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
Residence Guernsey
Nationality British
Education Fairfield Grammar School
Alma mater Cardiff University
Occupation Businesswoman
Known for Founder of Specsavers
Net worth Increase £1.45 billion (STRL, April 2015)[1]
Title Dame Mary Perkins

Dame Mary Lesley Perkins, DBE (born 14 February 1944)[2] is co-founder of Specsavers, the British retail opticians chain.

Together with her husband, 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. By 2011 the company had an annual turnover of £1.5bn and over 30,000 staff in markets in the UK, Europe and Australasia.[4]

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.

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.[5] She was awarded the Spirit of Everywoman Award in 2006.[6] She is also a patron to leading children's charity Kidscape[7]

In 2012 Dame Mary Perkins was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Business from Plymouth University [8]

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.[9]


  1. ^ "Sunday Times Rich List". The Sunday Times (page 29). 26 April 2014. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "Dame Mary Perkins, DBE". Debrett's People of Today. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c "The Andrew Davidson Interview: Specsavers founder in the frame". The Times. 10 July 2005. Retrieved 18 November 2007. 
  4. ^ Growing Business Entrepreneur Profiles - Specsavers' Dame Mary Perkins 25 May 2012
  5. ^ "Specsavers tycoon becomes a Dame". BBC. 16 June 2007. Retrieved 18 November 2007. 
  6. ^ Little, Jenny (11 December 2006). "Roaring back at the dragons". This is Money. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Kidscape website
  8. ^ "Dame Mary Perkins - Doctor of Business". University of Plymouth. Archived from the original on 12 January 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2015. 
  9. ^ BBC Radio 4, Woman's Hour Power list