Opticians: the future of looking is bright

Optician

The eyewear market is booming in an otherwise challenging retail sector. Property Week asks if the growth can be maintained.

Clinical store environments, uninspiring displays and pressure to buy from the sometimes limited selection of frames at the store where you had your eye test meant that choosing your spectacles was more akin to visiting the dentist than shopping for a new accessory.

But a handful of new retailers in the space are now trying to change that. New names such as Acuitis, Ace & Tate, Bailey Nelson, Cubitts and Jimmy Fairly have all entered the UK market in the past few years.

They have also all taken physical stores rather than just operating online – despite the precariousness of the wider retail sector and in defiance of the general trend of slowing or mothballing expansion plans.

The chain operators are not exactly suffering, either. Specsavers increased its UK annual revenue from £1.32bn in 2016-17 to £1.39bn in 2017-18, while Vision Express acquired Tesco’s optical business in late 2017, adding 200 outlets to its portfolio.

So how is the sector bucking the trend on the high street? And is there more room for growth?

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