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FYidoctors Announces Acquisition of Montreal-Based Eyewear Chain BonLook: Interviews

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FYidoctors, Canada’s leading diversified healthcare organization, has acquired BonLook, the Montreal-based brand famous for its trendy styles and technology-driven approach to eyewear, boosting the FYidoctors portfolio with new opportunities to expand the brand nationally and beyond.

FYidoctors, which started in 2008, now has more than 300 stores with continued growth plans. BonLook, which has been around since 2011, has 36 stores across five provinces.

Image: BonLook
Image: Alan Ulsifer

Dr. Alan Ulsifer, Chair and CEO of FYidoctors with Calgary as its main head office, said BonLook strengthens the company’s overall portfolio with a brand that stands apart with a modern consumer offering. 

“We’re here to support BonLook’s growth and to continue offering unparalleled service to existing and new customers while creating business conditions for even more innovation to offer more quality products and superior services,” he said.

“We’re going to keep the brand the same. It is a different kind of customer segment. So their brand is very appealing to the Millennial, Gen Z group of people that want more convenience, they want affordable fashion, they’re not so caught up in runway brands, but they like what a brand stands for. It is a different customer segment that is more attractive to that segment than more traditional optical, or traditional eyecare.”

Ulsifer said there is great opportunity for the BonLook brand to grow online and the company will look at featuring BonLook products in some of the FYidoctors locations. 

Image: BonLook St Bruno
Sophie Boulanger and Louis-Félix Boulanger

BonLook, a pioneer in the online sale of branded prescription eyewear was founded by Sophie Boulanger and her brother Louis-Félix Boulanger. It began as an online business and then it started opening up stores about six years ago.

“We saw an immediate upside for our brand and company when we analyzed synergies between our organizations. BonLook’s entry into the FYidoctors family will provide the company and its employees with new strategic opportunities in this high growth market. Becoming a part of the FYi team ushers in a new chapter for us and it brings exciting growth, access to resources, and the opportunity to learn from their award-winning culture,” said Sophie Boulanger.

“The BonLook brand stays alive – alive and stronger than ever. Actually the partnership is meant to give us a bit of jet fuel to actually accelerate our growth. So we’re keeping the banner as it is, we’re keeping the BonLook team in place, we’re keeping the brand, we’re keeping all of our design capabilities and our head office here in Montreal.

“The idea of joining the FYi group is really to join forces and gives us the means to our ambitions to grow and double the footprint of the brand in the next two years.”

Image: BonLook

Louis-Félix Boulanger described FYi as a “spectacular” partner and a leader in optometry in Canada – the biggest employer of optometrists in the country. 

“It also has a tremendous lab and optical manufacturing operation and just best in class in what they do. We felt that it was very complementary to associate the leader in optometry and lab with a brand such as ourselves and really make it a partnership where one plus one equals three. It’s very accretive if you will,” he said.

Terms of the transaction are not being disclosed. Stifel GMP is acting as financial advisor to BonLook. Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP is acting as legal advisor to BonLook. Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer LLP is acting as legal advisor to FYidoctors.

George Minakakis

George Minakakis,  Principal of Inception Retail Group, a former Country Manager and CEO with Luxottica and author of The New Bricks & Mortar Future Proofing Retail, said BonLook is a Montreal brand that is positioned far lower in price positioning than FYi is.

“It is a different consumer and business model. The opportunity for FYi is that it does not have as big a presence in the Ontario and Quebec market as it does in western Canada,” he said. “Consolidation of eye care practices across Canada has and continues to be the main strategy of growth for existing operators. With SpecSavers entering the Canadian marketplace, someone buying BonLook certainly decreases the number of larger acquisitions available for their growth. 

PHOTO: FYI DOCTORS/VISIQUE

“However the question for FYi is this a brand that they will continue to operate as is and are they prepared to compete in Quebec where the market is dominantly led by NewLook which operates few brands across Canada. Acquisitions and mergers in this category are always interesting because players are trying to lock up more market share. What this also means is that the opportunity for future consolidation is getting narrowed down to independent eyecare professionals, which includes Optometry and Optician led practices. 

“We are about to see a lot more competition. And if anyone thinks that they can tame the market, into mid to high priced tiers they underestimate consumers. If I were still operating optical retail chains today I would be converting one of them into a mass market consumer brand to take share and it would happen very quickly with the right investment and marketing strategies.” 

Ulsifer said Canada has always been a competitive market, always attracting different players and it continues to do that.

“That competitiveness has been building for the last 20 years. It has become an extremely competitive market. I never take any competitor lightly and I never talk adversely about a competitor. But to be successfull you have to have incredible service, you have to have product variety and at a variety of price points that are competitive with others,” said Ulsifer.

“Canada’s a bit of a complicated market. We’re so big geographically and the population’s so spread out that it creates some challenges in distribution and timing that everybody faces and will continue to face. Do the right thing for your consumer, have the right product at the right price, and again great service is really the key to success in this industry. Loyalty is a bigger thing in eyecare than it is in general retail.”

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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