Specsavers creates 1,000 jobs to fend off supermarket rivals

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The Independent Online

Specsavers, the UK's biggest optician, will create 1,000 jobs this year by opening 70 new outlets in a move to fend off growing competition from supermarkets.

Doug Perkins, chairman of Specsavers, said: "Supermarkets are being hailed as the biggest threat to high street opticians but we believe we can go head to head with them on price and choice."

The company, based in Guernsey, will open the new stores over the next few months, with the first two in Scotland, where it already has 27 outlets. All the new stores will be joint ventures with local opticians.

Specsavers is also eyeing further moves in Europe to expand its 32 stores in the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland.

Specsavers, founded by Mr Perkins 19 years ago, says it sells a pair of glasses every six seconds and has 27 per cent of the market. The private company is rolling out new stores aggressively in a bid to pre-empt growing competition. Supermarkets such as Asda represent a serious threat because they can sell glasses at much lower prices than many high street opticians.

Asda, backed by its US parent Wal-Mart, has launched its own optician centres as part of a push into new sectors to boost sales.

Specsavers generated overall sales of £430m last year from 400 stores. Mr Perkins said that expansion was not a response to competition from the likes of Asda, but a strategic move to cement the company's market dominance.

"In a climate of increased competition, we are still maintaining our lead with more than twice the market share of our competitors," Mr Perkins said.

Specsavers, which currently employs 9,000 staff, would not say where most of the new stores would be. The two in Scotland will be in Galashiels and Motherwell.