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7 HOWARD PURCELL WOULD LIKE YOUR FEEDBACK ON THE MERGER. CLICK HERE FOR THREE WAYS YOU CAN PROVIDE IT. it in a virtual reality space to test it. Researchers can virtually navigate around their environment before we ever make a single lens. We feel this offers significant opportunities for the future while speeding up the time to market for new products. Think about how a pair of eyeglasses can interact with your sense of hearing, your smell, your taste, your blood pressure, and even your heart beat. A frame sits in a great position to monitor all those things. This is wearable technology at its best. Eyeglasses can enhance reality by letting the wearer hear and see things like the apps they have on their smart phone through their eyeglass lenses and temples. This augmented reality can be a huge category for the eyeglass market and for ECPs. ED: Tell me about online retailing. You will have more channels through the Luxottica merger with their online capabilities. HP: We believe there's a huge opportunity for the independent to participate online. I talked about this 8 1/2 years ago and sensed a lot of anxiety back then, but I think my colleagues are becoming more accepting of it today. Even the big online players believe that having a brick-and-mortar location associated with an online presence is the future. Independent practices are in a perfect position to make the most of an omni-channel approach. The coming together of the two companies doesn't affect our position on e-commerce. We believe independents need to get involved in it. We're going to create vehicles to make that happen and bring the technology and the expertise to it we didn't have before. That is a consistent position and I can't see that changing based on this announcement. ED: You now will have access to EyeMed through Luxottica. How does that alter your business model? HP: I think there are things practitioners really like about EyeMed and some things some would like to change. A few weeks ago, we had no input into EyeMed or any other Luxottica businesses. We will be in a better position in the future to collaborate. And it works both ways. Over time, Luxottica can influence our channels in a way that could be very positive and productive and we can influence theirs. I think it is human nature to have a gut reaction and think about the negatives, but I've moved on from that and think about the opportunities that exist, and they're immense. ED: The merger places your company directly in the retail distribution channel through the varied retail stores Luxottica owns. What do you tell independent practice owners when they ask how you're going to support them when you have to support and supply the chain retail operations of your partners? HP: At this point, we have no input into the retail operations; perhaps over time, but not today. Also, let's remember that it works both ways. I believe we're in a better position today than we were a few weeks ago because over time, we'll be able to provide input, which we could not before. I also think we're looking at it one dimensionally – large chains against the independents. Because of this merger, Luxottica is even more invested in independent optometry and has even more skin in the game as it relates to the success of independent optometry. This merger does not change Essilor's focus on the independent. Look at our history. When we first started acquiring labs, we made commitments on price, technology and data privacy to them and we've kept every one. When we acquired Vision Source, we said we would never dictate what products they carry and 18 months later, this has not changed. We will continue to help independents succeed and we have a partner in Luxottica that is equally committed. That's significant. The industry is changing and it's changing rapidly. We have to adapt, and by combining these two companies together, we believe it will have a significantly positive impact on the industry's future. ED: The combined Essilor – Luxottica company now has interests in nearly every aspect of the optical industry. The key to the success of this new entity will likely be its ability to balance business aspirations with satisfying every sector of the many eyecare and consumer constituencies it now has. THAT will be a huge challenge … and an enormous opportunity. Ed De Gennaro is Editor Emeritus for First Vision Media Group CLICK HERE to learn more about the opportunities that Howard Purcell sees for independent opticianry businesses and opticians.