The Specsavers story so far

Posted on August 22, 2017
Author: Sam Reed

SPECSAVERS is a great British success story – a family-run retailer that is a familiar name on almost every high street in the UK and Ireland. Its legendary catchphrase – ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’ – has become part of our vernacular and its warm and witty marketing has won a place in people’s hearts.

The group was founded in 1984 by Doug and Dame Mary Perkins; from a table tennis table in their spare room they pioneered a joint venture partnership model, which has become the cornerstone of their business success. It enables optometrists and audiologists to own their own practices and play to their strengths in testing eyes and ears while being provided with a range of additional business services, including payroll, marketing and legal advice, from a support office.

Their innovative concept of offering affordable, fashionable eyecare for everyone, with complete price glasses and two for one offers, at a time when high prices for optical care and limited choice were the norm, revolutionised the industry.

‘We never anticipated that, from those humble beginnings on our now legendary table tennis table in our spare room, we would have realised a dream in 10 countries around the world or that we would be market leader in most of them. Nor that we would have such thriving audiology and domiciliary businesses – that wasn’t even on our agenda back then,’ says Dame Mary Perkins.

The couple, along with their three grown-up children, still help run the business today, which is now a partnership of nearly 2,000 locally run businesses, committed to delivering high quality, affordable optical and audiology care in the communities they serve.

One of the very first stores to open was at Trinity Square in St Peter Port in 1984. The store had only four staff, including an optometrist, a lab technician and a frame stylist. After many successful years at Trinity Square, Specsavers moved to its current premises at Market Street in 1998, where it currently employs 26 people. Its range of services has expanded to include audiology.

There are nearly 500 staff employed at Specsavers support office in Guernsey - one of several support offices around the world - which house’s the group’s award-winning creative team, as well as marketing, IT, finance, legal, retail and professional services, among others.

Specsavers is committed to improving eye and audiology health services in the community. As well as being a champion of the National Health Service, Specsavers is also the largest employer of registered optometrists and dispensing opticians in the UK. All Specsavers’ opticians are registered with the General Optical Council so customers can be assured that their eyes are examined and their glasses prescribed by fully qualified and registered practitioners.

Specsavers is also partnered with Newmedica, providing NHS ophthalmology services in the community, led by ophthalmologists, and supported by optometrists and clinical assistants in Specsavers’ stores. Doug Perkins says: ‘Today, we serve more than 32 million customers worldwide and employ 30,000 people internationally in our stores, support offices and supply chain. Together with our partners, we will continue to set ambitious targets, constantly improving what we do in pursuit of our vision - to passionately provide best value eyecare and hearing care to everyone.’

In 2016, Doug and Dame Mary celebrated 50 years since first qualifying as ophthalmic opticians. They have seen a huge amount of change along the way. Says Doug: ‘Emergent technology and the increasing demands for expert customer care means our business needs to constantly evolve to remain successful. Our partners are in a prime position to lead such change and define the optical and audiology professions of the future.’

See what else Doug has to say here about his ‘dream partnership’ of ophthalmology and optometry working together