The Sight Care Group has announced that its ophthalmic frames division, Sight Care Trading Limited, will cease business on 31 July, with an expected closure by the end of September. Four full-time employees and a part time member of staff will lose their jobs as a result.
According to the group’s chief executive, Paul Surridge, Sight Care had been seeking an outright sale of the division for the past 12 months and thought a deal was likely but it had failed to materialise.
Asked why the closure was happening, Mr Surridge explained: “The business was first established over 20 years ago. The plan was to market frame collections on an exclusive basis to our membership and for well over a decade, the business generated meaningful profits for the group, however, the policy from day one of restricting distribution to members only proved to be an Achilles Heel over time as the market became more competitive.”
Mr Surridge emphasised: “Marketing frames has never been a core activity for Sight Care, but whilst profits were being generated that could be re-invested in projects to support members, we were content.”
Regarding the potential sale, he added: “We entered into serious discussions last November with a third party to sell the trading division and our house brands, but in the final analysis, that didn’t come to pass in the way we envisaged.
“Our board, in considering our group strategy for the next five years, decided that, as an outright buyer was not forthcoming, this division of the group should cease to trade, however, discussions are ongoing about establishing a ‘collaborative arrangement’ with the third party that would enable our house brands to remain available and indeed, see the brands evolve over time. Our shareholders were informed this week of the board’s decision.”
Mr Surridge concluded: “For confidentiality reasons and until a structure is finalised, we’re unable to disclose the third party, nor the basis on which an arrangement may be agreed. Decisions to close a business are never easy, especially when it affects loyal employees that have served the company well.”
The Sight Care Group board has emphasised that the closure does not affect the parent company, Sight Care Services Limited, or its other subsidiaries, Optical California (SCG) Limited or Vision Enhancers Limited.
Sight Care chairman and shareholder practitioner, Gavin Rebello, said: “Our intention, following a strategic review of the business, is to concentrate fully on our core activities of supporting UK independent practices through an established membership package, including our meetings and networking programme, our business training and mentoring, as well as our highly successful national PR campaign.”
He concluded: “We have some exciting plans for the future that will see our role in the independent sector gain strength and added appeal.”