June 4, 2012, 10:37 AM

A health insurer plans to buy web retailer 1-800 Contacts

WellPoint will buy the retailer, which last year posted a sales gain of nearly 19%.

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Health insurer WellPoint Inc. today announced its plans to acquire online-only eyewear retailer 1-800 Contacts Inc., which also operates Glasses.com.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. WellPoint said it will finance the acquisition with cash on hand.

Despite having an Internet Retailer-estimated $332 million in sales last year, an 18.6% jump from an estimated $280 million a year earlier, the online retailer has ample room to grow, says  Angela Braly, WellPoint president and CEO. That’s because 1-800 Contacts has 3.3 million customers, yet more than 38 million Americans wear contacts and more than 140 million wear glasses, she says. “There is a significant opportunity to attract new customers as we strive to deliver the best health care value both in the eyewear industry and other health care products,” she says.

The move is aimed at using e-commerce to help diversify WellPoint’s portfolio.

“This acquisition strategically aligns with our efforts to capitalize on new opportunities for growth, and further diversifies the company’s revenue stream into the complementary and higher-margin eyewear business,” says Braly.

WellPoint’s customer-focused approach to health care fits with 1-800 Contacts’ approach to customer service, says Jonathan Coon, CEO and co-founder of 1-800 Contacts, No. 75 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. “Our companies share common goals of providing consumers with the highest level of service and making the experience as simple as possible,” he says. 

WellPoint says it expects to close the deal in the third quarter.

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