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Opchat Magazine Industry NewsIndustry News, July to September 2019

Snowbird Finance Appoints Business Development Director
HMRC rumoured to create softer landing for MTD as many taxpayers miss first MTD Return
ESSILOR invests in their environmental footprint
New MD, Tim Precious at Essilor demonstrates how his team is committed to UK Independent Optics
Turning your website into your patient's very own mirror.
FILIPPO PUSTETTO Named as Blackfin Global Sales Director
NEG celebrates 40th anniversary with members
Read Industry News published between April to June 2019

Snowbird Finance Appoints Business Development Director

September 2019

Snowbird Finance Ltd are pleased to announce the appointment of Kevin Green as Business Development Director.

Kevin brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience from the finance world and has held various senior roles within several global brands such as Dell, NetApp, Apple & Grenke Leasing. In these roles, Kevin was instrumental in developing bespoke finance schemes and sales plans as well as training sales teams to effectively offer finance solutions to their clients.

A strategic part of Kevin’s role will be to offer equipment manufacturers and dealers with structured, flexible finance solutions enabling them to meet their business goals whilst satisfying customer needs.
These solutions enable clients to acquire the latest technologies within budget, improve productivity, help future proof their investment (ROI) and minimise the risk of technology obsolescence.

Kevin commenting on the appointment, “I am delighted to have joined the team at Snowbird Finance to lead the business development programme. This is an exciting time with so many product initiatives and new technological innovations, we want to develop the way finance is delivered to suppliers, partners and customers across all vertical sectors”.

Managing Director, Simon Freeman commented, “We are extremely excited to have Kevin join the senior management team as Business Development Director. With his extensive, experience in developing finance schemes for suppliers this knowledge will enhance our overall offerings and capabilities. We are confident Kevin will embrace the strategic vision of the business and will effectively develop and deliver successful finance solutions.

HMRC rumoured to create softer landing for MTD as many taxpayers miss first MTD Return.

August 2019

A considerable number of indirect taxpayers did not return their VAT returns digitally as the first quarters deadline passed last month. According to some press reports the Government has suggested to HMRC that given the likely upheaval to be caused by Brexit that hitting the MTD deadline might be the straw that will do the camel no good!

MTD (Make Tax Digital) came in on April 1st this year and affects all registered business with sales over £85,000 per annum.

The requirements were already seen by many as a soft landing process as tax payers firstly only need sign up for MTD and then use their current system whether off the shelf, like sage or other legacy products or use provided Api-bridges to connect spreadsheets that display the 9 boxes of the return.

The second part of the exercise is provided with a further six months to ensure that any systems used including spreadsheets are secure in calculation and cannot be manually manipulated after initial input of sales and purchases.

Bob Hutchinson, Principal at Eros Business Consulting has been assisting optical taxpayers since he co-wrote the Full Cost Apportionment method with Ernst young in the late 90’s.

“Over many years we have provided partially exempt service providers with an EROS Vatcalculator, a set of spreadsheets which each quarter automatically calculate whether the de minimis value has been exceeded and calculates the tax to be paid or refunded. “

“Once the initial placement of the EROS Vatcalculator has been made, when often in the past we have agreed the full cost apportionment percentage to be used, between the taxpayer and the local officer there is no further charge to the business. “

Because the second requirement of the need for a secure system which can within it calculate de minimis EROS has found that our vatcalculator system has come to the fore as often off the shelf systems have not been designed for the complications of partial exemption in optical practices.

EROS is busy assisting businesses applying api bridges to the Vatcalculator to comply with MTD’s first stage and working on a client by client basis to provide a system that can accept all csv or other digital reports from legacy systems into their EROS Vatcalculator spreadsheets without manual manipulation to provide HMRC with their legal requirements within the 6 months period.

Whilst HMRC might be soft on the first quarter returns being made online via the old method it is doubtful this leniency will continue throughout the tax year. Taxpayers need to give some consideration to their individual calculations including understanding de minimis, its calculation and its effects on reducing reclaimable tax on purchases, especially in a profession that is purchasing very expensive exempt purchases in equipment.

This includes quizzing their auditors many of whom are not specialists in Partial Exemption.

ESSILOR invests in their environmental footprint as a by-product of improving efficiency, speed and accuracy

August 2019

Not only have Essilor invested heavily in their environmental footprint but in doing so they have made a major and lasting commitment to UK Optics and in particular to the Independents they serve. This is some feat in such difficult times aka Brexit and the difficulty of importing semi finished lenses from Ireland. Rather than be caught out they have also ramped up their investment in overstocking lenses to ensure there is no delivery gap come Halloween. They have had to live with this overstocking since March 31st!

