipients in their own communities. That same year CEO Browne committed the company to providing free eyecare to one million people by LensCrafters' 20th anniversary in 2003. It was almost halfway there by the end of 1997. The company's charitable activities earned it a Volunteer Action Award from President Bill Clinton in 1994.

International expansion proved a mixed bag for LensCrafters. The company became the first U.S. Shoe affiliate to establish an overseas presence in 1988 with the launch of nine Canadian superstores. In 1993, it became Canada's largest optical retailer with the acquisition of the 22-store Eye Masters Ltd. chain. The company fared well on its home continent. By the end of 1994, it had nearly five dozen Canadian locations. A foray across the Atlantic Ocean did not go as well. In 1990, LensCrafters opened stores in the United Kingdom. But by the fall of 1993, the company was ready to close all its U.K. stores, including locations under the LensCrafters and Sight & Save names.

LensCrafters also grew through domestic acquisitions during this period. It purchased Hourglass Inc. in 1990 and acquired Tuckerman Optical, a midwestern chain, in 1994. LensCrafters spent an estimated $45 million to $50 million on 12-year-old Opti-World Inc., a 59-store Atlanta-based chain, in March 1995.

Company Perspectives:

The L GuidanceWe will help you navigate through the vast styles and sizes; HonestyWe will listen to what you want, tell you what works and even what doesn't; KnowledgeWe know eyewear and can help you find what works best with your face, coloring and personality; Respect for your busy schedule. We know you're busy so we will help you find the glasses you love, quickly and without rushing you.

Acquired by Luxottica in 1995

Italian eyewear manufacturer Luxottica SpA brought a $1.4 billion hostile takeover bid for U.S. Shoe in 1995. Owned by the Del Vecchio clan, Luxottica was not interested in U.S. Shoe's footwear or apparel, it was looking to round out its vertically integrated eyewear company to include retailing. Prior to its own acquisition, U.S. Shoe sold its footwear interests to Nine West Group Inc. for $600 million. Unable to find a buyer for U.S. Shoe's 1,300 money-losing apparel retailers, Luxottica transferred this division to a separate Del Vecchio interest.

The LensCrafters acquisition was a high-stakes gamble for Luxottica. The Italian company risked wholesale defection of its core customersindependent opticians and competing eyewear chains. Although many in these two groups did drop the Italian firm from their roster of suppliers, Luxottica was able to increase its sell-through at LensCrafters stores from 5 percent of frame revenues in 1995 to 43 percent by the end of 1996. In fact, the addition of LensCrafters more than doubled Luxottica's annual revenues from ITL 812.7 billion in 1994 to ITL 1.8 trillion in 1995.

In its first year under Luxottica, LensCrafters added 70 stores and 1,000 employees. In its zeal to focus on designer and high-end eyewear, however, Luxottica pushed LensCrafters to shutter its Sight & Save chain in 1996 and invest the proceeds in store refurbishings. LensCrafters also was testing new retail concepts, including Specttica in-store areas and SunCrafters sunglass kiosks. These outlets specialized in prescription and nonprescription sunglasses in airports and other high-traffic venues.

Despite the spinoff of both the U.K. and the Sight & Save operations in 1995 and 1996, LensCrafters' sales continued to grow rapidly under Luxottica. Revenues advanced slightly more than 5 percent from 1995 to 1996 to total $903.5 million, and the subsidiary was expected to contribute $1 billion to its parent company's top line in 1997.

On the occasion of LensCrafters' tenth anniversary in 1993, CEO Dave Browne said, "Looking to the future, I'm sure of only one thingthe inevitability of constant change and our readiness to face it. It will be harder to stay on top than it was to get there. We will have to recreate ourselves continuously in order to maintain our leadership position in an ever-changing category." That statement continued to hold true as the company faced the turn of the 21st century.

