How Specsavers opened 100 stores in 100 days: 13 lessons from its success

UK retailer Specsavers arrived in Australia with a bang, opening 100 stores in 100 days between February and June 2008.

Since then Specsavers has grown to a turnover of $650 million last year with over 500 franchise partners and 3000 employees in Australia.

Speaking at yesterday’s eftpos ARA Australian Retail Awards, Specsavers global retail director Derek Dyson revealed 13 lessons from Specsavers’ success.   

1. Specsavers is a “ma and pa” business

It may be a global name but really Specsavers is still a “ma and pa” business according to Dyson.

Doug and Mary Perkins started the business 30 years ago in 1984 and since then it has grown to total turnover last year of $2.9 billion with 30,000 staff worldwide.

But Dyson says the original ma and pa business values are still a part of Specsavers, including “treating people as if they are a member of your family”. 

2.  Value is not just about price

Dyson says value is “at the heart” of a lot of the things Specsavers does but he warns value is not all about price.

“When people come into your store they are looking for value but value is not all about price, it is about quality of the product and how easy it is to access the brand,” he says.   

3.  Power is passing knowledge on

“I don’t agree that knowledge is power,” Dyson says. “Power is when you pass that knowledge on, particularly to your customers.”

Specsavers works on the basis of “the more you learn the more you can earn” which encourages its employees to keep training.  “You need knowledgeable people in your business to pass information on to your customers,” Dyson explains.    

4.  Critical mass is important

Specsavers opened 100 stores in 100 days in order to try to get critical mass as quickly as possible. 

“We wanted to get in there before our competition had a chance to realise what is going on,” Dyson says. “Getting that critical mass allowed us to start our marketing.” 

5. Execution must be flawless

Dyson says the speed at which Specsavers opened stores required “flawless” execution.

“You cannot open 100 stores in 100 days without great planning and great execution,” he says. “Unless you can execute, it’s not a strategy, it’s a concept.”   

6.  Give ownership

At Specsavers each store is jointly owned by an optometrist and a retailer. 

Fairfax reports they each pay $30,000 to $40,000 to join Specsavers and then set-up costs for a store, which are between $250,000 and $280,000. The company funds these set-up costs through a business loan to the store partners. 

Partners take around 80% of turnover with the remainder going to Specsavers to cover marketing, training and other costs.

Dyson says creating business owners rather than managers has been key in Specsavers success. 

“There’s a huge difference waking up in the morning when you own the business,” he says. “You wake up asking, how can I improve the business?” 

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