Q&A: Does Specsavers Franchise in the UK?

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If you'd like to get involved in the healthcare sector, you might be interested in starting an opticians business. Here, we find out whether there are Specsavers franchise opportunities in the UK.

Looking to open a Specsavers franchise in your local area? Now could be the ideal time to do so. Specsavers is the UK’s largest optical retail chain, with a 42 percent market share and more than 780 stores across the country. And since it was founded in 1984, it has expanded to countries including Australia, Sweden, The Netherlands and New Zealand (Specsavers). So, can you open a franchise with Specsavers? Let’s find out …

Does Specsavers franchise?

Specsavers does not franchise in the UK. However, it uses a unique ‘joint venture partnership’ model which is unique to the brand. Basically, a joint venture partnership (JVP) is an agreement between two or more businesses or individuals (in this case, the director of the branch and Specsavers) for the purpose of a specific project or business activity. The two parties agree to work together and share the costs, profits, associated risks and rewards from the business.

If you want to own a branch or branches of Specsavers, you’ll become the director and a shareholder in your very own business but will be able to access specialist support with everything from IT to marketing to wholesaling from Specsavers. To become a director, you’ll need to be an optometrist, dispensing optician, audiologist or retailer, as you’ll be responsible for building your own team and running your highly profitable business.

History of Specsavers

Specsavers was founded by husband and wife Doug and Mary Perkins in 1984 and has grown vastly since its humble beginnings. In 2017/2018, the optical retail giant had an annual turnover of £2.6 billion. There are 1,978 branches in the UK, Jersey, Ireland, Guernsey, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Australia, Spain and New Zealand (Specsavers). The brand offers both private and NHS services covering the broad spectrum of eye care, for customers of all ages.

Over the years, Specsavers has also diversified its services to offer audiology services, which include NHS hearing tests, ear wax removal, hearing aid fitting and help with hearing loss from a range of causes. The optical retailer even offers home visits for those who struggle with their sight or hearing but can’t get out of the house to get tested.

Specsavers has also cemented its position as one of the most recognisable brands in the UK with its distinctive ‘should’ve gone to Specsavers’ ads, which launched in 2003. It can now be found on virtually every high street in the country and continues to grow its presence up and down our shores.

Starting a Specsavers unit

If you choose to enter into a JVP with Specsavers, you’ll be able to do so as an optometrist, domiciliary (clinician that operates from home in the community) or audiologist. As part of the partnership, you’ll be the ‘A’ shareholder, meaning you’ll directly receive the profits, a market salary and the security of the partnership with a world-renowned retailer like Specsavers, who are the B shareholder. This means you’ll have to pay Specsavers a percentage of your turnover as a management fee, which entitles you to the retailer’s full support.

Specsavers asks that its partners have the following skills and qualities:

  • Leadership (of teams and change within their business) that inspires
  • Commercial awareness
  • Emotional awareness
  • The right mindset to enter into a potentially profitable partnership
  • Excellent communication skills

Price of investment

You can become an audiology or domiciliary partner for as little as £6,000, though opening your own optometry store will cost significantly more. Specsavers does not offer an estimated figure for this, as it says that each case is unique and that the investment fee can only be decided after an online, telephone or face-to-face assessment to find out if you’re right for the business and the kind of operation you’re likely to run.

The ideal investor

It’s not 100 percent clear which skills you’ll need to possess to become a Specsavers partner, but it does encourage those who are already working in one of its branches to apply for its internal ‘Partner Academy’.

It’s probably best if you’re an experienced clinician or retailer so that you’ll have the right knowledge to guide your branch to success, but Specsavers suggests speaking to an existing partner to find out more about what you’ll need to make it. You’ll need to speak to Specsavers partnership team first, who will offer more insight into what they feel makes the ideal partner.

How much support will I get?

On its FAQ page, Specsavers explains:

The support provided will [include] access to your own online learning account that allows you full access to Specsavers training. It contains videos, interactive modules and workshops on how to run a Specsavers business. Once you become a partner you will attend a two-day induction in our Guernsey office, and you will attend an informal dinner with a Specsavers Board Member.

You’ll also have access to a business mentor, local Regional Relationship Manager and be able to attend regular Communications Meetings to offer insight into Specsavers current and future strategies and the business’ direction.

State of the market

Here in the UK, a massive 74 percent of the population relies on some kind of corrective eyewear or contact lenses to achieve 20/20 vision, according to the UK’s College of Optometrists. Unsurprisingly, the opticians industry is a huge one, generating £4.4 billion in annual revenue and employing more than 62,600 people. It’s also experienced annual growth of 1.5 percent between 2014 and 2019 (IBISworld.com).

Many opticians generate most of their revenue from selling frames. Advancements in technology has allowed frames to be lighter and comfier, and people are willing to pay more and more to ensure that their glasses let them express themselves in way that’s comfy enough for every day. Even at a retailer known for being affordable, like Specsavers, the priciest frames alone will set you back £169, without the extra £100+ for customised lenses.

This means those running their own branch are set to make a healthy income from the products they sell. What’s more, fashion trends have also increased the demand for unique frames and having more than one pair to match an outfit. With all this in mind, it’s not surprising that the global eyewear industry is thought to have a value of £74 billion (The Guardian) and there has never been a better time to get involved and start your own opticians franchise.

Similar franchise opportunities at Point Franchise

If you’re looking to invest in an opticians franchise that follows a more traditional franchising model, Leightons could be the ideal opportunity for you. Operating in the industry for more than 90 years, it’s become one of the best providers of audiology and optometric care in the country.

And, as a franchisor since 1997, it certainly knows a thing or two about how to support those who join its network. Franchisees are known as business partners and the opticians franchise offers extensive training to all new recruits, covering everything from sales, employee management and day-to-day business operations. There are currently three business models that Leightons operates through: a traditional franchise, a joint venture and a shared ownership branch.

If you’d like to invest in a Leightons Opticians, you’ll need to have a minimum of £135,000 to put into your business, as well as plenty of working capital to see you through your first few months of trading. There are currently more than 34 locations across the country and Leightons is on the lookout for ambitious businesspeople who can expand the network into their local area. Find out more about the exciting opportunity here.

Should I invest in Specsavers?

If you’re intrigued by franchising but don’t want to go down the traditional route, Specsavers could be the ideal business for you to join. If not, take a look at our other healthcare franchises here.

>> Read more articles on the Healthcare sector

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