Visionworks of America (formerly Eye Care Centers of America) is clearly focused on becoming the top eyewear chain. The company owns or manages more than 550 optical stores in almost 40 states. Its stores -- operating under the EyeMasters name and a host of others (including Dr. Bizer's ValuVision, EYE DRx, Hour Eyes, and Vision World) -- are being rebranded as Visionworks. The stores sell contact lenses, prescription eyewear, sunglasses, and accessories, and offer contacts and eyeglass frames under its own and designer brands, as well as one-hour service, on-site processing labs, and independent optometrists. Founded in 1984, the firm is a subsidiary of HVHC, itself a subsidiary of health insurer Highmark.
In recent years the company has been focused on growing its store network, with expansion plans geared toward the Chicago area, which ranks among its top five markets. Other leading markets include Houston; Dallas; Louisville, Kentucky; and Washington, DC. Most of Visionworks' stores are located in malls and shopping centers. It also operates about 60 free-standing locations. Additionally, about 360 of its stores operate in-house lens-processing centers, which allow them to fill prescriptions within one hour.
During 2010 HVHC refinanced all of its debt (and the debt of Visionworks and its other subsidiaries) through a new credit agreement with a group of lenders led by PNC Bank. HVHC said the terms of the new credit agreement are more favorable than previous deals with other financial institutions and enable the company to strengthen its overall financial position.
To keep costs low, the company purchases its value and private-label frames from suppliers in China. Visionworks bought all of its frames from American manufacturers before 2004 but was unable to achieve the savings that purchasing through Chinese manufacturers provided. It hopes to continue paring down costs by consolidating its frame purchases with those of its sister companies, Davis Vision and Viva Optique. – less