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November 4, 2002

Specsavers eyes 100 hearing aid centres in £2m deal

From: The Scotsman, UK
Nov. 4, 2002

Leslie Kraft Burke Personal Finance Editor

SPECSAVERS Opticians’ acquisition of hearing aid chain HearCare is expected to yield about 80 new jobs in Scotland.

The optical retailer’s estimated £2 million deal, which was announced yesterday, will create 400 new jobs UK-wide over the next four years and will see the roll-out of 100 new private hearing aid centres, officials said.

They added that "a large proportion" of those stores are expected to be in Scotland, as the region has yielded successful sales for Specsavers. Specsavers has 30 stores in Scotland, while HearCare has just one store in Glasgow.

There are eight HearCare centres across the UK, which collectively turn over £1.5m and employ 26 staff.

HearCare, founded in Leicester in 1998, was sold to Specsavers - considered Britain’s largest optical retailer - by owners Rob Warner and Peter Ince. Both have a stake in the new group.

HearCare stores are expected to retain the HearCare brand and grow in number, mirroring Specsavers’ joint venture business model. This involves the parent company partnering in store ownership with local opticians - or hearing aid specialists, in HearCare stores’ case.

Guernsey-based Specsavers - which employs 9,000 staff in 472 stores throughout the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands - estimates the £100 million UK hearing aid market is to grow further. Group founder Doug Perkins said Specsavers’ expertise in retail healthcare has positioned it to benefit from the anticipated increase in the hearing aid business.

He said: "There is a severe lack of digital hearing aids available through the NHS as a result of the soaring costs of digital technology. But with Specsavers’ immense buying power, we can offer a sophisticated, hi-tech, custom-made product at an affordable price.

"Our reputation for trust and value will be combined with the knowledge and expertise we have invested through the acquisition of HearCare, to create the UK’s biggest high street hearing aid retailer."

He added that, with an estimated 150,000 hearing aids currently sold privately every year, he is confident that the venture can produce 8 per cent volume growth, year-on-year.