Demand growing, says Specsavers as it celebrates 20 years in audiology

High Street optics and hearing care retailer Specsavers is vigorously growing the audiology service it started 20 years ago. Now celebrating its anniversary, two of its leaders underline the group's objectives, career opportunities, and focus on a changing market.

Published on 26 April 2023

Demand growing, says Specsavers as it celebrates 20 years in audiology

Audiology News UK (AN): Specsavers moved into audiology 20 years ago, but is now substantially boosting its audio-logical services. How has the reality of the hearing care business differed from the group’s initial perspectives and objectives, and what has Specsavers learned about the market that will help it move forward?

Carina Hummel, Specsavers Audiology Managing Director, UK, Republic of Ireland & Spain (CH): When Doug and Mary Perkins first launched the Specsavers optical business back in 1984, their goal was to ensure access to affordable eyecare for all. Move the clock forwards to 2002, the opportunity arose to achieve the same goal in audiology and to this day this remains the key focus of the business. For both optics and audiology, providing NHS-funded care remains a key component, ensuring greater access in the community for those requiring support with optical and audiological health. The learnings? Demand for audiology services continues to grow. There is a significant requirement to train more clinicians to help that demand across the UK and ROl.


AN: Because of the NHS, the UK has a very particular hearing-health profile. What are the long-term forecasts and desires of the Specsavers group on the NHS/private duality of the domestic market?

CH: We are here to provide a service to all, whether their care is paid for by the NHS or the patient themselves. Our goal is to continue to provide audiology services to as many people as possible regardless of how they pay for their care. We also recognise the need to support customers who can’t attend our services which is why we have launched our domiciliary audiology service, ensuring that NHS and patient-funded services are available to people in their own homes and in residential care.


OTC and the UK market


AN: Over-the-counter online sales of hearing aids, and the marketing of fashionable, self-fitting entry-level hearables will impact the hearing aid market. How big does Specsavers think this impact going to be, and how will the group shake and shuffle to deal with OTC?

James Thomas, Specsavers Audiology Director of Trading, UK & Republic of Ireland (JT): We are all looking at the US to see how OTC market will evolve and understand if there are opportunities to improve access, benefit to patients and drive efficiencies in service. However, we continue to see demand growing and we are currently focusing on the here and now in the domestic market, developing clinical skillset, and creating capacity in our stores to ensure that services are available for those who need them.


AN: What are the group’s targets in terms of market share? How will Specsavers achieve its goals?

JT: Our targets remain simple. As a family run business, people remain at the heart of what we do; growing and developing colleagues and clinicians is a key component to our success. Many of our clinicians at Specsavers go on to own their own audiology business.

Providing colleaques with the opportunity to develop a long-term, rewarding and fulfilling career with the opportunity to build their own team is what makes Specsavers successful, so developing our teams remains a key target for us. It will be of no surprise to the readers of this article that on-boarding and training new clinicians is a key priority for Specsavers. It is vital to ensure that audiology is seen as an attractive career choice for early and second careers.

And finally, as demand grows, building more capacity will ensure we have the space to see our customers, we have a solid growth plan to deliver this over the next five years.

Source: Audiology News UK issue 01 March-April 2023