Specsavers has launched a new £1million flagship store in Cardiff city centre offering state-of-the-art eye care facilities and optical retail.
The new 6,000 sq ft store, which is independently run, is the first of its kind for the global optical retail chain, marking its maiden million pound project and the biggest financial investment within the Specsavers Group, which has 1,600 stores world-wide.
The investment sees Specsavers double the size of its operation in the city centre by moving from its old base on Queen Street into the premises next door, which was previously occupied by Game.
The move increases the store’s number of testing rooms from six to 11 and its dispensing desks from six to 14, creating 10 new jobs in the process.
Its new testing rooms will be equipped with the latest eye care technology, including state-of-the-art machines able to capture three-dimensional images of the eye, enhanced digital retinal photography cameras and new equipment to measure the pressure and curvature of the eyes. This will allow optometrists to detect serious conditions on the spot, without the need for referrals for further monitoring before a patient can be admitted directly to hospital.
The move has also allowed the store to undergo an interior make-over to allow for a more spacious environment, with three customer waiting areas instead of one, and a more modern display area now showcasing more than 2,000 pairs of glasses. A bespoke mobility testing room offering full eye test facilities in one area for disabled people has also been installed.
The practice, which is currently one of only two opticians in Wales to hold the Investors in People ‘gold’ standard, will now also house a new training centre for its staff to help develop the next generation of senior management and optometrists.
The investment comes after a period of growth which has seen the business, run as a joint venture partnership between Specsavers Optical Group and the store’s directors and local business owners Frank and Laoise Moloney and James Deavall, increase its turnover significantly during 2013.
The new-look store was officially launched at an event attended by more than 250 local businesspeople and industry professionals.
Mr Moloney, says: ‘It had been clear for quite some time that our existing store was not large enough to accommodate the growth we’ve seen, so I’m delighted to open our new flagship Cardiff store to both customers and staff. This is landmark for us here in Wales that puts us on a par with anyone in the world offering optics on the high street.
‘We are taking the drama out of optics and offering an eye care experience unlike any other – enabling our customers to be seen quicker, and with the very latest technology. What that means is our opticians will now have far more information at their disposal to advise on a customer’s health, reducing the need in many cases for referrals to the University Hospital of Wales and reducing hospital waiting times in the process.
‘It will allow us to not only maintain the levels of customer service that people have come to expect from us, but take it on to the next level as well. This is an investment in eye care in Wales and we believe that it is this type of commitment to service levels that has seen us grow the business in the first place.’
Robert Lloyd Griffiths, director of the Institute of Directors in Wales, says: ‘It’s great to see state-of-the-art facilities like this in Wales, and such a significant investment in retail here. The new store is a splendid addition to the high street.’
Opening in 1987, the store has grown from a small base on St Mary Street with just 12 employees and two testing rooms to now become one of the largest in the UK, employing 95 people, including 15 optometrists, two pre-registration optometrists and five dispensing opticians.
Its current directors, Frank and Laoise Moloney, took over as partners of the practice in November 1992, just 10 days after their wedding. The two grew the practice and, in August 1993, the store was relocated to 90 Queen Street, becoming the first Specsavers store at that time to command a six-figure rental sum.
Mr Moloney believes the store’s latest landmark move is a sign that Queen Street is still a primary shopping destination in Cardiff.
He says: ‘When St David 2 opened there was an initial pull of shoppers away from Queen Street. However, there has since been some investment in the area that has seen the likes of Poundland, Pret a Manger and Easy Gym locate to Queen Street, as well as our own growth, which underlines how this is still a major shopping thoroughfare in Cardiff.’
The new branch delivers eye care services under the Welsh Government’s Wales Eye Care Initiative (WECI), which means patients can be seen directly following a referral from their GP, or can make an appointment with the store in person, to avoid the need for hospital visits where possible.