The American Optician

Winter 2017

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6 I N D U S T RY U P D AT E How Will the Essilor – Luxottica Merger Affect Our Industry? A N I N T E R V I E W W I T H H O WA R D P U R C E L L T he recent merger between Essilor and Luxottica is arguably the largest event the optical community has seen in many decades. The consequences of this merger will likely have far- reaching implications for optical businesses and individuals in every sector of the industry. Ed De Gennaro interviewed Dr. Howard Purcell, Senior Vice President of Customer Development for Essilor of America, Inc., to get some insights into this merger. Ed De Gennaro: When did the idea of a merger between Essilor and Luxottica first begin? Howard Purcell: Essilor is always looking for opportunities to develop our business in a way that supports all of our customers. This is obviously a bigger one than normal, but I think we have an opportunity to shape the future of this industry. If we work together with our customers it'll be an exciting opportunity for everyone. The news was a "wow" for me, just like it was for everybody else, and I had to digest its implications and vastness. After contemplating it, I realized the opportunities are immense and exciting, and I hope that's the way everyone will look at this. I ask, how do we use this opportunity to help grow the industry faster, create efficiencies, help independents continue to compete and succeed in a rapidly-changing industry? We feel this announcement puts us in a great position to do that. ED: The concept of an Essilor – Luxottica merger has been contemplated for several years, right? HP: That's a hard thing to comment on because we don't typically share details about negotiations, but I can tell you it is something that has been discussed at the highest levels of the organization. There has been a lot of discussion about what the best next step is for our company in order to serve our customers, and the Essilor/Luxottica combination is part of that dialogue. You've observed our company. We are not slow to pull the trigger. We do things we feel are in the best interest of our customers and our company. One of the big changes I had to make in coming into the industry from private practice was looking 10 to 15 years ahead and trying to see where the industry is going. This approach is how Essilor views its plans. Understand that more than 75% of our business comes from the independent eyecare professional (ECP) so we must remain attentive to the strategies that will sustain the strength of independent optometry today and well into the future. ED: How does the company stay the same and how does it become different because of this merger? HP: Our mission, "improving lives by improving sight," is our heart, our foundation, and it drives everything we do. That absolutely does not change. The companies will continue to operate with their same leadership while making independent decisions. We've created a holding company that sits over both companies comprised of half Luxottica and half Essilor members. Decisions about how the companies work together will be agreed upon in a joint manner. Each company will retain its same general structure for some period of time, and their missions will not change. We at Essilor hope to learn from Luxottica resources to jointly implement things the industry has not seen before. For example, the innovation around frames and lenses has been done independently. Imagine innovating together. Apply this concept to wearable eyewear technology for example. The sky is the limit for how we can innovate around frames and lenses. No one has been able to do that before. That's one of several things I see as big opportunities that benefit consumers, ECPs and the companies. ED: Virtual reality eyewear was mentioned in press releases from both companies. What are you envisioning in this category? HP: We've been using virtual reality at Essilor for years to design lenses. When we create a new lens design, we can immerse

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