100% Optical

Specsavers at 40: “2024 is a really important year for us”

At 100% Optical 2024, OT  heard from Dame Mary Perkins and Doug Perkins, co-founders of Specsavers, on 40 years of the optical group

This year has seen a double celebration for Specsavers as it celebrates 40 years since its first practice opened, while also establishing its 1000th site in the UK.

At 100% Optical 2024, OT met with Dame Mary Perkins and Doug Perkins, co-founders of Specsavers, to hear their reflections on 40 years of the business.

The Specsavers story first started at Cardiff University, where Doug and Mary met whilst both studying ophthalmic optics. Doug quipped: “I feel I’ve been in optics forever.”

The journey has been one of a “continuous process of improvement,” he added, with the Specsavers’ vision of changing lives and improving the industry of optometry.

Mary shared: “2024 is a really important year for us, because it was 40 years ago that the very first Specsavers practice opened.”

Mary admitted that she alters her story depending on whether she is talking about the UK, as the first practice was officially in Guernsey, but two weeks later Specsavers opened in Bristol.

As well as being the town where she was born, Mary said: “I practised as an optometrist there for many years, so Bristol was a natural place to have the first store in the UK.”

Considering how the business has evolved and grown since then, she told OT that originally, they thought it “would be rather nice to have 100 practices around the UK.”

“It soon became apparent that optometric partners wanted to join us, but also the patients needed convenience,” Mary shared, explaining that Specsavers opened practices in locations “where it was useful for people to come and see us to seek their eye care advice, and of course in later years, their hearing as well.”

Doug commented: “The passion grows as the years have gone by,” adding that the force driving him forward has been to: “keep making a difference to everyday people and their quality of eyesight and hearing.”

The 1000th Specsavers practice in the UK and Ireland opened in Harpenden in April.

The new practice marks a milestone for Specsavers, but Mary emphasised: “It’s not a numbers game. It is a matter of whether we have the right optometric partners, dispensing partners, and retail partners – it is their business, and they’re at the sharp end and know how to look after their patients and customers.”

Asked what he has been proudest of through the Specsavers journey, Doug pointed to work carried out over the last 10 years in particular, commenting: “We have devoted so much as a company to looking at access to optometrists, providing a better service.”

What is the vision for Specsavers? “It’s quite simple,” Mary said, “to see everyone. It doesn’t matter – rich or poor, young or old – we are there for everyone.”