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Superbrands case studies: Specsavers

Originally published in Consumer Superbrands Volume VI, July 2004. The book reviews the UK's strongest consumer brands as judged by an independent judging panel.

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Market
Two thirds of the adult population wear glasses or contact lenses - a percentage that has been gradually rising with increased life expectancy. The optical market is therefore driven by an ageing population, in particular the over 45s, as the older we get, the more likely we are to need glasses. By the time we are in our 60s, nearly 90% of us will require corrective vision. Contact lens wearers, which account for only 6% of the population, tend to be in the younger age range, the under 40s.

The current market for eyecare products and services is estimated at more than £2 billion with just under half still being provided by small independent opticians.

For many years now Specsavers Opticians has been recognised as the market leader in optics - today, one in four people who wear glasses buy them from Specsavers (Source: GfK Marketing Services).

The brand's value market share is twice that of its nearest high street competitors. New brands in the market include Optical Express and supermarket suppliers ASDA Wal-Mart and Tesco. With approaching 600 stores in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands, Specsavers is one of the most successful brands in retail optics and is one of the largest opticians in the world.

Achievements
With projected sales in 2003 of £550 million, Specsavers' main achievement has been one of almost entirely organic continuous and sustained growth, despite a slowing down of the retail economy.

Specsavers' advertising campaigns, which are produced by an in-house creative team, regularly appear in Marketing Magazine's Adwatch, and the brand's TV commercials have been much acclaimed, with 2003 seeing the launch of the highly successful 'Should've gone to Specsavers' campaign.

Specsavers' customer magazine View, which is also produced in-house, has won several awards, including the British Association of Communicators in Business Award of Excellence for three years running.

Its annual Drive Safe campaign has, over the past three years, been hugely successful in highlighting the need for drivers to have regular sight tests. So much so, that more than 5,000 people have signed a petition lobbying the Government to introduce a series of measures aimed at making UK roads safer.

Specsavers' Sexy Specs Wearer modeling competition, which aims to find the sexiest glasses wearer, is in its ninth year and attracts thousands of entrants, emphasising the fact that glasses are a fashion accessory as well as an optical necessity.

Above all, since its first store opened in 1984, Specsavers' greatest achievement has been that it has revolutionised the optical market through its joint venture philosophy and transparent approach to pricing.

The abiding tenet of the Group is that professional and retail optics should be led by the Opticians themselves, who own and run their own stores and are responsible for the day-to-day running of their business.

A full range of support services, expertise, experience and information is provided to stores by Specsavers Optical Group (SOG), based in Guernsey, ensuring partners receive help in all aspects of their business, tailored to their specific requirements.

Because the opticians own their own stores and keep all the profits, paying a management fee to SOG for their support services and marketing activity, they have a vested interest in serving the community and making their business a success.

Since its inception, Specsavers has been a consumer champion, demystifying eyecare products and services and offering the public real value for money and choice. They completely believe in passionately providing affordable eyecare for everyone.

Specsavers was the first to advertise its products and services on television and still spends more on TV than any other opticians. Furthermore, it was the first to introduce Complete Price, whereby the cost of glasses includes single vision lenses. It was also the first to promote Two For One offers and free eyecare for children.

Specsavers was also the first to offer a full range of contact lenses that could be paid for by monthly direct debit - more than half a million customers pay for their lenses this way - making what was once seen as an expensive product, more widely available.

At a time when many British companies are pulling out of Europe due to poor sales and rapidly rising costs, Specsavers is forging ahead with its European expansion programme. Specsavers Opticians is already the third largest optical group in Holland, having grown from just three stores in 2000 to nearly 70 stores today.

Such is its success that, somewhere in the UK or Europe, a new Specsavers' store opens nearly every week.

History
The brand was founded in 1984 by Doug and Mary Perkins, who started the business in their spare bedroom on a table tennis table. The Perkins had moved to Guernsey after selling a small chain of opticians in the West Country, but in the early 1980s they saw a gap in the optical market when the UK Government deregulated professionals, including opticians, freeing them to advertise their products and services for the first time.

Seizing this opportunity, Doug and Mary opened their first Specsavers value for money, quality eyecare opticians in Guernsey and Bristol, followed shortly by stores in Plymouth, Swansea and Bath. From the outset, the Perkins wanted to offer a wide range of stylish, fashionable glasses at affordable prices for everyone. Specsavers' first logo reflected its value for money approach with two pound signs replacing the lenses in a pair of glasses.

The strapline that went with this - Local Eyecare Nationwide - also demonstrated Specsavers' desire to be seen as trustworthy an optician as a local independent but with the huge buying power of a national company that meant savings could be passed on to the customer. Having quickly established the brand in the marketplace as a provider of affordable eyecare, Specsavers changed its logo in 1996 to further reflect the quality of its products and services.