The New ARTline production system

Essilor has a long standing history of environmental action and its recent £2.5 million ARTline investment at the Thornbury Lab demonstrates its pioneering commitment.

For more than 50 years ophthalmic prescription lenses have been produced using a technique which melts the toxic heavy metal, alloy, to assist in the blocking and surface polishing..

The new ARTLine process cuts out alloy from lens production, making it a more environmentally sustainable process.

Head of manufacturing & logistics, Andy Duddridge, explains the new process and how sustainability is very much part of the company’s DNA.

New ARTline production process

The ART Blocker

Image left is the ART Auto Blocker An Alloy Replacement Technology - which uses uses a universal, re-usable organic block-piece and a UV-curable adhesive rather than alloy and tape to fix and protect ophthalmic lenses for generating and polishing.Beyond its environmental qualities, the block-piece offers optimal stability and lens support for complex geometries during generating and polishing

To produce an ophthalmic lens, different operations are needed to transform a raw lens blank into a prescription lens and this process is typically referred to as “surfacing or grinding”.

To hold the raw lens blank inside the machine a work piece holder called a block is used. A thin protective tape is then applied to the blank and low melting metal, alloy, connects the block and the blank together.

The new ARTline process with Alloy Replacement Technology uses a universal, re-usable acrylic block-piece and an organic UV-curable adhesive, rather than alloy and tape - which has been fully removed from the process - to fix and protect ophthalmic lenses for generating and polishing.

The use of organic glue eliminates heavy metals making it safer for staff to handle and better for the environment. It also eliminates the pollution of drain water by this hazardous substances.

The Art Deblocker


ART De Blocker (right) loads generated and polished lenses and returns deblocked lenses to the job tray. The deblocking system separates block-piece, adhesive, and lens by water jet and then dries both sides of the lens, making it inspection-ready. After separation, it sorts blocks by curvature and diameter, for efficient re-use

New Lab Layout

As part of the investment, a new lab layout has been designed to optimise and reduce conveyor systems handling times.

In the imminent future we also plan further investment in our coating departments to improve technology and the quality of coatings for the needs of the marketplace while continuing our commitment to manufacturing in the UK, continuous improvement and sustainability.

Environmental footprint

We recognise that Essilor has a moral, legal and financial obligation for environmental improvement and today we continue our efforts in three priority areas which focus on reducing energy and water, reducing carbon footprint and limiting waste generation and optimising recycling.

Reducing energy and water

We’ve committed to constantly reviewing the environmental impact of the business, with the aim to reduce energy and water usage as much as we can, and invest in processes that allow us to achieve the best possible outcome.

Essilor has an active program of investment to reuse waste water in all processes where possible by filtration and reclaim systems and have started an exchanging programme of all lighting to LED efficient systems.

We also have initiatives in place to continue to reduce the water power waste and packaging produced around process improvements or equipment changes and these are linked to key performance indicators around these topics that that are followed and reported on monthly to our central team in Paris.

We send nothing to landfill from the Thornbury site. Our electrical energy is totally supplied from renewable sources and we have reduced water usage in lens manufacture by 25 per cent year on year for the last three years

Reducing carbon footprint

As part of our continuous drive to reduce our carbon footprint we have, over the last decade, cut our fleet vehicle CO2 emissions by 45 per cent. Our vehicles now emit on average 101 grams per kilometre and from 2020 that figure will be as low as 86 grams per kilometre (86 g /CO2 / km). Our fleet will soon include electric vehicles with zero emissions. We installed our first electric vehicle charging point at our Birmingham site.

We work very closely with our energy service partners, and can confirm that all electricity is procured from sustainable sources, typically 46 per cent wind generation, 31 per cent photovoltaic, 16 per cent biomass & landfill gas generation and seven per cent hydropower.

Limiting waste generation and optimising recycling

Many of our UK sites operate a zero to landfill policy. In addition we have initiated a partnership with a UK company that enables us to donate furniture, equipment and materials to charities, schools, NHS trusts and other not-for-profit organisations.

Where possible we are eliminating the use of “one shot” plastics from our packaging by the end of 2019. As we progress through 2019 most of our cardboard boxes used to send product to customers will be produced using 75% recycled material and in turn be recyclable.

It is our constant goal to be one of the most environmentally conscious organisations in the UK and we will continue to strive towards this.

Read about the history and next generation of Varilux Lenses Here

New MD, Tim Precious at Essilor demonstrates how his team is committed to UK Independent Optics

August 2019

Tim Precious Essilor
Tim Precious has, like a stick of rock, Essilor, written right through him having played many key roles both at home and abroad including some time away from the company until deciding to return to a European role.

Now after 13 years with the group, he has been given his most important role yet as Managing Director, one that he will relish as will the Essilor Group and more importantly as will Essilor’s many customers who will benefit from his drive and experience over the coming years.

