Specsavers, the high street opticians group, yesterday said it intended to create up to 700 jobs in the UK and the rest of Europe. About 400 staff will be recruited to work at 40 new stores opening in Britain this year, with another 200 in Sweden and 100 in the Netherlands.
The group has 559 stores and more than 700 joint venture partners in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands. It recently bought the Swedish optical company Blic for £3.2m, and plans to increase the number of Blic stores from 34 to 70 in the next five years.
The founder and chairman of Specsavers, Doug Perkins, said the privately-owned company had achieved record results in 2003. Turnover was up £55m to £545m, producing an 8.8 per cent increase in like-for-like sales.
The group, which is based in Guernsey, Channel Islands, runs its stores on a joint-venture basis with opticians and other retailers, distributing to them a proportion of profits. Total profits and bonuses distributed to partners was virtually unchanged at £50m last year, and there was £20m of investment.
"The year ahead promises even greater success," Mr Perkins added.