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Specsavers Optical Group Ltd
IndustryOphthalmic and dispensing opticians
FoundersMary Perkins
Doug Perkins
Key people
Doug Perkins (Chairman)
John Perkins (Joint MD)
Revenue10% £1.7 billion (2011/12)[1]
£1.5 billion (2010/11)[2]
OwnerThe Perkins family
Number of employees
ParentSpecsavers International Healthcare

Specsavers Optical Group Ltd is a British multinational optical retail chain, which operates mainly in the UK, Ireland, Australasia and the Nordic countries. The chain offers optician services for eyesight testing and sells glasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses. It also sells hearing aids. In the United Kingdom in 2012 it had the largest single market share of the four major opticians, with 42% of the market.[3][4]

The company had a total turnover of £2.78 billion in 2018/2019[2] with 2,111 branches in the United Kingdom, Guernsey, Jersey, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia and New Zealand.[1]

History and market position[edit]

A branch of Specsavers in the Horsefair Centre in Wetherby, West Yorkshire.

The group was launched in 1984, by husband and wife team Doug Perkins and Mary Perkins on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel.

As well as stores in the United Kingdom, they are present in Ireland, the Netherlands, the Nordic countries, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. The company ventured into hearing services in 2002. Their Hearing Centres division provides hearing tests and hearing aids within the Specsavers optical stores providing services, from more than four hundred locations.[5]

Specsavers also sell optical collections by Jeff Banks, Timberland, Hackett London and Quiksilver for men, Converse and Tommy Hilfiger for men and women, and Roxy, Love Moschino, Cath Kidston and Karen Millen for women plus a new range from Kylie Minogue launched in 2017.

The co-founder of Specsavers, Mary Perkins, was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 2007, in recognition of her services to business and the community in Guernsey.[6]

In April 2004, Specsavers acquired Swedish Blic Optik franchise from its owner Optimum Optik AB.[7][8] In 2007, finance director John Perkins became joint managing director, with his father Doug Perkins.[citation needed]

In The Sunday Times Rich List 2011, published in the United Kingdom on 8 May 2011, Douglas and Dame Mary Perkins and family were ranked 56th in the list of Britain's Wealthiest People. Their personal worth was estimated at £1.150 billion, with Dame Mary becoming Britain's first self made female billionaire.[9]

Advertising campaigns[edit]

In February 2007, Specsavers was ranked No. 46 of the United Kingdom's 100 Heaviest Spenders on TV Advertising, spending £27 million.[10] Specsavers' long running advertising campaign is based on the popular strapline "Should've gone to Specsavers".[11] A common theme of these adverts is a character making a mistake because of poor eyesight. These include a sheep farmer who shears his sheepdog and an elderly couple who mistake the seats of a rollercoaster for a park bench.

Specsavers' use of Édith Piaf in advertisements has caused some adverse comment in the press, although the estate of the performer had granted full permission.[12] Other Specsavers adverts have featured Thunderbirds,[13] Postman Pat,[14] Mr. Men[15] and John Cleese as Basil Fawlty.[16]

In 2015, Specsavers have maintained a large focus on promoting online contact lens sales. Online purchasing can be done through their website, which features many popular contact lens brands such as Johnson and Johnson brand lenses. For many of these brands, Specsavers also offers their own-brand equivalent Easyvision.

In 2017, Specsavers officially launched a range of eyewear designed by the popstar, singer and actress Kylie Minogue.[17]

Criticism of internet retailers[edit]

In March 2005, Specsavers publicly criticised Glasses Direct, an internet retailer, claiming that an internet service "did not meet required standards" and "could not offer advice from dispensing opticians".[18] In 2006, James Murray Wells, the managing director of Glasses Direct, claimed that four major high street retailers including Specsavers were "leading a campaign to stop prescription glasses being sold over the internet".[19]


The firm operates most of their stores under a 'Joint or Shared Venture Partnership', consisting of a partnership between an Optometry Director and a Retail Director.[20]

This is similar to a franchise agreement; however, unlike many franchises, a customer from one branch of the company should expect to get equal service from another branch. It also differs in that Specsavers own shares in the franchisee business rather than just providing goods and services under a franchise agreement. In other territories such as Sweden, Norway and Spain, they operate a normal franchise agreement.