The new logo - two green overlapping ellipses - was coupled with a new strapline, Now You Can Believe Your Eyes, reflecting the customers' expectations that at last they could buy top quality glasses and contact lenses at a price they could afford.

With the onset of an ageing population, Specsavers commissioned research, which revealed that people over the age of 40 were least, attracted to Specsavers for their eyecare needs and would typically go to an independent, who they perceived as offering a more professional service.

To enhance the credibility of the brand among older people, a new campaign, and a new strapline, was introduced - Your Eyesight Matters.

Product
Specsavers has always been known for its wide choice of glasses and now offers more than 2,000 styles and colours made from the latest high tech materials, including titanium and stainless steel. Its glasses are sourced from all over the world and many are made by the same manufacturers that are responsible for some of the top name designer brands.

Specsavers is also market leader in contact lenses with its own brand of 'easyvision' monthly and daily disposable lenses. It has also pioneered the use of continuous wear lenses that can be worn for up to 24 hours a day for 30 days, and has estimated to have at least 40% of the UK market. Furthermore, Specsavers is the largest provider of home delivery contact lenses in Europe through its Lensmail service, whereby customers can order their lenses by phone, post or online, as well as more conventionally in store.

Recent Developments
To satisfy younger customers Specsavers recently added glasses by Storm, FCUK, Boss, Red or Dead and Monsoon to complement its own designer ranges Osiris and Ultralight. New styles are introduced continually to keep apace with changes in fashion and technology. Its own lens manufacturing laboratories -three of the largest in Europe - mean that it can supply the latest high-tech lenses at high volume and low cost.

Specsavers' contact lens department is always on the look out for new lenses, such as varifocal contact lenses for older customers or lenses that help correct colour blindness. Specsavers website, www.specsavers.com, has been developed and refined so that customers can now view the latest frames, order contact lenses online and review the current offers and promotions available at their local store.

Ask The Optician provides the answers to many professional queries, while the press office features current news items and information. As well as rapid expansion in Europe, Specsavers is now branching out into the hearing aid industry with the recent acquisition of the HearCare franchise and currently has more than 20 Hearcare stores in the UK.

The deal, which will create 400 new jobs over the next three years, will see the roll out of 100 new private hearing aid centres retaining the HearCare brand and mirroring Specsavers hugely successful joint venture business model.

Promotion
Although most people should have a thorough eye examination at least every two years, many choose to leave it much longer and are either oblivious of their declining vision or mistakenly think that an eye test is only about a prescription. The reality is that the eyes can also be an indication of poor health.

As well as highlighting visual problems, an eye examination can also help detect diabetes, glaucoma, high blood pressure, even the presence of a brain tumour. Through the eye test, opticians at Specsavers have saved lives. Convincing people that they must have their eyes tested for the sake of their health as well as their sight is therefore of primary importance to Specsavers.

There is no fixed period for selling glasses or contact lenses - it is not a seasonal product -which is why the brand advertises year-round offers and promotions.

Specsavers therefore aims to reach as many people as possible throughout the year via carefully targeted promotions aimed at young people, contact lens wearers, fashion-conscious customers and older people who may need different types of lenses, such as varifocals and bifocals.

Specsavers in-house marketing and media buying departments make full use of the media mix, including television, radio, press and public relations, nationally and on a regional and local level to emphasise that Specsavers is fundamentally a professional opticians serving the local community and providing them with quality products.

It also has a duty of care to inform people when their next eye examination is due, which is done through direct mail. Specsavers sends out more than 240,000 letters a week reminding people that they are due a sight test, or that their contact lenses are ready for collection or delivery, and of current and forthcoming offers.

Its in-store magazine View, which is published twice a yearr, is available free of charge in all stores and is mailed out to 600,000 customers.

Specsavers' website is another vital tool of which full use is made to convey key messages Specsavers also attends various trade fairs, such as the annual Optrafair, and exhibitions such as Clothes Show Live and the International Motor Show, and its Drive Safe trailer visits various towns across the UK to offer free visioscreening to drivers, emphasising the need for regular sight checks

Brand values
Specsavers' brand values have remained consistent throughout its nineteen-year history - it aims to be the best value opticians, satisfying personal eyecare needs at affordable prices in a simple and clear manner that everyone can understand.

The brand is now the most well known of all the opticians - of those surveyed, 96% recognised the Specsavers logo (Source: NFO Worldgroup) - something of which the brand is immensely proud considering the age of some of the brands with which it competes.

Things that you didn't know
Specsavers carries out 3.8 million eye examinations each year in the UK.This equates to a fifth of all the sight tests carried out in Britain - making Specsavers the number one choice for sight tests.

One in three people who wear glasses in the UK buy them from Specsavers Opticians. Six million frames were sold by Specsavers during 2003.

Specsavers sells a pair of glasses every six seconds. If all the glasses Specsavers had ever sold were laid end to end they would wrap around the world more than three times.

(c) 2004 Superbrands Ltd

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