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Industry Insights: Holly Rush, of Luxottica

Luxottica’s Holly Rush explains why we need a concerted effort to build awareness of annual eye exams.

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Working Across the Industry

Luxottica’s Holly Rush explains why we need a concerted effort to build awareness of annual eye exams.

The following “Industry Insights” installment is an excerpt of a conversation between Scot Morris, OM’s Chief Optometric Editor, and Holly Rush, President, Luxottica Wholesale North America.

What do you feel are the greatest threats or challenges to the eyecare profession?

Today’s eyecare professional faces more change and challenges than ever before. From healthcare reform and managed care, to the influence of technology on the practice, from profitability pressures and staffing challenges, plus the increasing demands of patients who are also consumers and how they (consumers) shop. Because of these converging changes at a critical time, it’s more important than ever that doctors today be open to new ways of operating and innovative partnerships that will help them navigate the landscape and emerge stronger than ever.

I also see consolidation happening at an accelerated pace and the possibility of more independents becoming part of an organized distribution network. While this can have its advantages on some level, it can also be a threat to the unique, high-quality, high-touch service model that exists today.

I see a real need for us to work across the industry, including manufacturers, retailers, independents, optometrists and eyecare professionals to align on things that really matter, like increasing awareness for annual eye exams, quality vision care or creating standards for how eyewear is sold online and the importance of providing an exceptional consumer experience. Protecting our profession while modernizing our approach is what we should all be focused on together.

What are the greatest opportunities?

The greatest opportunity I see is building awareness for annual exams. Other industries have done this successfully by creating public awareness platforms that completely changed consumer behaviors and shopping habits — think about what the dental industry has done through the past 20 to 30 years. Today, you wouldn’t dream of waiting more than six months for a cleaning and exam. That happened because the industry came together and educated consumers. In the end, dental health has improved dramatically, and a sustainable model was established.

Holly Rush, President, Luxottica Wholesale North America

The same thing happened in the dermatology field. Today, there’s hyper awareness of the risk of skin cancers caused from sun exposure. As an industry, after decades of lobbying and full alignment across manufacturers and the medical community, standards were created for OTC sunscreens, public awareness campaigns were launched, and dermatologists became ambassadors for skin health and annual cancer screenings. It’s an industry coming together to support a movement that benefits the consumer.

While the full impact of healthcare reform is yet to be known, I also see tremendous opportunity for the industry resulting from the changes in Washington, most significantly now that Pediatric Vision Care is one of the 10 essential benefits. Imagine the impact we can have on generations to come if we can give children the gift of sight well before they reach school age. We can help put an end to the vision crisis right here at home while also identifying other systemic health issues and at the same time create awareness at a very young age for the value of healthy eyes.

How can the profession help itself?

This is a very good question. First, we need to make an effort to rally behind the industry’s key priorities, removing barriers and focusing on growing the category so everyone wins. This starts with industry-wide efforts to raise consumer awareness for quality eye care and annual eye exams.

Second, we need to look beyond our industry to learn from others who have faced similar challenges and draw insights that will help us shape the future (beauty, fashion, pharmacy, etc.).

And third, we have to acknowledge and embrace the fact that we are not just in the business of providing medical care to patients. While, yes, it’s at our core, the reality is we are also in the business of retailing and for this reason, we need to start thinking about patients as consumers, and give them the full experience they are looking for. Our competition today doesn’t come from the big box retailer down the street or from our local independent doctor. It comes from new disruptors — those technologies, such as e-commerce, that are changing the landscape for eyewear and eye care. Anticipating change, being open to the opportunities presented and leveraging on exceptional service and a strong and profitable retail model are keys to our success.

What is the most important thing that the profession needs to know about what your company is focusing on through the next 12 months?

We are working exceptionally hard to demonstrate to the industry that Luxottica is much more than just a quality eyewear manufacturer or house of brands. While, yes, this is at the core of our DNA for sure, we have far more than this to offer to our partners. Whether it’s expertise in sunwear — a completely under-developed and under-served category for the industry — a true understanding of brands and why they matter to consumers today or best practices in retailing to name a few, there are assets and resources I believe we can bring to the market that can help the industry not just survive the changing times, but truly thrive. We will take a very significant step toward reframing the dialog at this year’s Vision Expo, and I encourage everyone to come see what we have in store.

What one personal item should the industry know about you?

I’m a mom with two small children. Before entering kindergarten, my 5-year-old was diagnosed with a compound astigmatism (-4.5 both eyes) and had her first experience wearing glasses. It’s changed her life and ours as parents. I’ll never forget what she said to me the first time she tried them on: “Mom, I never knew the world was so beautiful!” I credit this industry for creating the awareness in me that a proper eye exam was necessary and, most of all, for making a difference in so many people’s lives…

What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?

Wow, what a throwback. I worked at a fast food restaurant called Roy Rogers. There’s nothing more humbling then earning minimum wage and serving fried chicken and roast beef in a polyester uniform and a cowboy hat. But, hey, I bought my own car way before my friends did because of this job and will never forget how great that felt. OM