Mary Perkins

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For the comic strip, see Mary Perkins, On Stage.
Dame Mary Lesley Perkins
Born (1944-02-14) 14 February 1944 (age 71)
Bristol, England, UK
Residence Guernsey
Nationality British
Occupation Businesswoman
Known for Founder of Specsavers
Net worth Increase £1.15 billion according to BBC (2011)[1]
Title Dame Mary Perkins

Dame Mary Lesley Perkins, DBE (born 14 February 1944)[2] is co-founder and a senior executive of Specsavers, a leading bricks and mortar United Kingdom eyeglass company.

The wife of Specsavers co-founder and chairman Doug Perkins, Dame Mary has three children, all of whom work for Specsavers and are eventually expected to take over the privately owned company.[3]

Early life[edit]

She attended Fairfield Grammar School in Bristol. She then went to Cardiff University to train as an optometrist. At Cardiff, she met Doug Perkins, whom she would later marry. The couple established their first business in Bristol in the 1960s. This was a chain of opticians around Bristol, which they sold for £2 million in 1980, and continue to receive income from. After the sale the couple moved to Guernsey, where Mary's father had retired.[3]


Mary and Doug Perkins established Specsavers in Guernsey in 1984. In 2007 it was the largest privately owned opticians in the world, with nearly 900 stores across the UK and Europe.[4] By 2011 the company had an annual turnover of £1.5bn and over 30,000 staff in markets in the UK, Europe and Australasia.[5]

Her current title at Specsavers is "founder". Dame Mary sits on the company board, oversees business development and has particular responsibility for running PR. She has admitted donning disguises and visiting Specsavers stores, posing as a customer.[3]

Awards and honours[edit]

Perkins was made an honorary fellow of Cardiff University in 2005. The same year she received the Rotary International Community and Vocational Service Award for her services to charity and in 2006 won the inaugural Spirit of everywoman Award. Perkins was the first female optician in the UK to receive the title of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2007.

After receiving the accolade she commented:

I am absolutely thrilled, as you can imagine. This is a huge honour, not just for me but for everyone at Specsavers, as we all work as a team to give our customers what they want – quality, value for money professional eyecare. This makes me even more determined to passionately pursue the path we set ourselves 25 years ago and to continue to serve the British public.[4]

The accolade was also in recognition of her other charitable work, including the Guernsey annual "Specsavers Liberation Tea Dance for pensioners", and her directorship of Women's Refuge and Age Concern.[6] She was awarded the Spirit of Everywoman Award in 2006.[7] She is also a patron to leading children's charity Kidscape[8]

In 2012 Dame Mary Perkins was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Business from Plymouth University [9]

In February 2013 she was assessed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.[10]