Founder of Specsavers comes to Romford and celebrates store’s 30 years in business
PUBLISHED: 12:34 02 February 2017
The founder of the largest privately owned opticians in the world made a special visit to the town to celebrate 30 years of ownership.
Dame Mary Perkins, founder of Specsavers, visited the store in South Street, Romford, on Tuesday as director Kevan Green marked 30 years since the day he first opened.
Dame Mary set up the global company with her husband in 1984 with plans laid out on a table tennis table in their Guernsey home.
The modest starting point has led to just short of 2,000 stores globally.
South Street’s store was the 21st in the country to open and the first outside of the south-west of England.
In the three decades of Specsavers operating, the founder has seen many changes but believes the start was one of the hardest challenges she faced.
“We had to change the way opticians worked.
“We wanted to put customers at the centre of what we do. Before we operated, customers didn’t have big showrooms where they could walk in and try on glasses.
“We were the first to advertise and make glasses more affordable with things like two pairs for the price of one.
“Many opticians were sceptical about the new way of working when we started the change.”
The business works as a franchise with the company operating joint ventures with opticians.
The optician keeps the profits from the store and Specsavers takes a management fee for marketing, shop fittings, auditing, training, and other support.
Dame Mary, 72, believes that it’s a recipe for success with stores able to focus 100 per cent on the customer.
“I travel round the country and I always tell everyone that the customer is the most important person,” she said.
“They are more important than your family or friends at that moment they walk in the shop as they pay for your new car or trip abroad.
“It’s that excellent customer service we provide that has got us to where we are today.”
Mr Green was full of praise for Dame Mary and recalled the long journey he had been on.
“It’s a proud day for me. I remember the first day and it got to 10pm after seeing no one with no appointments in the diary.
“I have to admit I went to the toilets and threw up as I had bills to pay! Luckily we now open the door in the morning and there is a queue of people waiting to see us.”
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