Many ECPs find advantages in
aligning, buying with others
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 edition of INVISION.
Strength — and savings — in numbers. That’s the basic idea behind buying groups and practice alliances. By banding together, ECPs can reap discounts on everything from frames and contacts to lab services and practice management solutions.
The top groups among 353 ECPs surveyed by The Vision Council last year: Vision Source (used by 45), C & E (37) , OOGP (32), Block Business Group (31), ABB Concise/ABB Optical/Primary Eyecare Network (28), Vision West (27), ADO (25), Alliance and HMI (24 each), with IDOC and PECCA close behind.
Nearly a quarter of the respondents said they have no affiliation. About a quarter said they use more than one buying group or alliance, and some INVISION Brain Squad members agree. “We use PERC, IDOC and C & E,” reports Susan Kantor of Central Phoenix Eyecare. “They do help with some discounts, although, with our volume, the best discounts usually come by going direct with a company.” And some ECPs pick and choose, using a buying group for some products and services, but not for others. Dr. Dave Schultz of Urban Optics in San Luis Obispo, CA, uses a buying group for lab services but not for frames since, he notes, “most independent frame lines don’t participate.”
Many optical pros find that smaller groups serve them well. Douglas Manhire of Manhire Opticians in Hackettstown, NJ, joined Villavecchia Buying Group when it started in 1980 and is still a member.
As with any business decision, it’s smart to do your research and talk with colleagues before signing on with a buying group or alliance. Remember, too, that what works for you today may not be the best solution next year. So be agile, flexible and ready to do whatever will best serve your business and your customers. — JULIE FANSELOW