"We have lofty ambitions”

Ahmed Ejaz, CEO and chief optometrist of Cambridge Spectacle Co., on the opening of the brand’s first High Street practice

Johnny Leavesley, chairman of the eyewear company, holds his thumbs up, having just cut a red ribbon tied between the doors of Cambridge Spectacle Co.
When Ahmed Ejaz joins the video call, a gleaming new badge is clipped to his jumper, and he has just completed a sight test in his new practice.

Cambridge Spectacle Co. opened the doors of its first practice on 26 August at the Regent Arcade Shopping Centre in Cheltenham, and already the practice has been busy.

“The launch was packed. We had a line of people outside filming as the ribbon was cut,” Ejaz, the CEO and chief optometrist at Cambridge Spectacle Co., said.

The eyewear brand entered the scene in January 2021, and in the time since, has formed a national deal with Asda Opticians and launched its own TV adverts.

“We were getting calls asking if we were on the High Street,” he said. “The more we spoke with the public, the more we felt that we could also offer our own unique experience.”

The company has looked to examples such as Warby Parker in the US, and has begun its own journey of opening physical locations.

“We’re really grateful that Asda understood and thought it would be good for everyone,” Ejaz shared. “As we push out more marketing, and more people know who we are, they’ll recognise us in Asda.”

Already, a customer has mentioned seeing the brand advertised in Asda Gloucester Supercentre.

“They came in here and brought two pairs,” he said.

A group of people walk through the doors of the officially-opened Cambridge Spectacle Co., looking around at the frames on display
The new practice has already been busy

Finding the location

The team used data insights and a great deal of research to select Cheltenham as its first site.

“We felt that the demographic was right for us,” Ejaz said.

Based in a shopping centre in a unit that was previously a Decathlon, Cambridge Spectacle Co. has installed a testing room, walled with panes of part-frosted glass.

“We’re in a great place. We're opposite The Body Shop, next to Holland & Barrett, and in the same shopping centre as Pandora. We think that anywhere there is a Pandora, Cambridge Spectacle Co. should be too,” he explained. “They appeal to a broad audience, their pricing is transparent and fair, and they’re a cool brand. I think that’s how we see ourselves.”

A tech-first experience

Technology is the starting point for visiting patients and customers.

“We felt it was important to start with a tech experience,” Ejaz shared.

In the centre of the room, a long table is fitted with tablets on stands, displaying frame options and prices.

“The technology can perform some level of measurements, like pupillary distance measurements and heights,” the CEO explained. Staff are being trained to carry out measurements themselves, and to use the technology.

A wooden table in the centre of the practice has four tablets set up on stands, displaying a page of frame information.
The tech experience is central to the new practice
A key purpose of the technology is to provide a level of transparency from the start of the journey, Ejaz shared, noting that the prices of frames and lenses can be a shock to patients if not communicated early.

“The iPads are there to help staff build the price in front of the customer before we sit them down,” he explained.

The testing room has been established with the necessary tools and tech, with the team already discussing potential upgrades.

“It will start with standard equipment, but I think the testing room will keep evolving,” Ejaz said.

The practice is decorated in white, with large spacious shelves lining two walls, the central console with tablets, and the testing room.

Just that morning, before the call with OT, passers-by had remarked on how “sleek” and “smart” the site looked.

Ejaz said: “We’re doing things differently, and the design is catching people’s attention.”

Lofty ambitions

The next step is to grow the practice team, with a recruiting process in place at the time of the interview to find an optometrist – a decision that the wider team will get to have a say in.

“We want to be a really friendly brand, and part of that is making sure the team all get on well,” Ejaz said.

The Cheltenham location might be the first, but it certainly won’t be the last.

“We have lofty ambitions. Ideally, we want to get to that same level as Warby Parker in the US, so dozens of stores, maybe more,” he said.

The question of which locations the brand should expand to is the biggest source of debate in HQ currently, Ejaz shared, but a motivating discussion.

“We’re excited about finding the next location. We think there will be a few openings at once,” he adds.

Ejaz relayed the story: “I told my chairman: ‘Johnny, I know I said if we opened the store by summer, I would be happy. But I think we need another 10, then I’ll be happy.’

He said: ‘I know you’ll never be happy.’ I just want to bring the brand to more people.”

Following the launch of the practice, and with the ambition for more ahead, how does Ejaz feel about Cambridge Spectacle Co.? “Super optimistic.”

Pictured: Johnny Leavesley, chairman of Cambridge Spectacle Co. cutting the ribbon of the new practice.