PHN’s Opchat editor, Bob Hutchinson was invited for a meeting and tour of the Thornbury Division with Tim and his team recently.

Bob, a past independent group practice owner, optometrist and owner of an optical lab within a wholesale manufacturing company understands the key importance of the provision of the most up to date lab technology and knowledgeable staff in satisfying the ever-increasing needs of the modern practice.

Quality dispensings are just as important in the mind of our customers as the best appropriate clinical assessment is by our patients. Essilor have invested in a business that assist in both needs along the entire length of the patient journey.

The myriad of spectacle lens types now available requires experienced dispensing with good backup from an excellent lens supplier. One supplier capable of such a service is definitely Essilor, in one day I experienced an incredible knowledge resource from all of its section managers from R & D, production of lenses at every level, coating services, verification and checking as well as backroom personal dedicated to answer any question and to provide answers to help generate better business for Independent Practice. I wish you were there in my pocket.

Essilor Leadership TeamEssilor has in its leadership team employees that total over 150years of experience in the sector. (image rt. some of the team celebrating 60years of Varilux)

Add to this the products now being made available by their state of the art equipment department, not least in their new Vision R-800 phoropter first demoed to me at Optrafair this year with an ability to measure refraction to 1/100th of a dioptre and you will understand how Essilor has strategically placed itself along the patient journey in your practice to wow them and encourage them to return. (Image below left.)

I believe this is my third visit to Essilor over a career spanning some 40 years, with a 10+ year gap between each visit and the changes are eye poppingly visible. Fewer but more qualified technicians and engineers oversee cutting edge machinery that does more accurately and in quicker time what many more machines did previously in an exceptionally clean and quiet environment.

There is so much to inform you about the 21st Century Essilor that Opchat will publish this month separate accounts of past and future technology in progressive lenses, (its Varilux’s 60th Birthday); and in the astounding progress in providing lenses to a much improved power standard than experienced anywhere else outside Essilor.

We will also describe the new Artline factory which has totally reformed lens manufacturing in the UK in an environmentally friendly way.

Controlling this now streamlined optical engineering plant, Tim Precious, the new MD has focus and purpose and how to utilise Essilor’s unique strength within the UK market to future-proof the UK’s independent opticians. He has already partaken in a personal tour of many independent practices and his findings have energised him to invest more than ever in even more technological development, CET training and marketing with drive to practice initiatives to help the sector grow.

Vision R800 Phoropter
Tim stated, “Our structure fully supports the needs of our customers and as a group, we have invested heavily in our customer facing team, meaning we have the biggest in the business. We offer full business support, consultancy and in-practice training because feedback says that this offers huge value,” said Precious.

“It’s also about having the most comprehensive national media campaign in optics which includes unique digital drive to store solutions, SEO and geolocation marketing initiatives that help independents attract new footfall.

“We make no bones about our commitment to be #1 in everything we do. It’s about being the best business partner to independents, and making them number one, with unique ‘independent-only’ solutions for example. We know this works.

He Continued:

“Our mission is to nurture independent ECPs who offer the best expertise for enhanced care, service, vision advice and solutions and who stock the best lenses, dispensing and instrumentation products, which we make, so we can keep innovating for them, and grow with them.

“We are first and foremost, product designers, innovators and manufacturers, offering under one roof, not just lenses but testing room, workshop and diagnostic equipment of superior quality to help ECPs provide a complete in-store service.

“We are committed to keep our manufacturing in the UK. This is rare for such a large, international organisation, and it all helps with business continuity and fast service.”

Look out for Opchat’ s additional fact-finding stories on Essilor’s exciting projects which this year will make a game changing difference to the way your practice can change for the better.

Click here to read of the 60 years of the Varilux achievements as Essilor celebrate its Diamond Anniversary

Turning your website into your patient's very own mirror.

July 2019

Fitting Box
Yes, it’s really possible when Ocuco has provided the "FitMix" capability to your website.

Your customer’s can virtually try on the frames of their choice either by webcam or by uploading their image.

FitMix will do so much more to your customer's experience and consequently to the success of your business.

Here are just a few compelling advantages:


Stimulate footfall

Turn your website into a Virtual Try-On mirror to revive practice footfall. FitMix allows patients to wishlist frames, encouraging them to come into practice to purchase their favourite ones.

Stand out

Fitting Box

Differentiate your website with a frame Virtual Try-On. FitMix is live and uses precise frame fitting technology to give your patients a unique experience every time they visit your website. Reach remote patients and those on the move as FitMix is accessible from a mobile or tablet.