Lenscrafters in the Late 1990s and Beyond

Indeed, to remain competitive in the late 1990s and early years of the new millennium, Lenscrafters worked to create new strategies that would keep it one step ahead of its peers in the industry. In 1997, the company launched a Lenscrafters kiosk at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Management was optimistic that airport kiosks would become profitable and planned to add additional kiosks in airports throughout the United States. During that year, approximately 100 new stores opened their doors and sales surpassed $1 billion for the first time.

Along with new retailing formats, Lenscrafters also continued to offer cutting-edge products. In 1998, the company began outfitting its stores with equipment to make its Invisibles line of lenses available to customers in one hour. According to Lenscrafters, the Invisibles line reduced light reflections and glare off lenses by up to 90 percent when compared with traditional lenses. The company secured $1.3 billion in sales during 1999, which accounted for 63 percent of Luxottica's total revenue in 1999.

Lenscrafters entered the new millennium on solid ground with more than 858 locations in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. The company launched a new marketing campaign in 2000 designed to promote Lenscrafters as the best choice for vision care, eyeglasses, and contact lenses. With the tagline, "My Personal Vision Place," the campaign proved successful as profits rose significantly during the campaign. At this time, more than 70 percent of the frames sold at a Lenscrafters outlet were manufactured by Luxottica.

As a Luxottica subsidiary, Lenscrafters held an enviable position in the eyewear industry. Often referred to as the 800-pound gorilla by independent eyewear retailers, Luxottica topped off its optical empire when it acquired Cole National Corporation in 2004. Cole National operated as the second largest optical retailer in North America and operated stores under the Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Target Optical, and BJ's Optical monikers. Luxottica also had acquired Sunglass Hut and OPSM Group in 2001 and 2003, respectively, and had become the leading distributor of optical and sun products in North America and Asia Pacific as a result of its strategic purchases.

Meanwhile, Lenscrafters launched a new store design in 2003. The prototype opened in Tippecanoe Mall in Lafayette, Indiana and featured soft lighting and modern new fixtures, resembling an upscale apparel shop. A company spokesman commented on the new look in an April 2003 Chain Store Age article claiming, "We want people to feel good about buying eyewear and to think of the product not just as a medical requirement, but as something that can enhance their look."

With a strong focus on fashion and high-end brands, Lenscrafters aggressively moved into the Manhattan market during 2004 and 2005. The company planned to expand further, while offering the latest in eyewear. As a member of Luxottica's burgeoning Retail group, Lenscrafters had experienced marked success over the past ten years. With a solid strategy in place, the company appeared to be on track for continued growth in the years to come.

Principal Competitors

Eye Care Centers of America Inc.; National Vision Inc.; U.S. Vision Inc.

Key Dates:

1983:
Lenscrafters is established by Dean Butler.
1984:
U.S. Shoe Corporation buys the company.
1989:
By now, there are 350 stores in operation.
1992:
LensCrafters surpasses Pearle Vision Centers to become America's largest chain of eyeglass retailers.
1993:
The company becomes Canada's largest optical retailer with the acquisition of the 22-store Eye Masters Ltd.
1995:
Luxottica SpA acquires Lenscrafters.
1997:
Sales surpass $1 billion.
2003:
A new store design is launched.

Further Reading

Bolton, Douglas, "LensCrafters Founder to Compete," Cincinnati Post, February 21, 1990, pp. 6B, 8B.

Butler, Elisabeth, "Local Eyewear Retailers Look Out for LensCrafters," Crain's New York Business, May 9, 2005, p. 4.

Comiteau, Jennifer, and Jim Kirk, "Looking for 20/20 Vision," ADWEEK Eastern Edition, March 13, 1995, pp. 1-2.

Davenport, Carol, "Bannus B. Hudson, 43," Fortune, June 19, 1989, p. 162.

De Lombaerde, Geert, "LensCrafters Turns Focus from Growth to Profits," Business Courier, January 15, 1999, p. 28.

Deutsch, Claudia H., "The Big Battle Over Eyewear," New York Times, November 26, 1989, p. F4.