The company took advantage of the development of the Any Qualified Provider initiative in the English National Health Service from 2009 to expand into the hearing aid business.[21][22]

In May 2020, Specsavers set up a video consultation service for the first time, to check people's eyes and hearing aids during the COVID-19 outbreak.[23]

Business strategy and future[edit]

The Perkins have stated that they intend to maintain family control of the firm, which currently employs all three of their children in senior roles. Continued expansion into Europe is planned. It is also intended that the company will continue to supply hearing aids.

The Perkins attribute their success to their franchise model, and to the deregulation of the UK Opticians market by the Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, allowing opticians to use previously forbidden advertising and marketing techniques to rapidly take over a market that had belonged to independent local opticians.[24]

The Perkins have said of the remaining local opticians that "their days are numbered", and in fact their major competition now comes from large chains such as Boots The Chemist and Vision Express.[25]

In February 2016, it was announced that Specsavers would be the sponsors of the County Championship cricket competition in England and Wales, for the next four years;[26] a deal which was extended in 2018 to include Test series held in England including the 2019 Ashes series. In January 2017, Specsavers were in negotiation to have shops undertake certain front line medical care linked to sight and hearing, in both the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.[27]

In May 2020, Specsavers announced a plan to cut 450 jobs amid a "dramatic downturn" caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The company had previously tried to avoid making redundancies by implementing pay cuts and reducing working hours.[28]


  1. ^ a b "Specsavers Annual Report 2019". Specsavers. 27 June 2019. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Specsavers annual review 2018/19". https://www.specsavers-spectrum.com. 27 June 2019. Retrieved 27 June 2019. External link in |work= (help)
  3. ^ "Real Business - Dame Mary Perkins on building a £1bn empire". realbusiness.co.uk. 2012. Archived from the original on 28 November 2012. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
  4. ^ "Specsavers founder sees plenty of challenges ahead". The Guardian. 27 October 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  5. ^ "SpecSavers Annual Report 2005/06" (PDF). specsavers.co.uk. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 October 2007.
  6. ^ "Dames Commander of the Order of the British Empire". HM The Queens [sic] 2007 birthday honours list (PDF). direct.gov.uk. 25 January 2013. p. 9. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  7. ^ "Optimum Optik AB completes sale of Blic Franchise AB to UK group Specsavers Optical Group Ltd". highbeam.com. Nordic Business Report. 19 April 2004. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  8. ^ "Vår historia och mer information om vår optikkedja". specsavers.se (in Swedish). Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  9. ^ Beresford, Philip (8 May 2011). "The Sunday Times Rich List 2011". The Sunday Times.
  10. ^ Simms, Jane (9 February 2007). "Top 100 Advertisers spend less on TV". brandrepublic.com. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  11. ^ Hastings, Rob (9 May 2011). "Want to be a billionaire? You should have founded Specsavers". The Independent. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  12. ^ Moore, John (27 March 2008). "Moore confessions: Je regrette Specsavers". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  13. ^ "Water on the brains". BBC. 28 May 2008.
  14. ^ "Postman Pat to front Specsavers ad campaign". campaign live. 27 August 2009.
  15. ^ Specsavers enlists the Mr Men for 'should've gone' drive
  16. ^ "Basil should have gone to Specsavers as John Cleese thrashes the wrong car". Belfast Telegraph. 24 December 2015. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  17. ^ McCormick, Emily (21 December 2016). "Kylie Minogue designs for Specsavers". Optometry Today. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  18. ^ Ryle, Sarah (27 March 2005). "The man who found specs appeal on the web". The Observer. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  19. ^ Murray-Watson, Andrew (19 November 2006). "Glasses Direct chief touches optical nerve as high street closes ranks". The Independent. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  20. ^ "Seven day services: Setting up shop on the high street". Health Service Journal. 1 September 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  21. ^ "Specsavers creating major new shop in Scunthorpe town centre". Scunthorpe Telegraph. 19 September 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  22. ^ "Targeting the grey pound". Talk Business. 6 October 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  23. ^ "Specsavers eye tests and hearing aid checks go online". ITV News. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  24. ^ Hanson, Sarah (March 2009). "Clear vision". Director magazine. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  25. ^ "542186.ece". The Times.(subscription required)
  26. ^ "Specsavers new County Championship sponsor". ESPN Cricinfo. 29 February 2016. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  27. ^ "Specsavers claims it can handle many tasks now carried out by GPs". Dutch News nl. 17 January 2017.
  28. ^ "Specsavers says 450 jobs 'at risk' due to lockdown". BBC News. 20 May 2020. Retrieved 23 May 2020.

External links[edit]