Leightons Opticians and Hearing Care marks 95th birthday

The family business welcomed its very first customer, Mrs Stephens, on 24 February 1928

Gold sovereign

Leightons Opticians and Hearing Care is gearing up to celebrate its 95th birthday.

The family business opened as a dispensing practice in Southampton on 20 February, 1928, and saw its first customer, recorded in the ledger as ‘Mrs Stephens,’ four days later.

Stephens visited Leightons founder, Henry Oscar Leighton, at the practice on Friday 24 February.

Nearly a century later, the 1910 gold sovereign (pictured) that she used to pay for her appointment has become a central part of the business’ 95th birthday celebrations.

Ryan Leighton, current CEO and grandson of Henry Oscar Leighton, said: “The gold sovereign is a treasured part of the family business heritage.

“My grandfather saw it as a good omen 95 years ago and decided to keep it as a memento, representing the start of our business – and it’s amazing to pick this simple gold sovereign up and take a moment to think about all that it has helped to create over the many years that we have been in business.”

After opening in Southampton, Henry Oscar Leighton opened a second practice, in Winchester, six months later.

Leightons is now in its third generation as a family business, after passing from Henry Oscar to his son, Richard, and then to his grandson, Ryan.

Richard and Ryan Leighton
Richard and Ryan Leighton

The years have seen it grow from two dispensing practices to a clinically led optometry group, serving local communities across the south of England.

From 1996 the group began franchising and establishing joint venture partnership models, bringing on board independent optometry practices that shared its core values. It now has 35 practices under the Leightons banner.

In 2006, the business added audiology to its offering, launching Leightons Hearing Care.

2017 saw the launch of The Hearing Care Partnership (THCP), which connected independent optometry practices to audiology services.

THCP now works with 250 partner practices across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to provide full audiology services.

As Leightons looks towards its centenary, in 2028, its focus will be on continued innovation, with the key purpose of helping more people “live life to the fullest,” Ryan Leighton shared.

“Our future vision is centred around providing a more holistic approach to optometry and audiology, with health and wellbeing at the core. This goes for our people and our customers,” he said. “We will continue to embrace and connect technology with our humanised, person-centred approach to deliver higher levels of clinical care.”

Ryan Leighton added that he hopes to find sustainable ways to continue to deliver services, “in order that the Leightons business can continue to thrive for generations to come.”

Rebecca Sharp, MD of Leightons and THCP, said: “Everything we do is about moving forward, innovating, evolving and constantly enhancing our service proposition to our patients.”

Leighton said: “At milestones like these, we reflect on our history and take pride in our heritage. It’s also a good opportunity to throw a line to the future and consider how we are going to create new ways to improve our patient experience and become more relevant for a changing world.”