PEL (Glasses Direct) acquires LensOn for at least $19m, sees clear potential in online contact lens sales

PEL (Glasses Direct) acquires LensOn for at least $19m, sees clear potential in online contact lens sales ...

UK-based online eyewear retailer Prescription Eyewear Ltd (PEL), the company behind Glasses Direct, has bolstered its empire with the acquisition of European contact lens site, LensOn. Wait! It’s hardly the sexiest of industries, but there’s a ton of money in it, and this actually an interesting deal.

You see, hardly anyone buys their eyewear online right now (PEL puts the figure at 3-4%) and while there are very good reasons for buying glasses in a bricks-and-mortar shop (they’re fragile and not much fun to send back if they don’t suit you), contact lenses – once you have the right prescription – should be a much easier online sell. Indeed, LensOn’s founders have identified a €3-4 billion opportunity in the European online market over the next 3-5 years.

The acquisition was financed by Prescription Eyewear’s existing investors, Acton Capital Partners, Highland Capital Partners and Index Ventures, with additional funding from GP BullHound’s Sidecar fund, Silicon Valley Bank and Kreos Capital.

While the exact value of the deal hasn’t been revealed, we’re told that the total amount of venture capital received by PEL since 2006 amounts to £32m ($51.5m) – roughly the same amount as American online eyewear retailer Warby Parker. Given that PEL has previously raised around £16m ($25.7m) in venture funding over two rounds, that would place the funding raised to pay for this deal at around the same amount again. Indeed, we’re hearing elsewhere that the LensOn acquisition was worth between $19m and $26m.

In addition to Glasses Direct, Prescription Eyewear Ltd already owns the and brands, and LensOn brings with it local language sites in Norway, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, France, the UK and its native Sweden, handling on average 2.5 orders per minute of the working day.

PEL says that the deal means that its brands will have generated almost £30m ($45m / €36m) of gross retail sales in 2012 and handled 8.2 million unique visitors across 100+ countries and local sites in 12 different languages.

Image credit: Comstock / Thinkstock

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