Diamond, Michael, "A Decade Later, LensCrafters Sales Give Skeptics an Eyeful," Cincinnati Business Courier, May 3, 1993, p. 6.

Fasig, Lisa Biank, "LensCrafters' Vision," Cincinnati Enquirer, August 13, 1997, pp. I1, I16.

Feldman, Diane, "Companies Aim to Please," Management Review, May 1989, pp. 8-9.

Head, Lauren Lawley, "Lenscrafters 'Powerful Outlet' for Luxottica Frames," Business Courier, December 15, 2000, p. 32.

Kranz, Cindy, "Corporate Caring," Cincinnati Enquirer, April 25, 1997, pp. D1, D9.

McKenna, Joseph F., "Dave Browne's Style: Analysis, But Not Paralysis," Industry Week, September 3, 1990, pp. 19-20.

Merwin, John, "New, Improved Eyewear," Forbes, October 6, 1986, pp. 152-53.

Olson, Thomas, "Overseas Lures LensCrafters," Cincinnati Business Courier, September 3, 1990, pp. 1-2.

Reese, Shelly, "LensCrafters Leader in Eyeglass Retail Race," Cincinnati Enquirer, March 21, 1993, pp. F1, F10.

Schwartz, Judith D., "LensCrafters Takes the High Road," Adweek's Marketing Week, April 30, 1990, pp. 26-27.

Seckler, Valerie, "Luxottica Talks with U.S. Shoe Have Hit Snag," WWD, March 31, 1995, p. 11.

Sullivan, Ruth, "Luxottica Focuses on Dominating U.S. Market," The European, April 21, 1995, p. 16.

Teitelbaum, Richard S., "David M. Browne, 31," Fortune, July 2, 1990, p. 102.

Wessling, Jack, "Hudson Given U.S. Shoe Tiller," Footwear News, February 5, 1990, pp. 4-5.

Wilson, Marianne, "LensCrafters Makes a Fashion Statement," Chain Store Age, April 2003, p. 98.

, "LensCrafters Polishes Image with Style," Chain Store Age Executive with Shopping Center Age, October 1996, pp. 144-45.

Zemke, Ron, and Dick Schaaf, "The Service Edge: 101 Companies That Profit from Customer Care," New York: New American Library, 1989.

                                       April D. Gasbarre

                          update: Christina M. Stansell

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LensCrafters Inc.

LensCrafters Inc.

8650 Governors Hill
Cincinnati, Ohio 45249-1391
U.S.A.
(513) 583-6000
Fax: (513) 583-6635
Web site: http://www.lenscrafters.com

Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Luxottica SpA
Founded:
1983
Employees: 14,000
Sales: $903.5 million (1996)
SICs: 5995 Optical Goods Stores

A subsidiary of Italys Luxottica SpA, U.S.-based Lens-Crafters Inc. is the worlds leading retailer of eyewear. Celebrating its 15th anniversary in 1998, the company was a pioneer of the superoptical segment. Its phenomenal growth under U.S. Shoe in the 1980s culminated in Luxotticas 1995 acquisition. With over 700 outlets across the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, the chain boasts a seven percent share of the domestic retail eyewear market. The company was expected to cross the $1 billion sales mark in 1997, a tripling of revenues from 1987s $305 million.

Founded 1983

LensCrafters was founded in 1983 by Dean Butler, a 38-year-old who had previously worked at Procter & Gamble. A knowledgeable marketer, Butler had managed the Ivory liquid, Cheer laundry detergent, and Folgers instant coffee brands for the venerable Cincinnati consumer goods company.

At that time, the eyewear industry was on the cusp of radical change, a shift spurred by two vital legal decisions passed down in the late 1970s. The Federal Trade Commission freed patient choice by compelling vision professionals to give patients their prescriptions. A separate legal decision allowing advertising in this segment set the stage for the superoptical movement.

