This annual list of the best eye care franchises was revised and updated on September 27, 2023.
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Eye care is a big industry. Both testing the state of customers’ eyes and providing them with the means to see clearly create big revenues for eye care providers.
Even people with healthy eyes need to have them checked every few years in case they deteriorate, and those using glasses need regular checks to keep their prescriptions up to date. Contact lens users require not only a steady supply of their lenses but checks both on their vision and on how well their lenses are working for them. The market for lenses to improve vision is also huge. Nearly three-quarters of Americans need glasses or contact lenses, meaning that there are tens of millions of customers buying glasses, lenses, and other treatments every year.
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As a result, the eye care industry is going through a period of expansion, with annual growth of 1.8% over the past five years. A stable and growing patient base means that the industry has few worries about its future.
One reason for this is a long-term demographic trend. As people live longer, the population gets older. Illnesses and weakening muscles create a higher proportion of eye problems in older people, and so a larger proportion of the population needs adjustments to help them see. Like the home care and cleaning industries, eye care is benefiting from the aging out of the boomer generation and the long-term economic consequences of this trend.
Secondly, there’s a commercial factor. Growing insurance coverage for eye care means that more people can afford to have regular eye tests and new glasses. Being able to afford the industry’s services means they’re more likely to make the most of them.
As a result of these factors, the optometrist industry is currently worth $22.4 billion per year in the US, with nearly 32,000 businesses employing around 167,000 staff. The vision care market is expected to grow by over 4% per year between 2022 and 2030.
While optometrists deal with a wide range of eye issues, including diseases and disorders, eye care franchises may offer a more limited range of services, focused on testing vision and selling glasses and contact lenses. This can lead to subscription arrangements, especially for contact lens users, which provide a regular stream of business, while some other customers bring in only occasional business when they need a test or new glasses. The biggest sources of income are sales of prescription eyewear (37%) and providing eye exams (28%), so a lot can be achieved by focusing on these core services.
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While vision adjustments are largely a practical matter, innovations and changes in fashion mean that there’s a steady stream of new developments creating commercial opportunities. Several multinational corporations are heavily invested in producing new eye care technology, meaning new diagnostic tools that isolate problems earlier, as well as improved versions of commercial products. Recent fashions for particular styles of glasses have driven more business to eye care providers, as have the opportunities for sunglasses to protect users’ eyes, driven by growing awareness of the damage that UV rays can do to eyesight.
Large companies are looking for ways to expand their distribution channels, and this can lead to good deals for franchises. Medical testing can be stressful, so by providing a comfortable, familiar environment an established franchise brand can help bring customers and products together.
A strong online presence can also help, especially in the contact lens market, where users are looking for good deals to purchase a regular supply of lenses. E-commerce for eye care is growing, to the detriment of some brick and mortar businesses, Once they have their prescription, a growing number of patients go online to get a better deal on the eyewear itself. While the industry is growing, many individual optometrists are seeing a fall in their sales of glasses and contact lenses. Having an online presence can therefore be helpful even for an in person eye care business.
Despite this, many patients see an advantage in buying from brick and mortar stores, which can provide the full service from testing through to sales. These remain the highest source of revenue, for now at least. Their customers are looking for a personalized service that leaves them feeling cared for, and by establishing that sort of atmosphere, new businesses can increase their chances of success.
Market share in this industry isn’t very concentrated, making it easier for new businesses to become established and for franchises to find a place.
Eye care is a specialized industry. To run a franchise, you’ll need staff with expert training and specialist equipment, which can be expensive. But it’s also a growing industry, and one that’s guaranteed to remain important for the foreseeable future. As America’s population ages, and its need for eye care increases, there’s an opportunity for these franchises to make their mark.
Franchise Chatter’s Top Eye Care Franchises of 2023
1. Pearle Vision
Pearle Vision has remained true to its founder’s vision of how to do eye care right, which includes best-in-class eye doctors, a deep commitment to customer care from the exam room to the retail floor, a premier selection of lenses and frames, and top-notch service for its community of patients in meeting their eye care and eyewear needs.
The whole eye exam process feels intimidating to a surprising number of people, which is why the optometrists and opticians at each Pearle Vision location have been trained in how to do exams and answer patient questions to make the process a stress-free experience. More than just checking eyesight, it’s about ensuring patients feel cared for, listened to, and understood.
Customers unhappy with their eyewear purchase can return them within 30 days and Pearle Vision will resolve the situation, whether that’s adjusting, repairing, exchanging, or replacing the eyewear with no excuses. For as long as customers own their glasses, they can bring them in for adjustments and cleaning free of charge.
Pearle Vision has teamed up with OneSight to create ABSee, a program that provides eye care and corrective eyewear to children in need.
Founded by Dr. Stanley Pearle in Savannah, Georgia in 1961 and franchising since 1980, the number of locations has declined in recent years from 641 in 2012 to the current total of 571 (up from the previously reported total of 562), of which 111 are company-owned and 16 are located outside the US.
2. My Eyelab
My Eyelab is a relative newcomer to the eye care franchise industry. The chain’s locations sport a contemporary look and lean into a technology-based experience it thinks makes finding the perfect eyewear a fun process.
The company has also embraced optical telehealth using its own proprietary software technology to give patients safe, reliable, and affordable state-of-the-art eye exams remotely. They also offer a color vision test to determine if any degree of color blindness is present. Their telehealth eye exams can detect several different eye diseases in addition to updating a prescription.
Whether it’s glasses or contacts (daily, biweekly, monthly), every location of My Eyelab has a robust selection of eyewear for women, men, and kids. In addition to its 30-day satisfaction guarantee, the company is always running “store specials” to help customers save money. Lens options include single vision, multifocal, plastic, polycarbonate, high-index, three levels of glare protection, photochromic, tinted, polarized, PureSight, hard coat, UV protection, as well as roll-and-polish.
Founded by Daniel Stanton in Jacksonville, Florida in 2006 and franchising since 2016, the number of locations has risen rapidly in recent years from 12 in 2016 to the current total of 157 (up from the previously reported total of 111), of which 71 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.