In relocating and renaming its Downtown vision clinic and eyewear store, Highmark Inc.'s two-year effort to rebrand its vision subsidiary company is coming to an end, according to the company president.
With the move -- all of 100 feet, from one storefront in Fifth Avenue Place to another spot just down the hall -- Total Vision Care, a longtime first-floor tenant in the skyscraper that also serves as Highmark's headquarters, became Visionworks. The new store's soft opening was last week, and its ribbon-cutting took place Friday morning.
Visionworks is the name that eventually will be taken by all 600 or so of the retail vision outlets that Highmark operates across the United States. It's also the name of the Texas-based corporate entity that operates the retail units (the company used to be called the Eye Care Centers of America Inc.).
By November, each of the separate 15 brands (EyeMasters, Binyon's, Hour Eyes, Dr. Bizer's VisionWorld and many more) that were acquired over the years by Eye Care Centers of America will have been rebranded, said Jim Eisen, president of Visionworks.
It was a long process, but "in order to really grow into a national brand, you obviously have to have one name," Mr. Eisen said. "We are going to continue to grow stores and open stores."
Plans are to open 36 or so Visionworks locations this year, and 70 to 90 more in 2014 and beyond. Eventually, Highmark's Visionworks will have a retail vision presence in 46 or 47 states, Mr. Eisen said.
Highmark took control of Visionworks (then Eye Care Centers of America) in 2006. At the time, it was the third-largest retail optical chain in the U.S. Today, it is second, behind only LensCrafters, and Highmark says it's the largest fully integrated U.S. vision company. (Luxottica, which owns LensCrafters, Sunglass Hut International and Pearle Vision, is based in Italy.)
By "fully integrated," Highmark means that its for-profit vision wing, Highmark Vision Holding Company Inc., controls all components of the eye business -- from the insurance company, Davis Vision Inc., to the retail clinics, down to the optical manufacturing centers.
This year, the company is opening a new lens and frame manufacturing center in San Antonio, its fifth manufacturing and distribution hub in the U.S.
"We're creating a product, end to end, from manufacturing all the way to the retail sale," said William Winkenwerder Jr., Highmark's CEO.
He called "Visionworks [a] really important part of Highmark," both from a health strategy standpoint and, lately, a financial standpoint.
The vision coverage unit insured nearly 18 million customers in 2012, and the vision subsidiary as a whole turned in a net income of $64.7 million, at a time when net income from Highmark's mainline insurance business is -- and will continue to be -- flat.
Bill Toland: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2625.