Butler was not the first to perceive this opportunity. New Jersey-based Eyelab gets credit for pioneering the concept, which featured mall-based stores, extended hours, onsite lens-grinding labs, thousands of frames, and rapid turnaround. Butler left P&G and launched his first 7,500-square-foot Precision LensCrafters (later simply LensCrafters) store just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati in Florence, Kentucky, in 1983. He was soon joined by another P&G colleague, Daniel Hogues.

Butlers version of the superoptical concept promised glasses in about an hour. And since his stores were located in malls, customers could while away that hour shopping with other retailers. Guarantees helped instill confidence in customers who were accustomed to dealing with doctors. The no risk sales guarantee gave clients a full refund on glasses returned within 30 days of purchase. LensCrafters also offered to match competitors prices as well as free lifetime maintenance. In a 1986 interview with Forbes magazine, Butler noted that Marketing eyewear isnt much different from selling coffee. Retailing is what you do when customers walk into the store. But with a new idea, marketing comes first. Marketing is how you inspire customers to come to your door.

Notwithstanding naysayers who were convinced that the concept would fail, LensCrafters first-year sales totaled $2 million. With support from a cadre of investors, the partners expanded to three outlets by early 1984, when their success drew the attention of a powerful backer: United States Shoe Corp.

Acquired by U.S. Shoe in 1984

Also based in Cincinnati, U.S. Shoe was a billion-dollar company. Over the course of its more than 100 years in business, U.S. Shoe had diversified from its core footwear into retail apparel. Chains included Casual Corner and Petite Sophisticate. U.S. Shoe used its strong cash flow to fund a rapid expansion of LensCrafters.

With this backing, LensCrafters came not only to dominate its own industry, but also to take precedence over its own parent companys footwear and apparel businesses. From 1984 to 1987, LensCrafters sales multiplied from $13.6 million or one percent of U.S. Shoes annual revenues to 241 units and $305 million in sales. In 1986 alone, the company opened new stores at the rate of almost two per week. In 1987 Bannus B. Hudson, an 18-year alumnus of Procter & Gamble who had come to work for LensCrafters in 1985, took the helm. (Founder Dean Butler had by this time resigned from the business. Following the expiration of a non-compete contract, he opened a rival chain dubbed Lens Lab.) By the end of 1989 Hudson had increased the number of stores to over 350 and boosted sales to $532 million or over one-fifth of U.S. Shoes total revenues. Perhaps more importantly, LensCrafters $30 million net income constituted nearly 40 percent of its parents operating earnings by that time. That year U.S. Shoe tried to divest its lagging footwear business, but could not find any takers.

LensCrafters and other eyewear retailers were not content to merely wait for market growth in the form of aging baby boomers with deteriorating eyesight. Instead, they promoted the concept of eyeglasses as fashionable accessories in the same category as shoes or jewelry. This concept not only encouraged sales of designer eyeglasses, but also ownership of multiple pairs of glasses. As Butler told Forbes in 1986, Right now, most people buy a single pair of glasses every two or three years. But what if we can sell eyewear as fashion, a tortoiseshell pair for work and some wire rims for play? We could double per capita sales of glasses.

LensCrafters also focused strongly on maintaining a positive corporate culture. This ideal was embodied in a list of nine Core Values enumerated in 1986. They included: nurturing individuals; building on peoples strengths; accepting and learning from mistakes; focusing on winning, not individual scoring; pushing breakthrough ideas; thinking and acting like a long-term owner; demanding highest possible quality; constantly, measurably improving; and acting with uncompromising integrity. A tenth value, having fun, was added in 1990.

