News flash: The optical industry has become polarized.

No, I’m not referring to the kind of polarization that reduces glare. I’m talking about the political kind. This type of polarization is most apparent when an optical retailer or supplier, particularly one with a dominant market share, announces a major acquisition or merger. As if on cue, optical blogs and chat rooms begin buzzing with discontented cries of outraged independent practitioners or lab owners who denounce the deal and declare they will no longer buy products from the newly acquired company.

Yet in their rush to demonize the corporate consolidators, independents often lose sight of an essential consideration: What’s good for the patient? Does it make sense to stop doing business with a trusted supplier that makes products that benefit your patients and helps you grow your practice or business, simply because that supplier has been acquired by a corporation?

It’s understandable that independents react negatively when they feel their choices are limited as a result of consolidation. Although the changes brought by consolidation pose challenges for independents, it’s time for independents to move beyond their fixed, polarized attitudes and assess each new merger and acquisition on its own merits. It would also be constructive for those companies that are driving the consolidation trend to emphasize their support of independent eyecare, perhaps by stepping up their support for national and state professional associations, and investing more in continuing education for eyecare professionals.

While there’s little hope that the political climate will become less polarized anytime soon, it would be refreshing to see less polarization and more “bipartisanship” in our industry.

—Andrew Karp