From a small back room in a warehouse with three employees to four distribution centers nationwide employing more than 1,000, ABB Optical Group has become the trusted partner in the eye care industry and a leading distributor of optical products in the United States.
As the company celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2015, here’s a look back and a look ahead:
Since Angel Alvarez, CEO of ABB, began his career in the optometry industry 30 years ago he has been focused on helping optometrists build their business.
First it was calling on eye care practitioners as the first sales rep for Vision Service Plan. As part of his job, he worked closely with optometrists to promote optometry. “Our message was about the need for regular eye exams and the importance of eye health,” Angel says. “It was important then, and still is today, for consumers to understand that other health issues can be detected through annual eye exams.”
Then came the launch of disposable contact lenses and Angel realized that as small business owners, optometrists would not be able to keep up with consumer demand, delivery and logistics.
“Optometrists experienced a 400 percent increase in transactions. Essentially doing more transactions for less money,” said Alvarez. “That was an enormous paradigm shift, particularly for small business owners like optometrists. I saw this as an opportunity to help them manage these complexities. We could help them increase efficiency, drive costs down and ultimately grow profitability.”
Today ABB supplies approximately two-thirds of practicing optometrists nationwide, with optical products ranging from soft contact lenses, stock ophthalmic lenses, eyewear and more. The company also manufactures gas permeable and custom soft contact lenses and offers eye care professionals the services of its Digital Eye Lab, the first fully automated lab dedicated solely to freeform digital lens fabrication in the United States.
“There are several reasons we partner with ABB OPTICAL GROUP,” said Dr. David Butler of Eye Care Professionals, which has been working with the company for more than 20 years. “We partner with ABB for all things contacts because of their exceptional service, their ability to manage inventory, their focus on our profitability and the fact that they genuinely care about our practice.”
Alvarez says that ABB has always been committed to a partnership with eye care practitioners. “We do everything we can to help them to manage their practices efficiently, effectively and profitably,” he says.
In addition to partnering with eye care practitioners, ABB also provides inventory management, order fulfillment and basic distribution for corporate optometry, manufacturers, franchises, lease holders and doctor groups.
ABB’s distribution business has its roots in Alvarez's purchase of Co-Optics Distribution in 1989. Since then, the company has grown in part due to several successful mergers with other optical distributors and service providers.
Years of Growth
In 1998, ABB acquired RLI Vision, a Massachusetts-based ophthalmic products distributor and gas permeable lens manufacturer. Then in 2002, the company acquired C&E Vision Group’s contact lens distribution division in California, providing a foothold on the West Coast.
With an eye toward increasing its presence on the West Coast, ABB merged in 2007 with Con-Cise Contact Lens Company, a California-based distributor founded in 1959 and parent company of Primary Eyecare Network, which is now a division of ABB.
In 2013, the merger of ABB Con-Cise and Optical Distributor Group established ABB as a leading provider of top-line products, services and practice building tools. With the integration of Optical Distributor Group, the Digital Eye Lab also became part of ABB.
Throughout the company's history, ABB has strengthened its position in the marketplace with eye care practitioners in mind.
"We are proud that the doctors we work with are thriving, gaining market share and growing faster than the industry,” said Alvarez. “We are driven by their continued success.”
Future plans for ABB include developing new e-commerce solutions and expanding the company's eyewear division. Through this new division, ABB plans to create a full-service solution that will allow eye care practitioners to streamline the process of ordering optical products by offering turn-key distribution services for frames and ophthalmic lenses.
"I thank all of our customers for allowing us to be their trusted business partner and advisor over the years,” said Alvarez. “We are part of a dynamic industry that has a bright future.”