New Decade, New Leadership, New Strategies

By 1990, LensCrafters had grown to become U.S. Shoes crown jewel. That spring, Bannus Hudson succeeded Philip Barach as CEO of the parent company, and 30-year-old David M. Browne advanced to president and chief executive officer of LensCrafters. Browne, a five-year veteran of Procter & Gamble, joined LensCrafters in 1986 as the vice-president of the recently acquired Optica chain of upscale eyewear shops. He inherited a company that, while still successful, was faced with a number of challenges. The new CEO had hoped to launch 100 new stores in 1990, but was forced to scale back that aggressive growth strategy when LensCrafters suffered its first-ever sales decline. The combination of the Gulf War and recession eroded consumer confidence while heavy competition squeezed prices and profits. Instead of pursuing growth, Browne was forced to restructure. He held job cuts to less than 100 of the companys 10,000 positions by relocating hundreds of employees. In spite of its difficulties, LensCrafters surpassed Pearle Vision Centers to become Americas largest chain of eyeglass retailers in 1992, with an estimated $660 million or 4.5 percent of marketwide sales volume.

The companys new strategy targeted the bargain-minded customer via a joint venture with Kmart Corporation. In 1993, LensCrafters launched Sight & Save leased departments within existing Kmart stores. This new retail venture allowed LensCrafters to enter the discount segment without devaluing its namesake stores focus on value and convenience.

LensCrafters charitable activities started in 1988 as an extension of its optical services. In cooperation with Lions Clubs International, the company recycles used eyeglasses through its Give the Gift of Sight programs. Among other activities, this charity fashioned over three million pairs of eyeglasses for disadvantaged peopleespecially childrenin the U.S. and abroad from 1988 through 1996. In 1993, the company launched its Hometown Day project, wherein employees of each of the companys stores donated their time and expertise to needy recipients in their own communities. That same year CEO Browne committed the company to providing free eyecare to one million people by LensCrafters 20th anniversary in 2003. It was almost halfway there by the end of 1997. The companys charitable activities earned it a Volunteer Action Award from President Bill Clinton in 1994.

International expansion proved a mixed bag for LensCrafters. The company became the first U.S. Shoe affiliate to establish an overseas presence in 1988 with the launch of nine Canadian superstores. In 1993, it became Canadas largest optical retailer with the acquisition of the 22-store Eye Masters Ltd. chain. The company fared well on its home continent. By the end of 1994, it had nearly five dozen Canadian locations. A foray across the Atlantic Ocean did not go as well. In 1990, LensCrafters opened stores in the United Kingdom. But by the fall of 1993, the company was ready to close all its U.K. stores, including locations under the LensCrafters and Sight & Save names.

Company Perspectives:

We Exist To: create exceptional value in the lives of our customers, associates and shareholders. We will do this by enthusiastically satisfying every customer all the time and creating an environment where our Associates can fulfill their personal dreams. We Believe In: nurturing individuals; building on peoples strengths; accepting and learning from mistakes; focusing on winning, not individual scoring; pushing breakthrough ideas; thinking and acting like a long-term owner; demanding highest possible quality; constantly, measurably improving; acting with uncompromising integrity; having fun.

LensCrafters also grew through domestic acquisitions during this period. It purchased Hourglass Inc. in 1990 and acquired Tuckerman Optical, a midwestern chain, in 1994. LensCrafters spent an estimated $45 million to $50 million on 12-year-old Opti-World Inc., a 59-store Atlanta-based chain, in March 1995.

Acquired by Luxottica in 1995

Italian eyewear manufacturer Luxottica SpA brought a $1.4 billion hostile takeover bid for U.S. Shoe in 1995. Owned by the Del Vecchio clan, Luxottica was not interested in U.S. Shoes footwear or apparel, it was looking to round out its vertically integrated eyewear company to include retailing. Prior to its own acquisition, U.S. Shoe sold its footwear interests to Nine West Group Inc. for $600 million. Unable to find a buyer for U.S. Shoes 1,300 money-losing apparel retailers, Luxottica transferred this division to a separate Del Vecchio interest.

