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Wednesday / April 17.
HomeminewsIndependent Optometrist Takes Fight to the Corporates Head On

Independent Optometrist Takes Fight to the Corporates Head On

In light of the recent failure of the Optometrists’ Co-operative, one optometrist is taking a leadership position in his fight for independent optometry.

According to optometrist George Nasser; “independent optometrists I talk to are concerned for their future. They worry that to survive they’ll need to join a franchise. But they don’t want to. They don’t want to give up the brand they’ve worked so hard to establish, to sell a percentage of their equity into the group or to be told how to run their business. What they do want is an industry group that supports their needs in a more altruistic way.”

To that end, Nasser, a Sydney based independent optometrist and Managing Director of Opticare, has launched his newly incorporated company and buying group Optipro Australia to be “the solution” for independents.

He says when he tells optometrists about the group they say they’re very excited to hear of its arrival.

This could be the shot in the arm that Australia’s independent optometrists need in the wake of the dominant retail growth of Luxottica and Specsavers in the last couple of years.

“I came up with the concept for co-operative Optipro about 12 years ago, but there wasn’t really a need for it back then. However in recent years, as groups like Specsavers and Luxottica have gained greater presence, the industry has changed and with it, optometric needs, I’m convinced now that the time is right.”

The time could indeed be right for Optipro. Where the Optometrists’ Co-operative once lacked the back office support to run the buying and marketing group, Nasser now has a full-time team headed up by Optipro Manager, Margaret Crosbie, on hand to run the day-to-day needs of its members.

Nasser says while Optipro is just getting underway, “the future is looking very bright”. Optipro has just begun signing up members at Queensland Vision – the first being brothers Greg and Terry Izzard – and aims to have the first 50 signed within the next few months. Optipro also has the support of 14 leading suppliers including Sunshades, Marchon, Rodenstock and Sceats.

One of the unique benefits of Optipro is in its marketing of the members co-branded stores, says Ms Crosbie.

“Each member must co-brand their shop front with the Optipro logo and their business name. George has also developed a comprehensive suite of marketing tools that optometrists can choose to take advantage of and if they want to they can access Optipro uniforms and stationery and have their website linked to the Optipro website,” she says.

“We want the interior of all the co-branded Optipro Australia practices to be colour co-ordinated. If a member has recently done a shop fit-out and it looks great, we’d suggest they not change the interior but, if it’s been 20 years since they did a fit-out we want to and can help with that. We can save our members a bomb for a shop fit-out. Members to get three quotes and we’ll always come in under those quotes. It doesn’t have to be as expensive as the figures we’ve heard others charging for a professional fit out.

“As a group, we’re not about dictating how much our members spend on marketing, or the extent to which they promote their business – we’re simply providing access to cost effective solutions that will help them compete against the franchises – as well as alignment with the Optipro brand that will be promoted across the country.”

Although the group is being branded nationally, each member will be represented at a regional level.

“Members are going to be able to participate in their own local marketing. They are being assigned to a geographic marketing committee and are being invited to participate in group planning and decision-making,” Ms. Crosbie explains.

By working on joint campaigns and using Optipro’s art studio, members can cost effectively develop advertising, catalogues and merchandise that reflect the Optipro brand and communicate successfully with their clients.

Nasser says for those optometrists who are new to marketing, the mass of opportunities that Optipro Australia presents could be daunting. To help them through, Optipro conducts regular training sessions aimed at helping independents understand and take advantage of the full benefits the group provides.

Furthermore, optometrists who join Optipro won’t lose their management rights or be charged a high membership fee.

“Optipro enables independents to match on price and excel on service – it’s a win-win situation for us all,” says Nasser.