Specsavers' revenues for the fiscal year ended in February were up by 4.1 percent over the previous year to 2,270 million pounds (€2.56bn-$3.06bn), or by 6.6 percent in constant currencies. In its annual report, the international U.K.-based optical retail chain said it has embarked on a journey to transform what it does in optometry and audiology for the benefit of its customers.

The company's co-founders, Doug and Dame Mary Perkins, said the group is working to deliver more primary eye care in downtown locations, enhancing the skills of its clinical teams. The couple stated that every aspect of the company's business will be transformed in the future in terms of staff training and the interaction with customers in-store and online.

It is making big strides in the area of hearing care, using video technology to examine the health of the ear canal and drum, and to ensure that sounds have a clear pathway through to the structures of the middle and inner ears. The customer can see on a screen what the clinical team is seeing, recording the information to help keep track of any changes in the ear over time.

The U.K remained the company's biggest market last year, with revenues of £1,315 million (€1.48bn-$1.77bn), up by 6.1 percent over the previous year. Twenty-eight new optical practices were opened during the year in the U.K., taking the total to 735, and there were also eight new hearing businesses and six new domiciliary partnerships. Specsavers experienced a record year in hearing care last year in the country, with sales up by 19 percent on the previous year.

Specsavers has relocated its international glazing services to a new, purpose-built facility in Kidderminster, enabling it to produce 75,000 pairs of glasses each week and providing additional capacity to support the next 10 years of growth.

Globally, the group's partner stores and websites sold more than 20 million frames during the year, more than half a million more than last year. It also sold 425 million contact lenses and more than 338,000 hearing aids. In addition, it manufactured and supplied to its stores more than 40 million ophthalmic lenses.

A total of 36 million customers are now registered with the company. Specsavers has more than 622,000 followers on Facebook and has received more than 171,000 mentions or messages on Twitter.

Australia was the second-biggest market for the group, with revenues of £422 million (€477.5m-$570.3m), ahead of the Netherlands' £104 million (€117.7m-$140.5m) and Sweden's £98 million (€110.9m-$132.4m).

In Australia, the company has partnered with a fashion designer, Kym Ellery, for a successful line of designer frames that has been selling at an average rate of 2,740 frames a week since its launch, said Specsavers in its annual report, issued a few weeks ago.

In Northern Europe, the management said that another private designer brand, Osiris, has been “flying off the shelves,” becoming its best-selling range in that region, followed by Tiger of Sweden.

Specsavers Sales by Country & Partner Stores

(£ million, units, 2016/2017)

 

Revenues
16/17

Revenues
15/16

%
Change

Optical
Stores

Hearing
Centres*

United Kingdom

1,315.7

1,240.5

6.1%

735

162

Ireland

78.4

72.2

8.6%

50

12

Netherlands

103.6

100.4

3.2%

124

73

Sweden

98.2

92.9

5.7%

113

-

Norway

67.5

69.9

-3.4%

75

-

Denmark

96.6

90.1

7.2%

75

-

Spain

4.6

4.6

0.0%

8

-

Finland

31.6

31.1

1.6%

46

-

Autralia

421.9

420.9

0.2%

320

-

New Zealand

54.1

60.1

-10.0%

52

-

Total

2,272.2

2,182.7

4.1%

1,598

0

* Hearing care services are also available in 691 optical stores in the UK, 49 optical stores in the Republic of Ireland and 120 optical stores in the Netherlands.

It has been a strong year for Specsavers' hearing care business also in the Netherlands. The management said it has established a strong reputation for best-value audiology products and services that triggered a 10 percent increase in the number of customers in the country, despite challenging changes in the health insurance system.

The group also entered a new collaboration with Kylie Minogue this year. Kylie Minogue Eyewear, launched exclusively by Specsavers, features a number of petite frames for women who want stylish glasses for a smaller face. This global range of frames was first launched in the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland, followed by Australia and New Zealand, and will land in stores in Northern Europe over the coming months.

The company has also developed a proprietary Serima Sphere lens to improve comfort, and it has launched Easyvision Verius, a monthly silicone hydrogel contact lens. Meanwhile, following the success of UltraClear SuperClean ophthalmic lenses across Northern Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the group has introduced them also in the U.K. market. These lenses are said to provide improved anti-reflection and scratch-resistance properties, with the added benefits of being water-repellent, smudge-resistant and anti-static.

In the children's market, Disney remains the best-selling brand for the chain. New characters like Moana and Finding Dory have been introduced to the collection in line with film releases, and both have proved popular. Four glow-in-the dark frames have been added to the Specsavers kids range.

Overall, the company opened 45 locations last year and refitted or relocated a further 300. It now has 1,845 partner stores around the world. The group 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.

Specsavers is in the process of replacing its clinical and retail systems with a new cloud-hosted solution. The new system will enable it to handle greater volumes and will provide a more seamless experience for customers through new digital developments in the stores. The roll-out in New Zealand is now complete and will be followed by its introduction to the Northern Europe region in the coming year.

The group has carried out a series of improvements in Specsavers' websites, including the introduction of CGI photography and dedicated store pages with news and offers. It has optimized all its sites for mobile devices. The number of people visiting its websites grew by about 18.7 percent within two years to reach more than 28.5 million in the past year.

The company reported a successful year of fund-raising, too, with over £2.3 million (€2.6m-$3.1m) collected for charities such as Guide Dogs for the Blind, Blind Veterans UK and Vision Aid Overseas.