The LensCrafters acquisition was a high-stakes gamble for Luxottica. The Italian company risked wholesale defection of its core customersindependent opticians and competing eyewear chains. Although many in these two groups did drop the Italian firm from their roster of suppliers, Luxottica was able to increase its sell-through at LensCrafters stores from five percent of frame revenues in 1995 to 43 percent by the end of 1996. In fact, the addition of LensCrafters more than doubled Luxotticas annual revenues from L 812.7 billion in 1994 to L 1.8 trillion in 1995.

In its first year under Luxottica, LensCrafters added 70 stores and 1,000 employees. But in its zeal to focus on designer and high-end eyewear, Luxottica pushed LensCrafters to shutter its Sight & Save chain in 1996 and invest the proceeds in store refurbishings. LensCrafters was also testing new retail concepts, including Specttica in-store areas and SunCrafters sunglass kiosks. These outlets specialized in prescription and non-prescription sunglasses in airports and other high-traffic venues.

Despite the spinoff of both the U.K. and the Sight & Save operations in 1995 and 1996, LensCrafters sales continued to grow rapidly under Luxottica. Revenues advanced just over five percent from 1995 to 1996 to total $903.5 million, and the subsidiary was expected to contribute $1 billion to its parent companys top line in 1997.

On the occasion of LensCrafters tenth anniversary in 1993, CEO Dave Browne said, Looking to the future, Im sure of only one thingthe inevitability of constant change and our readiness to face it. It will be harder to stay on top than it was to get there. We will have to recreate ourselves continuously in order to maintain our leadership position in an ever-changing category. That statement continued to hold true as the company faced the turn of the 21st century.

Further Reading

Bolton, Douglas, LensCrafters Founder to Compete, Cincinnati Post, February 21, 1990, pp. 6B, 8B.

Comiteau, Jennifer, and Jim Kirk, Looking for 20/20 Vision, ADWEEK Eastern Edition, March 13, 1995, pp. 12.

Davenport, Carol, Bannus B. Hudson, 43, Fortune, June 19, 1989, p. 162.

Deutsch, Claudia H., The Big Battle over Eyewear, New York Times, November 26, 1989, p. F4.

Diamond, Michael, A Decade Later, LensCrafters Sales Give Skeptics an Eyeful, Cincinnati Business Courier, May 3, 1993, p. 6.

Fasig, Lisa Biank, LensCrafters Vision, Cincinnati Enquirer, August 13, 1997, pp. I1, I16.

Feldman, Diane, Companies Aim to Please, Management Review, May 1989, pp. 89.

Kranz, Cindy, Corporate Caring, Cincinnati Enquirer, April 25, 1997, pp. D1, D9.

McKenna, Joseph F., Dave Brownes Style: Analysis, But Not Paralysis, Industry Week, September 3, 1990, pp. 1920.

Merwin, John, New, Improved Eyewear, Forbes, October 6, 1986, pp. 15253.

Olson, Thomas, Overseas Lures LensCrafters, Cincinnati Business Courier, September 3, 1990, pp. 12.

Reese, Shelly, LensCrafters Leader in Eyeglass Retail Race, Cincinnati Enquirer, March 21, 1993, pp. F1, F10.

Schwartz, Judith D., LensCrafters Takes the High Road, Adweeks Marketing Week, April 30, 1990, pp. 2627.

Seckler, Valerie, Luxottica Talks with U.S. Shoe Have Hit Snag, WWD, March 31, 1995, p. 11.

Sullivan, Ruth, Luxottica Focuses on Dominating U.S. Market, The European, April 21, 1995, p. 16.

Teitelbaum, Richard S., David M. Browne, 31, Fortune, July 2, 1990, p. 102.

Wessling, Jack, Hudson Given U.S. Shoe Tiller, Footwear News, February 5, 1990, pp. 45.

Wilson, Marianne, LensCrafters Polishes Image with Style, Chain Store Age Executive with Shopping Center Age, October 1996, pp. 14445.

Zemke, Ron, and Dick Schaaf, The Service Edge: 101 Companies That Profit from Customer Care, New York: New American Library, 1989.

April D. Gasbarre

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