The online contact lens e-commerce site 1-800-Contacts buys at-home eye exam software maker 6over6.  

Doesn’t sound like a big deal to most of us.  And yet, it will be.  Right now it is just another sign of the huge sea change in how you buy glasses, that’s about to revolutionize the eyeglass industry.  

Imagine your retail optometrist being the dinosaur looking up at the sky right now, idly wondering what that huge rock coming towards him might be all about.

Think of what happened to taxis when Uber arrived.  Or what Airbnb did to the hotel industry.  Or what Amazon did to pretty much all of local niche retail.

That’s right.  Your local optician is about to go extinct (or his business model anyway).

I’ve been saying this for a while, and I’ve been adjusting some details of my investment strategy accordingly.  

Retail Optometry Right Now Is Blockbuster in 2006

And don’t we miss it dearly, every day.

You wouldn’t know it, walking into your local shopping mall retail optic shop.

The store displays are the same, the promotions are the same, the smug and “this is a medical condition” pseudoscience nonsense sales pitch, are still all the same.  Retail optometry still thinks it’s status quo, selling clear curved pieces of plastic that cost them $2 wholesale, to you for $200 at retail, all while having the gall to call it a ‘prescription’.  

We here are waiting quite patiently, and also with some healthy amount of glee, as this parasite of a business is barreling towards the cliff.

Let’s take a look at what Techcrunch had to say about the acquisition:

Investors in 6over6 Vision included: Rimonci Capital, Alumot VC, the Indian online eyeglasses company and TriVentures.

Companies including Lenskart, NovaVision, Kede Optics, SmartBuyGlasses, EyeRim, Liingo, Magic Leap and Glasses USA use the company’s technology to retrieve optical parameters from existing lenses and measuring pupillary distance. The idea is to let consumers renew their prescriptions without needing a follow-up exam or appointment.

“We have long admired the innovations 6over6 Vision has built and have been using their technologies to serve our customers. This acquisition allows us to continue our 25-year commitment to pursuing a better way in vision care,” said John Graham, CEO of 1-800 Contacts, in a statement. “People deserve simple and affordable eye care solutions and combining with 6over6 allows us to deliver this for our customers on an even larger scale.”

The companies expect to offer additional services, like virtual check-ups for new eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions.

“This acquisition allows us to continue our 25-year commitment to pursuing a better way in vision care…” – the statement here is pretty clear.  Graham sees the retail eye exam as a roadblock to be eliminated, something that doesn’t serve his customer base or business model.  

The business model which is online sales, aka. the future, vs. retail brick and mortar sales, aka. hey-dinosaurs-were-fascinating-creatures-back-in-their-day.

If you’re in retail optometry, you should be more than a bit worried at this point.

Literally Everybody Wants Retail Optometry DEAD

The harsh reality is that nobody in the industry wants the retail optometrist to survive.  Lens makers are looking at retail margins, and working hard to cut out the middle man.  Acquisitions into the consumer sales space are being made all the time, to consolidate distribution.  Vertical integration is a big goal here and everyone is working together to squeeze out papa retail lens seller.

For the savvy trader this is a great time to be making key moves as this space is rife with volatility.

And to the consumer, this is also great news.

Soon you’ll be able to skip the snake oil sales process of the “eye exam”.  All you’ll need is your smartphone, a free app, and a few minutes of time.  From there you’ll be able to order the glasses you want from any number of outlets, and have them delivered straight to your door.

For even more on ole Jakey’s take on these developments, see my video analysis of this acquisition:

Look at that happy, happy face.

The Dawn Of Choices For Your Eyesight

Best news of all is that this will strangle the mafia-like hold that the industry has on discussing the realities of myopia causes, and the many opportunities to stop and even reverse myopia progression.  This is something that optometry boards have been silencing aggressively, and much multi-million dollar lobbying has been done to keep the word “prescription” in the profitable sales of clear pieces of plastic (glasses) to consumers.

If you’ve tried to get the glasses you want, as opposed to the arbitrary and often over-corrected number of diopters that the retail optometrist will insist on, you may be thrilled at this direction.

We’ll soon enough be free of the lies and deceits and pseudoscience nonsense of this 100 billion dollar operation.  Optometrists who opt to offer value-added services such as well considered myopia control may stay in business and indeed thrive, while the rest of them will be driving your next Uber.

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