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Specsavers Optical Group Ltd
Industry Dispensing Opticians
Founded 1984
Key people
Doug Perkins (Chairman & Joint MD)
John Perkins (Joint MD)
Dame Mary Perkins
Products Spectacles, contact lenses; hearing aids
Revenue 10% £1.7 billion (2011/12)[1]
£1.5 billion (2010/11)[2]
Owner The Perkins family
Number of employees
over 30,000[1]
Parent Specsavers International Healthcare
Website www.specsavers.co.uk

Specsavers Optical Group Ltd is a British optical retail chain, operating globally, which offers optician services, along with eyeglasses, contact lenses and hearing aids. In 2012 it had the largest single market share of the four major opticians with 42% of the UK market.[3][4] The company had a total turnover of £1.5 billion in 2010/2011[2] and £1.7 billion in 2012,[1] with 1,648 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.

Specsavers are a high street opticians, selling spectacles, contact lenses and hearing aids. 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 and at the end of 2007 the group had over 1,390 stores with 26,000 employees. As well as stores in the UK, they are present in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Spain and most recently 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 400 locations.[5]

Specsavers also sell designer optical collections by Jeff Banks, Timberland, Hackett and Quiksilver for men, Converse and Tommy Hilfiger for men and women, and Roxy, Love Moschino, Kath Kidston (Launching September 2016)Karen Millen for women.

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 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 UK 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 £1,150m with Dame Mary becoming Britain's first self-made female billionaire.[9]

Advertising campaigns[edit]

In 2005 Specsavers won the Retail Week 2005 award for Marketing Campaign of the Year.[citation needed]

In 2006 Specsavers was ranked 46 of the UK's 100 heaviest spenders on TV advertising, spending £27 million.[10] Readers Digest magazine voted Specsavers the most trusted brand of opticians for the fifth year running.[citation needed] In 2011, Specsavers was voted most trusted optician for the tenth year running by Reader's Digest.[citation needed]

Specsavers' long-running advertising campaign is based on the popular strapline "Should've gone to Specsavers".[11]

Specsavers' use of Édith Piaf in advertisements has caused some adverse comment in the press in spite of the fact that full permission had been granted by the estate of the performer.[12]

The popular follow up to the Édith Piaf adverts of Specsavers is an elderly sheep farmer shearing the sheep, while accidentally shearing the sheepdog that got mixed in the crowd.

Specsavers have also made puppet action ads featuring Thunderbirds, the Thunderbirds machines and the Thunderbirds characters and recurring landscapes to advertise.

Specsavers have also made satirical ads featuring Postman Pat and the Postman Pat characters and location to advertise.

Another popular advert coinciding with Specsavers ads featuring Thunderbirds and Postman Pat is an elderly couple riding the Infusion rollercoaster in Blackpool Pleasure Beach after accidentally thinking the ride's train was a park bench.

In 2013, an advert was broadcast in the UK with a woman teaching old people in a community centre playing bingo to exercise, with the LMFAO song Sexy And I Know It playing over the background.

Coincidently there was another advert with four astronauts in a space shuttle returning to earth in which they think they landed at Houston Space Centre when instead they landed at Luton Airport.

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.

Criticism of internet retailers[edit]

In 2005 Specsavers publicly criticised Glasses Direct, a UK Internet retailer, claiming that an internet service "did not meet required standards" and "could not offer advice from dispensing opticians".[13]

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".[citation needed]

Also in 2006 Wells sought election to the General Optical Council, arguing that internet retailers and their customers needed representation. In response the Managing Director of Specsavers, Doug Perkins, wrote to Specsavers branches asking the company's opticians to rally round one of their own candidates "..candidates with the interests of hands-on, professional practitioners at heart". The General Optical Council had previously stated that it believed internet sales of glasses could pose a risk to "public safety" and its priority was maintaining high standards of eye care for the public, and not members' commercial interests. Murray Wells withdrew from the election after it became clear he would not win a ballot.[citation needed]


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.[14] 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.[15][16]

Business strategy and future[edit]

The Perkinses 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 Perkinses attribute their success to their franchise model and to the de-regulation 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.[17] 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.[18]

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.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d "Specsavers Annual Report 2012" (PDF). Specsavers. 30 June 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Specsavers' Dame Mary Perkins". growingbusiness.co.uk. 25 May 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  3. ^ "Real Business - Dame Mary Perkins on building a £1bn empire". realbusiness.co.uk. 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. 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. ^ Ryle, Sarah (27 March 2005). "The man who found specs appeal on the web". The Observer. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  14. ^ "Seven day services: Setting up shop on the high street". Health Service Journal. 1 September 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2015. 
  15. ^ "Specsavers creating major new shop in Scunthorpe town centre". Scunthorpe Telegraph. 19 September 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2015. 
  16. ^ "Targeting the grey pound". Talk Business. 6 October 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2015. 
  17. ^ Hanson, Sarah (March 2009). "Clear vision". Director magazine. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  18. ^ "542186.ece". The Times. (subscription required)
  19. ^ "Specsavers new County Championship sponsor". ESPN Cricinfo. 29 February 2016. Retrieved 29 February 2016. 


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