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FYidoctors Acquires Quebec-Based Vision Care Chain Amid Significant Expansion [Exclusive]

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Calgary-based FYidoctors/Visique, the world’s largest optometrist-owned eye care company, continues to expand its retail footprint across the country with more locations planned for the future both in Canada and the United States.

As well, it is expanding into the medical aesthetics industry.

Recently, it acquired Grimard Optique, a Quebec-based vision care and retail chain with 22 locations, bringing its total portfolio to 250 locations across Canada – 70 of them added in 2019 alone – and it supports about 50 independent optometrists.

“I am thrilled to continue our aggressive growth with the acquisition of Grimard,” said Dr. Alan Ulsifer, CEO and Chairman of FYidoctors/Visique. “Specifically, I am excited about the strength it will now give us in Montreal – the sixth fastest growing metropolitan area in Canada and the United States. 

PHOTO: FYI DOCTORS/VISIQUE

“It is of critical importance for us to add value and provide solutions to clinics that join our family and we deliver that through financial strength and systems in place. We have worked extremely hard building the scalable infrastructure that allows us to realize this potential and are delighted with the pace we are now growing at. This is just the beginning.”

PHOTO: FYI DOCTORS/VISIQUE

Grimard locations will continue to operate under their current banner for the immediate future while FYidoctors evaluates how to merge the existing brand into the FYidoctors/Visique family.

FYidoctors began in April 2008 with a location in Grande Prairie, Alberta.

“We’re unusual in that we’re a very large company – the largest optometrist-owned company in the world – and we’re atypical because we’re not a box store, we’re not owned by private equity or a publicly-traded company. There’s a lot of consolidation going on in the industry both in Canada and the U.S. and we’ve seen the results of consolidation in other markets, such as Australia, the UK, and New Zealand. And what typically happens in a consolidation market is there’s very much a focus on product – I like to use the words pretty people wearing glasses, two for ones and all the rest of it – but nobody’s talking about how important eye care is,” said Ulsifer.

PHOTOS: GRIMARD OPTIQUE

“Where we’re different is we will bring on a practice, acquire them, and then we’ll make an investment in their location – kind of bring it up to speed in terms of merchandising but most importantly the technology to diagnose eye disease. As an independent, it’s difficult to make the big investments. Technology is changing so quickly that it’s difficult for independents to make these investments in the latest technology because it’s not covered by government. The only way to kind of recover the costs is to somehow charge the patient. But there’s a limit to that.

“So how do you keep up with technology, give the highest level of eye care and still make it economically viable? That’s where our business model comes in. We’re very large. We’ve grown massively over the last 11 years and don’t have to respond or report to shareholders. We don’t have to report to private equity.”

The company has a fully automated, freeform laboratory and distribution facility located in Delta, British Columbia.

Visique is the company’s brand name in Quebec.

“Our intent was to grow but we had no idea how big this would grow. Not even a clue,” said Ulsifer. 

PHOTO: FYI DOCTORS/VISIQUE

He said the company has a plan for a consolidated banner in Quebec. Before Visique, it had also acquired Vision Expert with its 11 locations in the Montreal area.

“We’ve really stepped up our presence in the Quebec market,” he said. “These latest two deals give us massive presence in the Montreal area. With that, it gives us the ability to really market a common banner. We’ll be working on that strategy,” explained Ulsifer.

“My dream is that everybody in Canada and the U.S. understands how important (eye care) is. That’s what we’re working on. In terms of number of locations, we could have 750 to 1,000 in Canada. We’re about to launch our U.S. business. We have our first deals accepted. We will sign deals in December, and we’ll have a large pipeline in the United States that we built that will go live in February 2020. That’s been a big focus of our team. 

“We’ve got lots going on in the Canadian market. This year we’ll do 82 locations in one year which is an absolute record for us. We’re 11 years old but that’s not that old and we’ve spent these years building the infrastructure trying to make sure that the people who join us have a great experience, that they feel good about the decision that they made. We feel we’ve gotten to that point where now we can really focus on aggressive growth where historically we’ve grown, stopped, grown, stopped and made sure that we were ready and scalable for that future growth. So right now it’s full steam ahead.”

PHOTO: FYI DOCTORS/VISIQUE

Ulsifer said the company has also built an infrastructure for health care consolidation. It is now making its first acquisitions in medical esthetics – doctor-driven clinics focusing on “people feeling better about themselves”.

“We have our first five acquisitions lined up for December,” he said.

“We see that industry growing massively. We look at the eye care market and it’s about $4.8 billion in Canada and medical esthetics is about $10 billion. It’s one of those industries where it’s fragmented, and we see a big opportunity to leverage our infrastructure to create a national brand.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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