M&S Opticians to roll out service to 55 stores

The optometry service, operated by Owl Optical, will be extended across its UK stores over the next 18 months

M&S Bluewater

Marks and Spencer (M&S) has announced plans to roll out its optometry service across the UK following a successful trial.

The service will launch in 55 stores over the next 18 months, with the rollout set to be complete by April 2023.

M&S Opticians services have already opened at 12 sites, including Longbridge in the West Midlands and Culverhouse Cross, Vale of Glamorgan, in October. Services are also launching in Castlepoint, Essex, and Canterbury, Kent, this November.

The branches will be operated by Owl Optical, part of the Scrivens Group.

The retailer plans to use existing space in its stores to deliver the optical services, and suggests that the rollout “comes at an important time” for the optical profession, “as more people prioritise their personal health and wellbeing following a year of missed appointments.”

M&S highlighted that while lockdowns had meant that eye health dropped down the list of priorities for many people, as of September 2021, 64% of people surveyed in its M&S Family Matters Index now say they will take their health more seriously than before the pandemic. 

Nicholas Georgevic, chairman of Owl Optical, which took on operation of the High Street retailer’s optical services in 2019, shared: “Following a very successful trial, we are extremely excited by the expansion plan for M&S Opticians over the next 18 months.”

The trial involved M&S stores in Bolton, Derby, London Colney (Hertfordshire), Manchester, and Vangarde Shopping Park, York. During the trial phase, the service received a customer satisfaction rate of 96% and customer recommendation rate of 96%.

The service will span M&S-branded and designer glasses, sunglasses, and its hearing care offering.

“We’re particularly looking forward to growing our M&S Opticians team to deliver this plan and are actively recruiting eye care and hearing care professionals as well as front of house and back-office staff,” Georgevic said.

M&S said it aims to offer an omnichannel experience to customers, offering a ‘virtual try-on’ tool and online booking system alongside the in-store experience.

The retailer hopes this omnichannel approach will help it to gain a share of the £4bn UK optical market.

Sacha Berendji, group property, store development and IT director at M&S, suggested the optical service is an extension of its specialist services: “Feedback from our trial showed that customers loved the convenience of having an opticians within our store, and we’re really excited to be introducing the service to more stores across the UK and giving customers even more reasons to shop at M&S.”

Optometrist at M&S Opticians at York Vangarde, Nick Lawrence-Downs, shared that while many people “pushed eye care to the back of their priorities” during the pandemic, “at York Vangarde, we’ve found that having an opticians service in-store puts eye care front-of-mind for everyone.”

This article has been updated to include additional information on M&S Opticians practices and rollout.