Specsavers has acquired a Finnish optical retail chain, Tähti Optikko, for €15 million from Kesko Corporation, a large Finnish retail conglomerate involved in other activities. With 31 company-owned stores and 98 franchises, the chain had net sales of €20.8 million in 2007, up by 7.3 percent from the previous year. Including the franchisees' sales, the total turnover after VAT was flat at €48.2 million, giving the company an estimated market share of 16 percent.

The takeover will help Specsavers consolidate its position in the Finnish market against two major competitors: Silmäasema and the Instrumentarium chain previously bought by HAL Trust. Before this deal, the British group claimed a market share of 10 percent in volume in Finland through a network of 19 stores, mostly franchised.

Specsavers entered the market in June 2007 with the takeover of 16 Optigo stores owned by Coronaria. At the time of that acquisition, it was aiming to have 40 stores in place by March 2008, but the negotiations for Tähti's takeover led it to put some projects on hold. The original goal was to double the amount of stores within the next three years, but the new deal has changed its prospects.

Upon acquiring Optigo last year, the British group said it wanted to lower sales prices by 25 percent across the board in Finland. According to research commissioned by Specsavers, the average Finnish spectacle wearer pays €410 for a new pair of glasses and changes it only once every four years. The research also shows that 80 percent of the Finnish people use only one par of glasses, although 70 percent of them consider eyewear to have become more of a fashion accessory.

No decision has yet been made whether the Tähti stores will change their names to Specsavers or the extent to which they will sell products sourced through its huge international apparatus. For the moment, Rainer Nyman will continue to run Tähti Opitkko while Juha Nuutila will continue as Specsavers' country manager in Finland.

The development in Finland will continue based on the same franchising model adopted in Australia, where 47 stores have already adopted Specsavers' banner and its full range of products and fixtures. The company entered the Australian market in January 2007 as a wholesaler, supplying products to independent opticians affiliated with the Optovision group. The first Specsavers franchises were opened in mid-February 2008. They are expected to grow to a total of 150 by the end of this year and to 200-250 within three years. Specsavers is reporterdly charging total fees of 18.5 percent of sales for its multiple services in Australia.