Capitalizing on the publicity generated by its ?battle of Enschede? against Fielmann (see previous story and previous issue), Specsavers is expanding rapidly in the Netherlands where it is already the 3rd largest retailer after Hans Anders and Pearle Opticiens. The number of its Dutch stores, all held in partnership with local opticians, has grown from 29 to 33 so far this year and it's set to rise to about 60 by the end of 2003. Six new openings are already confirmed for the period up to next Christmas and others are under discussion.

Specsavers' small shop in Enschede is still selling 60-70 sets a day, or more than 4 times the volume it was generally before the war broke out, but its brand recognition has spread all over the country, resulting in a 47 percent sales increase in the last two months as compared to the previous two. The Enschede store began last June 20 to offer a pair of frames from a small basic range for only one euro to the first 50 customers visiting its store each day, but many customers have ended up buying other more expensive and fashionable sets. Specsavers decided to start the same promotion at a store in Nijemegen last week and extended it to two other Dutch locations this year.

Hans Anders, Pearle and other competitors in Holland have begun to respond with some promotions of their own. Anyhow, the rivalry between Specsavers and Fielmann has lowered the average price of glasses sold all over the country. Based on an annual consumer survey conducted in behalf of Specsavers, it has gone down by 7 percent from one year ago, the first annual decline in at least 3 years.

Meanwhile, Specsavers says its sales in the UK and Ireland grew by more than 7 percent in the first 6 months of 2002, beating expectations. The group and its joint venture partners opened 16 new stores in its core market in the period. In addition, 32 Specsavers stores were enlarged or rebranded and the group acquired 5 British optical practices in June from Punch Opticians. Discussions are underway over other similar takeovers.

Scotland is another major focus of expansion for Specsavers now. Up to 10 new optical store should be opened in Scotland over the next 12 months. To accompany this program, which should raise to 37 the number of Specsavers practices in the region, a new £50,000 (e80,000) training facility will open in Glasgow toward the end of this year, complementing a similar facility that opened in England last year.