Specsavers achieved a new milestone in the past financial year through February, breaking the threshold of £2 billion (€2.9bn-$3.1bn) in annual sales. Working through its 1,767 partner stores and hearing centers around the world at the end of the year, it increased group turnover by 9.1 percent to a new record of £2.06 billion (€3.0bn-$3.2bn), according to the company's recently released annual report.
The 9.1 percent increase represents an acceleration in Specsavers' growth from the rate of 6.9 percent reported for 2012/13 and the 7.8 percent growth rate recorded in 2013/14.
Globally, its partner stores and its websites last year sold more than 17 million frames, 374 million contact lenses and more than 221,000 hearing aids, as the number of its registered customers went up by about 7 percent to 31 million. Specsavers reached new high levels of production, supplying 37 million lenses, coating 15.4 million of them, and glazing 6.2 million of them.
One major factor in the process was a series of improvements in Specsavers' websites, including the introduction of CGI photography and dedicated store pages with news and offers. The number of people visiting its websites grew by about 29 percent to more than 24 million.
The U.K. remained the biggest market for Specsavers with sales of £1.16 billion (€1.7bn-$1.8bn), up from £981.3 million reported for 2012/13. Its sales in the country went up by 6 percent for prescription frames and sunglasses, and by 8.5 percent for contact lenses. Its partners performed more than 9 million sight tests and raised the customer base by 7.5 percent.
Last year, Specsavers introduced its joint venture partnership model to Healthcall, a British domiciliary eyecare business that it had acquired in the previous year, servicing many of the estimated 1.2 million people who are unable to go to a store across the country. It ended the year with 35 domiciliary eyecare partnerships in England and Wales.
In the Netherlands, Specsavers became the second-largest optical retailer last year with sales of £96.0 million (€137.8m-$149.7m). Customer volumes had already increased by 20 percent in the previous year. All the Specsavers stores in the Netherlands are now getting their lenses glazed by Szatmar in Hungary.
Specsavers Sales by Country & Partner Stores
(£ million, Number of Stores in 2014/2015)
* Hearing care services are also available in 601 optical stores in the UK, 40 in Ireland and 111 in the Netherlands.
Australia, where the banner is already the leader, remained the second-largest market for Specsavers after seven years of operation in the country, with sales of £374.9 million (€538.0m-$584.4m) and an 11 percent increase in customer numbers. Specsavers, which opened its 300th store in the region last year, has developed a successful “pop-up store” concept in the region that allows partners to continue to operate, minimizing disruption for customers while their stores are closed for refurbishment.
Specsavers is investing in a new global retail system that will allow its store teams to serve customers anywhere in the store, seamlessly passing information from the pre-test stage all the way to the sale. It should go well with the sleeker store concept that the banner has developed recently.
The company and its partner opticians have already invested heavily in the layout of the stores, making them less cluttered and widening the use of tablets. Reception desks have been replaced by mobile service terminals. A new Virtual Dispensing Toolbox Measuring (VDTM) technology that has already been introduced in the U.K. and Ireland will be generalized worldwide in 2015. The store personnel can easily switch from the VDTM to the Magic Mirror for virtual try-ons of new glasses.
The refitting process has affected more than 230 stores in the Nordic countries, producing average sales gains of 10 percent and helping to raise the number of customers by 12.5 percent. The relocation of a store in Oslo's city center has created the biggest optical store in Norway and raised by 40 percent the number of frames sold. Fundus cameras have been installed in all the stores in the Nordic countries to provide free digital retinal photography to customers.
Meanwhile, Specsavers has rolled out globally a new, centralized product data system that allows products to go to market much faster.
Children's eyewear and prescription sunglasses were major areas of growth for Specsavers last year. Starting with Australia and New Zealand, sales volumes went up by 36 percent last year after a 25 percent expansion in the number of RXable styles of sunglasses.
Specsavers launched a total of 800 new styles across all categories last year. Many were launched in partnership with well-known brands for specific territories. The Boss Orange brand was generalized worldwide. The Karl Lagerfeld brand was brought to the U.K. and Ireland after its success in the Netherlands and the Nordics. Max&Co. was introduced as a luxury women's brand in the U.K. and Ireland. A sports brand, Puma, was brought into the U.K., Ireland and the Nordics. Roxy, a young women's brand that has been very successful elsewhere, hit Specsavers' Dutch stores, becoming the best-selling single-gender brand in the country.
Many new contact lenses were introduced by Specsavers last year, including new daily disposables and colored lenses. More than one million customers are now on its contact lens direct debit scheme in the U.K. In Sweden, Specsavers' market share in contact lenses expanded last year by 5 percentage points with 55,000 people registered with its online ordering system.
Last but not least, Specsavers and its partners around the world raised more than £2.2 million (€3.2m-$3.4m) for a variety of charities. The Norwegian partners gave free eye tests and glasses to homeless people and the Spanish stores donated almost 4,500 glasses to the Lions Club.