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Specsavers Opens More Optical Locations in Alberta as Retailer Expands Aggressively Across Canada [Interview]

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Optometrist-owned and led eyewear retailer Specsavers continues to aggressively expand its footprint across Canada with the recent opening of six stores in Alberta with big plans for growth in the future.

Bill Moir, Managing Director of Specsavers Canada, said the six Alberta locations are part of 200 clinics opening in Canada by 2024, all equipped with Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) technology as part of every standard eye exam. He said Specsavers locations are equipped with the latest imaging and clinical technology for comprehensive eye exams, such as 3D eye scans through hospital-grade OCT technology.

During an interview at the recent store opening at the CF Market Mall location in Calgary, Moir said a complete pair of glasses start at $69 which is one of the company’s big draws. 

“The key point of difference for us is OCT with every exam, glasses starting as low as $69 and the fact that the stores are actually owned and operated by local store owners who are part of the community,” he said.

Image: Specsavers Canada

Founded in the U.K. nearly 40 years ago by optometrist husband and wife team Doug and Mary Perkins, there are now more than 2,500 Specsavers healthcare businesses across 11 countries serving 41 million patients and customers. The brand announced its launch in Canada in 2021. 

Specsavers said it is driven by its purpose of “changing lives through better sight” and aims to transform the way Canadians see accessible eyecare by offering exceptional service, clinical equipment and expertise, as well as affordable and quality eyewear.

The company has at least 20 stores in BC and six stores in Alberta. A seventh store in Alberta was scheduled to open soon. 

“We’re opening about two or three stores a week now across Alberta and BC,” said Moir when he was in Calgary recently near the end of September.

“By the end of the year we should have just over 50 stores across Canada. We’ll be in three provinces, BC, Alberta and Ontario as well. Ontario we should open around the end of October. The aim is to get to 200 stores in the next two years. We’re on track to open about 100 stores a year. That’s what we’re averaging about two stores a week that we’re opening.”

Image: Specsavers Canada

Stores are about 2,000 square feet with three test rooms in a typical store. 

“They’re designed to be much higher volume because we have a very attractive proposition and very affordable eyewear,” said Moir.

“The aim when we get to 200 stores is we want all customers to be able to access the brand easily. We look at where there are high concentrations of population. We tend to focus more in urban areas and maybe market towns or big outlying towns because that’s where the need for optometry is greatest, more than kind of big, expansive city centre locations. We’re more of a community-based retailer.”

The retailer is looking at enclosed shopping centres, streetfronts and outdoor shopping centres in its expansion.

Bill Moir (Image: Specsavers Canada)

There’s a growing trend in the market these days with more eyewear stores opening up – sometimes several in the same enclosed mall.

Is there a point of saturation in the market?

“I think there are a lot of eyewear outlets in Canada. I think there’s a lack of differentiation. It’s based on the fact that a smaller number of players own multiple brands. So, often you’ll go from one shop to another shop and you see the same brands, you see the same sort of pricing, you’ll see a very similar proposition,” said Moir.

“And I think there’s a lack of choice for Canadian consumers. So even though there’s lots of different names over the door, I think there’s actually a lack of choice. So what we’re doing is coming in with something very different in the market. We’re the only people including OCT in every part of the eye exam. We’ve got a very consistent practice on that to make sure we’re giving excellent clinical care and we’re the only people who have really high quality eyewear offering starting as low as $69 for a single perfectly pair of glasses.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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