Retain patients

Satisfy even the most particular patients by offering a wide selection of frames to try on at their leisure. FitMix means your practice will be open online 24/7. Offer your patients convenience and an interactive experience to keep them returning.

Save time

Reduce a patient’s journey by driving them to your website prior to their appointment. The Virtual Try-On will give a patient an idea of the styles that suit their face, saving time and helping to secure the sale.

Interactive marketing

Bring your marketing to life with FitMix. Turn the tedious chore of choosing frames into an interactive experience that patients enjoy.

In fact, Retail
Perception reports 77% of shoppers want to use augmented reality to see product differences, such as a change in colour or style.

FILIPPO PUSTETTO Named as Blackfin Global Sales Director

July 2019

Filippo Pustetto
The Belluno, Italy company specialized in the manufacture of high-end titanium eyewear under the Blackfin brand, has named Filippo Pustetto global sales director, as of July 8. Reporting directly to CEO Nicola Del Din, the new manager will define and implement a sales strategy consistent with the company’s growth, sales and profit objectives, through the development and management of a sales force currently made up of 30 direct sales agents and 25 distributors in 35 countries.

“We are convinced that Filippo is the right person to work with the company on the growth plan we have developed and are implementing, based on the industry plan in effect through 2022. With in-depth experience in Italy and abroad, especially the management of brands with different distributions and positioning, Pustetto is a professional with breadth and depth of vision as well as practical knowledge of Blackfin and our brand’s potential in the international designer eyewear sector,” remarked Del Din.

“Initially, I was intrigued and then won over by Blackfin because it encompasses all of the elements in which I believe and upon which I try to base my work ethic: vision, passion and courage, on one hand; product, consistency and balance on the other. I am excited to set out on this new adventure with an enthusiastic and realistic approach to lead the company – working with the team – to the short- and medium-term goals we have set for ourselves,” commented Pustetto.

Forty-four years old, native to Treviso, Pustetto spent 17 years at Safilo in various sales positions. Initially, three years in exports, managing distributors in the East European and Turkish markets; followed by 8 years as sales director in the Spanish branch and, the last 3 years as country manager for the Italian market, after a three-year interlude in the brand arena as distribution manager for proprietary and licensed brands.

Having strengthened the production department in 2017 by bringing in Ivo Benvegnù as Chief Operations Officer, and the marketing department in 2018 with Simone Favero as Marketing Manager, the company brought Pustetto on board, with his extensive international experience in the eyewear industry, as part of a strategic development plan that calls for the expansion and strengthening of the sales division with the aim of positioning the brand in the high-end market segment.

NEG celebrates 40th anniversary with members

July 2019

Members of the National Eyecare Group (NEG) gathered in Nottingham last month to help the group celebrate its landmark 40th anniversary.

More than 100 independent practitioners and guests joined in the celebrations during NEG's annual Building for Success Conference, held at the East Midlands Conference Centre on Sunday 30 June and Monday 1 July.

Michael Daunt and Mike Wheeler

During a special anniversary dinner on the Sunday evening, NEG founders Michael Daunt and Mike Wheeler spoke of their great pride in the Group's evolution over the past 40 years – from its inception in 1979 as Percy Kirk to its present day standing as the UK's leading purchasing group for independent opticians.

The two-day conference was the Group's most comprehensive yet, offering a mixed programme of CET and business sessions as well as an adjoining exhibition of preferred suppliers to the Group. Topics covered included OCT imaging and referral refinement, glaucoma diagnosis, dry eye identification, contact lens aftercare, dispensing regulations and visual impairment.

The conference also saw the launch of the NEG Business Club, in partnership with Practice Building. The club offers NEG members a mix of business training, including live tutorials, quarterly strategic planning, a KPI toolkit, marketing packs, a social media channel and bespoke marketing through the Practice Building Studio.


Phil Mullins, NEG Operations Director, said: “We have been supporting independent practice for the past 40 years, and we were delighted that so many members, and friends and colleagues throughout the profession, could join us to celebrate this achievement.We believe that 40 years in business is a great milestone for NEG, particularly when you consider the changes the UK optical market has seen over the past few decades – and the more recent challenges presented to High Street businesses in general."

"Our Building for Success members conference received great feedback from both delegates and suppliers, including new members who have joined in the last couple of years. We look forward to working with them to build for further success long into the future."

The National Eyecare Group (NEG), previously known as Percy Kirk Ltd, was formed in 1979 by Michael Daunt and Mike Wheeler, both of whom remain owners of the business today and continue to take an active part of the Group’s ongoing success.

The original founding aim remains the key focus of the Group today, which is for an independent UK company to support independent practices, with preferred terms, simplified administration and breaking down barriers to creating successful practices. More than 1,000 independent practices in the UK are members of NEG.


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