Thanks to an expanding designer range of glasses, hearing aids and other healthcare services, Specsavers saw its revenues improve by 6 percent to 2,780 million pounds (€3,073.8m-$3,447.4m) for its financial year ended on Feb. 28.

Although the international British-based optical retail chain does not disclose profitability figures, it indicated in its annual report that it paid more than £94 million (€103.9m-$116.6m) in income taxes in the different countries where it operates. Considering an average income tax rate of 25 percent in the OECD, to which all these countries belong, we can estimate a pre-tax result of about £376 million (€415.9m-$466.3m) for the whole group, or about 13.5 percent of revenues.

In the last year, the group's stores sold more than 21.6 million frames globally, up from 20.5 million units in the previous year. In addition, sales of hearing aids soared by 18 percent to 400,000 pairs. Specsavers also achieved strong growth in the number of contact lenses sold, which jumped by 6 percent to 530 million.

Operating through its retail joint venture partners, the group opened a total of 174 new optical stores and hearing aid centers last year, bringing the total up to 2,111. In the U.K., it reached customers through 49 domiciliary partners last year, giving eye tests and delivering glasses to more than 120,000 people in their own homes or in health care centers.

The domestic market remained by far the biggest source of revenues for the British retailer, with annual sales up by 5.8 percent to £1,474.2 million (€1,630.5m-$1,829.1m) and an increase of 5.5 percent in the number of doors in the country to a total of 1,007 optical stores and audiology centers.

In the U.K., Specsavers developed an innovative technology to increase efficiency and make audiology more widely available. It is now able to offer hearing tests in all U.K. stores with AudioPad, a time-saving hearing test system that complies with the guidelines of the British Society of Audiology. It checks out four pure tone hearing frequencies with triage questions on a compatible iPad with a set of calibrated headphones. The check takes around 10 minutes and the results can be reviewed immediately by an in-store clinician and then emailed directly to the customer.

After introducing audiology in Australia, Specsavers is now expanding it into New Zealand (see the related news brief in this issue).

Specsavers' app for the choice of the most suitable frame, Frame Styler, enjoyed continued success in the U.K., reaching its one millionth customer. The virtual try-on technology analyzes face shape, examines purchase history and marries the results with the latest trends.

In Ireland, the group saw revenues increase by 15.5 percent to £113.2 million (€125.2m-$140.4m), while in Australia and New Zealand, sales gained 3.5 percent to £665.3 million (€735.8m-$825.4m).

Following its popularity in the U.K. and Republic of Ireland last year, its collaboration with the international artist is now offered as part of its global frame portfolio. Specsavers saw an average of 43 percent new customers under the age of 35 coming into its stores to review the range in Australia and New Zealand alone.

Specsavers celebrated the first anniversary of its audiology partnership model in Australia, with 51 audiology partners now providing services in 86 stores across the country. In 2019, the group also became the first audiology provider in Australia to offer instant health fund claiming for customers.

In the rest of Europe outside the U.K. and Ireland where Specsavers operates, sales grew at a fast pace. In Norway, revenues were up by 9.7 percent to £96.3 million (€106.5m-$119.4m), while in Sweden, they gained 12.4 percent to £127.8 million (€141.3m-$158.5m), and in Denmark, they advanced by 4.9 percent to £120.2 million (€132.9m-$149.1m).

The group launched a specialist eye-health tool in Denmark that gives in-store optometrists direct access to a secure, online hub of trusted ophthalmologists, who they can ask to review cases before formally referring them for ophthalmic-level care. This service, which is the first of its kind in the market and offered at no extra cost to customers, now sees almost 1,000 cases reviewed every month.

In Finland, revenues went up by 3.4 percent to £39.3 million (€43.4m-$48.8m), with customers now able to buy their contact lenses through the company's website. Around 50 percent of all contact lenses sold in the Finnish market are now bought online. Specsavers said it launched market-specific functionalities including online bank transfers and an auto-refill system for recurring orders.

In the Netherlands, sales jumped by 11.2 percent to £134.7 million (€148.9m-$167.1m). For the second consecutive year, the Dutch hearing aid business of the group showed volume growth of more than 20 percent. Specsavers introduced a new service to insure customers against the loss, irreparable damage and theft of their hearing aids.

Finally, revenues in Spain advanced by 3.7 percent to £5.6 million (€6.2m-$7.0m).

Globally, on the product front, the group's ophthalmic lens portfolio saw the sales volume increase by 2.3 percent as almost 45 million lenses were manufactured or supplied to its stores last year. Specsavers introduced polarization for 1.6 single-vision lenses. It also extended its varifocal offering to the Ultimate Thin + Light range, using a special high-index material.

In the children's market, Specsavers worked with its best-selling brand, Disney, to launch Disney Vintage frames in celebration of Mickey's 90th anniversary. Superheroes Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America have been introduced to the Marvel collection in line with the Avengers: Infinity War film release, making it one of the most successful branded ranges in the children's category last year.

The past year also saw the group's biggest launch in Northern Europe. Its Day range quickly became its fastest-selling one in the region to date, achieving record sales within its first six weeks. The collection was implemented to add an injection of color into the existing portfolio, and the management said it proved so popular that it will go on to help shape future designs.

The British group, which boasts more than 37,000 employees worldwide, has an important CSR program. Through its many initiatives in this area, it raised more than £2.5 million (€2.8m-$3.1m) last year for donations to various charity programs, mostly but not exclusively related to eye health issues.