U.S. Vision sees its future in stores. A subsidiary of Refac Optical Group, U.S. Vision has about 700 licensed and company-owned optical centers that operate in major department stores (such as Macy's, J. C. Penney) and discount outlets (BJ's Wholesale Club) in the US and Canada. Products include prescription eyewear, sunglasses, designer frames, and contact lenses (contacts are also sold online via jcpenneyoptical.com). U.S. Vision runs its own optical laboratory, distribution, and lens-grinding facilities to fill orders. In 2011 parent Refac Optical was taken over by private equity firm ACON Investments and members of the management team.
ACON says it invests in businesses at "key inflection points in their development," indicating that there may be a need to overhaul U.S. Vision's strategy. Refac's former owner, investment firm Palisade Capital Management, retained a minority stake in the business as well as complete control of Refac's OptiCare Eye Health and Vision Centers division.
U.S. Vision prefers to operate in department stores because of lower start-up and operating costs, but its health is tied to the wealth of the chains it serves. Locations are often situated near customer service and gift-wrapping stations, and many house independent optometrists. (Its outlets inside J. C. Penney stores account for about two-thirds of sales.) U.S. Vision's move down-market from department stores to discount chains in recent years may prove to be well timed, given the deterioration of the US economy and consumer migration to discount retailers. The company generates one-third of its revenue from participants in managed vision insurance plans. – less