January 23, 2008, 12:00 AM

Wal-Mart and 1-800 Contacts eye greater lens access online and in stores

Wal-Mart Stores and 1-800 Contacts have announced an alliance to make contact lenses easier to get through Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores and Walmart.com and 1800Contacts.com.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and 1-800 Contacts Inc. have announced an alliance to make contact lenses easier to get through Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores and Walmart.com and 1800Contacts.com. The three-year agreement could save consumers about $400 million, the companies say.

The joint efforts of Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and 1-800 Contacts are designed to create efficiencies across their call centers, web sites, purchasing and distribution efforts. By offering greater accessibility and savings on contact lenses, the alliance also aims to make it easier to replace lenses according to a schedule doctors recommend, a practice that may result in better eye health, the companies say.

“Lowering costs and increasing convenience will make it easier for patients to follow their doctors’ advice and replace their lenses as recommended,” says John Agwunobi, M.D., president of Wal-Mart’s professional services division.

The companies expect to integrate store, web and phone service this fall so customers can order when and how they want, and have their lenses delivered quickly.

“The majority of contact lens wearers experience high prices and limited service,” says Jonathan C. Coon, CEO of 1-800 Contacts. “This alliance can save these customers nearly 20% on their contact lenses while also offering the convenience of 24/7 live service.” Agents can be reached via the web site and the toll-free number.

Walmart.com is No. 13 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide and 1800Contacts.com is No. 91.

Debbie Kristofferson, vice president of creative and user experience at Walmart.com, is the keynote speaker at Internet Retailer Web Design ’08 Conference, Jan. 30-Feb. 1 in Miami, in a session titled Wal-Mart: Setting the pace on site design.

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