Tips4EyeDocs Daily No. 11 for 12/28/2011 – How is Optometry Like Sears?


“Sears losing the retail battle & to close 100+ stores nationwide.” The headlines describe the recent Sears decision to close over 100 stores across the country in order to retain working capital.  Sears has experienced a downward spiral in recent years and has lost valuable share price and investor confidence.

I posted this on an OD-only list serve and found a few private emails asking me to elaborate on my perception that the struggling giant Sears would be a great study for our leaders in optometry.

First, both Sears and optometry are wedded to a singular kind of business transaction model, face-to-face.  That means optometry still depends upon a brick and mortar (B&M) business model of a defined but limited product mix and personal interaction in order to transfer the product and services. Even their diversification to catalog sales will not save the larger company from its past mistakes. It cannot compete with larger more organized business competitors who can offer a much wider and deeper product line. This plagued Sears and it will plague optometry.

Second, the juggernaut is now too large to take on head-to-head. Like Sears, optometry has countered with legislation or regulation to control the practice of optometry but regulatory or judicial action has mostly negated these policies. Even Vision Service Plan (VSP) has been set back upon its heels.

Lastly, the financial strength of optometry is not equal to its competitors, like Sears to Walmart.  Without financial might, optometry cannot lead the eye care market and can only respond with minimal effect.

In summary, optometry is facing a crisis that will deepen. Bold leadership is needed and time will tell whether that leadership can step up to the task.

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About Richard Hom OD, MPA

Dr. Hom holds Doctor of Optometry and Masters in Public Administration degrees and practices family eye care and consults on public policy, health information technology and program evaluation.
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