Pearle Vision Executive Alex Wilkes: This is ‘A Brand with a Phenomenal Heritage’
Pearle Vision’s top executive discusses the company’s growth plans, and how today’s innovations fit into the company’s proud history
A good company never stops moving forward, and Pearle Vision General Manager Alex Wilkes dedicates himself to innovating new ways to help the company and its Licensed Operators succeed. We’re growing our optical store franchise base in a healthy way and finding passionate new licensed operators who will succeed in the business, and we have the systems in place to help eye care professionals focus on what really matters: helping their patients improve their sight and live better lives.
What strategies are you using to make the Pearle Vision system continue its success?
You have to constantly innovate and think about new ways to create value for the licensed operator group. That’s what the best franchisors in the world do. They come up with new ideas, new products, new adjacencies, new channels and new offerings, all pointed squarely at helping their current base and potential future investors become more profitable. I think every healthy franchise system needs to be maniacal about growing the licensed operator base. We’re working with eye care professionals as well as investors.
What are some of the ways that you help Pearle Vision licensed operators become more profitable?
Over the last few years, we’ve invested in a supply chain solution that we call eyecon™. It’s much more than just a point-of-sale system, it’s a POS hooked up to our entire supply chain, including frames, lenses, pricing and contact lens distributors. We’re providing our licensed operators a turnkey solution that allows them to turn on a POS and hook it up into the global supply channel we’ve built. It gives them a differential on pricing when they get products and services through our supply chain.
What do you find appealing about working with the Pearle Vision brand?
This is where I wanted to be. You get to work with incredible entrepreneurs and passionate licensed operators on a daily basis.
I also just love the values of the brand. It’s a brand with a phenomenal heritage, founded in 1961. The business is based on delivering eye care and eyewear, but built on a platform by Dr. Pearle that’s really focused on family values. That aligns with me. I’m a family guy, and when I’m not working, I like to spend as much time as possible with my kids.
When you look at the overall eye care market, why does Pearle stand out?
When you look at the market, you have the optical retail brands that play to the value segment. They’re screaming promotions. That’s clearly not who we want to be. You have other retail optical brands that are differentiating based on technology and widgets; that’s also not our brand positioning.
Our brand positioning is that we’re a company that deeply cares about taking care of your vision, a brand founded by a doctor. Our positioning is “exceptional quality of care.”
Why is now a great time to become part of Pearle Vision?
I don’t think there’s ever been a more exciting time to become part of Pearle Vision. Over the last few years, we’ve developed an extraordinary amount of capability. We’ve developed a new supply chain and a new POS, and the supply chain ties into Luxottica’s infrastructure as one of the leading frame manufacturers in the world. These resources combine with all our institutional know-how on how to create the best eyewear and deliver it to consumers. I think that’s incredibly exciting.
We’ve honed our marketing approach, so we now know what it takes to win in the local marketplace. We use some of the best media agencies in the world. Our franchisees own and run their own businesses, but they benefit from the scale of Luxottica (parent company of the Pearle Vision brand). A lot of other franchisors stand on their own, but when we go to market, we also bring the weight of Oakley, Ray-Ban, LensCrafters and some of these other great sister brands. When you have that type of scale, it really benefits the licensed operators and our eye care partners in the long run.
When you think about all that Pearle Vision is able to offer to licensed operators, what does that mean for an optometrist?
For many optometrists, Pearle Vision provides a really interesting alternative. Optometrists have to go into private practice and fend on their own, go into corporate optometry or become an associate doctor. What Pearle Vision gives them is an avenue with all the tools and capabilities to have a turnkey practice that they can open up on their own.
When optometrists come to our program and buy into what Pearle Vision can do, really amazing things can happen. I think we jump-start them on their way to being incredible entrepreneurs by giving them a system upon which they can build their business.
Many Pearle Vision owners are optometrists, but you are also interested in attracting investors to grow the brand. If I’m an investor, how am I able to take the tools that Pearle provides to grow and scale up a great business?
There’s an incredible need for the optical industry’s products and services. We provide premium products and services to our customers. For large investors, having a broad product line at fairly substantial margins provides a really powerful investment opportunity.
On top of that, this is a market that’s quickly consolidating. You have different competitors entering new markets, but we’re the only ones that have a proven platform that generates incredibly strong returns.
How do the existing licensed operators get along?
We have some licensed operators who have been with this brand for a very long time and built up a number of locations, and now they’re passing them onto the next generation.
Pearle Vision feels like a family for our licensed operators. There’s an energy and a sense of community that comes with that. When that community works together, that’s something that’s incredibly unique to Pearle Vision. We’re coming together and helping people see. That can create an immense emotional connection. That’s what Pearle Vision provides; an opportunity to help people see better than they’ve ever seen before, and that drives some of the character and culture of our brand.
Tell me what your five-year vision is for the company.
I think for Pearle Vision to grow and achieve our aspirations, there’s four things we have to do. First, we have to reignite our connection with customers and really elevate the emotional connection.
The second thing we’re focusing on is creating more value for our licensed operators. Every great franchise system innovates constantly with new channels and new products that drive profitability for the licensed operator group.
Aggressively growing our licensed operator base is our third strategy. We’re looking at large, institutional investors and we’re actively talking to independent eye care practitioners who want to come into a system that gives them everything they need to start. We’re unlocking their entrepreneurial spirit by giving them a system that’s plug and play.
The fourth key thing is elevating our operational discipline. We’re crazy about Net Promoter Score (a way of measuring customer satisfaction). We measure it because we want to make sure that people that are coming to us are getting great experiences. It’s not just about measuring Net Promoter Score, it’s also about developing the customer engagement programs that are unique to us. That’s what we’re focused on over the next five years. It’s a simple strategy focused on how we elevate the brand.
If you were to describe the person you would love to see join the brand, who are they?
The people that I want to see in this brand are incredibly entrepreneurial. They want to buy into the system, they want to work with the system, they believe in it and they’re willing to partner with us. I can almost immediately tell when I meet a licensed operator if it’s someone who is going to be a good fit and who’s going to have incredible success with the brand. They all have the same characteristics: high-energy, highly entrepreneurial, willing to believe and not looking for excuses and alibis. They’ve bought into the system, they want to work with it and they’re passionate about growing it.
Learn about Pearle Vision business opportunities
To learn more about Pearle Vision and the opportunity to open your own optical store franchise, fill out the form on this page to request more information. We’re happy to answer your questions about the brand.
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