A New Vision for Lenses

A New Vision for Lenses
By Paddy Kamen

Daniel Beaulieu could have retired early after selling Groupe Vision Optique in 2005. Instead he went on a mission.

Is Daniel Beaulieu obsessed with lenses? The answer is an unequivocal YES! Beaulieu spent five years traveling the world investigating raw materials, and the manufacturing, distribution and retailing of lenses.India,Thailand,Korea,Hong Kong,ChinaandJapanwere on his itinerary, in addition to 10 European countries and 30U.S.states. He was a man on a mission and he learned a lot.

“I wanted to understand everything about lenses, including the cost of doing business in this field and the overall market,” he says. “I needed to know where the lens business was headed. I learned that the future of the industry is digital lenses and Internet ordering.”

Beaulieu also learned that Canadian eyecare professionals (ECPs) are over-paying for lens products. “Canadian ECPs typically pay 25 per cent more than Americans and much more than their counterparts in most other countries. I was determined to analyze the situation and see if there was a way to change that. While it’s true that very large corporations control about half of the total market, I discovered there is an opportunity for new independent suppliers who can give ECPs great product at a terrific price. The secret is a combination of Internet ordering, local delivery and services, and global sourcing.

“I want to give the independent ECP the means to compete with big players and Internet services that go direct to consumers,” he adds. “If we don’t find a way to help them, I’m afraid many will disappear in the next 10 years.”

The websiteswww.direct-lens.com and www.lensnetclub.com are Beaulieu’s solutions for Canadian ECPs. DirectLab Network is a full-service company offering both standard and customized lenses, along with warranties, coatings and customer service via the direct-lens.com ordering platform. They have both proprietary and some well-known brand products, ensuring that there is a wide range of high-quality lenses to meet any need.

Lensnetclub.com is an Internet-based discount club offering all major lens brands within standard Rx parameters. This is the go-to place for standard orders in situations where one doesn’t mind paying extra for warranties or doing without. The difference between this club and others is the customer service, the availability of fax ordering and the fact that there are 18 materials and indexes available from all major manufacturers. The prices are great and the customer pays separately for everything, including the cost of a fax order (a $2 surcharge when not ordering over the Internet). Lensnetclub.com prices are up to 60 per cent less than the competition. DirectLab Network is the official agent inCanada for this service, which is based in theU.S.

Beaulieu takes his companies both global and local via the DirectLab Network, which is currently served by laboratories and manufacturers inAsia,Europe, theU.S. andCanada, representing more than 1,000 technicians working around the clock with the best digital production equipment. Global sourcing gives Beaulieu the ability to lower prices while still being committed to using labs across theCanada to deliver the product to ECPs. Over the next 18 months, the network will have labs in every province. Currently, they can be found inMontreal (in alliance with Ronor),Drummondville,QC,St. Catharines,ON, andSaint John,NB.

The current production capacity is in excess of 50,000 lenses per day. Eighty per cent of Lensnetclub products are delivered within five working days, with the remaining 20 per cent guaranteed for delivery within seven working days. “Our guarantees with Lensnetclub are firm, and if we are late we issue the customer a refund in the form of a coupon for the next purchase,” explains Beaulieu.

All lenses from Direct-Lens and Lensnetclub are available digitally surfaced and two customized free-form products are available through Lensnetclub: Cleari and Innovative. DirectLab Network offers premier products through Direct-Lens: Precision and MyWorld. All products represent the best quality-to-price ratios in the industry, according to Beaulieu.

“I have invested over $3 million to make sure we are outstanding in the field,” explains Beaulieu. “And we have developed an incredible team of more than 50 seasoned professionals to support our growth, including Ted Hahn, vice president of sales for DirectLab Network, David Landry, territory manager for Atlantic Canada, Robert Bell for Quebec, and Roger Morin and Jeff Perkins in Ontario.” Beaulieu’s daughter, Veronique Beaulieu, is onboard at the Trois-Rivières head office, in charge of special projects, development, communications and logistics.

Direct-lens.com and lensnetclub.com give Canadian ECPs powerful tools for ordering and managing orders online. “It’s a new way to purchase lenses for the independent ECP,” notes Beaulieu. “We make it easy to order, manage and trace orders, all while enjoying significant savings. It’s a no-brainer.”

Beaulieu wants to take his Direct-Lens public within five years. “By then, I will have achieved my goal of bringing Canadian ECPs high-quality lenses at a price that will increase their margins and help them not only to stay in business but to prosper. I’m an independent with a firm commitment to support the independent optical professional.”

The Beaulieu family has a strong history in the optical industry. “My father, with over 50 years experience in the business, was my mentor,” says Beaulieu. “I also obtained a law degree, which has been an asset in my business career.”

There’s no doubt that Beaulieu has done incredibly thorough research and established a strong sourcing and distribution business model. As long as ECPs embrace Internet-based purchasing, Direct-Lens and Lensnetclub will thrive, and quite possibly change the balance of power in this competitive market.