If you are an independent optometrist or dispensing optician you might have viewed with alarm the seemingly irresistible rise of the multiple or corporate players in your market.

As recently as 2010, says the General Optical Council, independents had 40% of the market share for retail sales of optical goods and services. By 2013 that share had dropped to 28%, but since then has remained reasonably stable at around 29%.

This is confirmed by Optometry Today, which has cited market research showing that whilst independent high street opticians claimed 29% of the market, Specsavers had 35% of all outlets, Boots 15%, Vision Express 12% and Optical Express 2%.

Looking forward in a forecast of the market to 2019, moreover, the same sources paint a somewhat bleak picture for the smaller chains of opticians and independents, saying that these are likely to face continued severe pressure and that their number may grow still smaller.

Your response

If you are an independent optometrist or dispensing optician, therefore, what might you do to stand your own ground against the relentless inroads being made by the multiples?

Your market

  • knowing your market, of course, is one of the keys to understanding where the opportunities lie;
  • population profile projections, for example, suggest that by 2019, there will have been an 8.9% increase in children aged five to nine years old and 11.1% in 11 to 14 year olds;
  • opportunities exist, therefore, to focus your marketing towards children in these age groups;
  • at the same time, the population aged 55 to 64 is expected to grow by 10% by the year 2019, and those aged 65+ by 9.1%;
  • since more than half of all people over the age of 45 require some form of vision correction, demand is once again expected to grow in this age sector;


  • to help ensure that you capture your fair share of these opportunities, marketing is likely to play a key role in your business objectives;
  • this might take the form of special promotions, designed to encourage customers to switch from their existing provider to you or to reward existing customers with some type of loyalty bonus;
  • relationship marketing, in other words, is likely to spearhead your campaign to stand head and shoulders above the competition on your particular high street;


  • technology is giving optometrists and dispensing opticians many more opportunities for developing their roles much further than simple eye tests for customers;
  • technology allows you to provide a much wider range of eye care – and your knowledge of and ability to deliver services using the latest technology are likely to be important tools in capturing and retaining customers.


It may be one thing to identify the market opportunities that are likely to lie ahead, but the ability to seize them may be quite another.

One of your first stumbling blocks is likely to be the available working capital to invest in local market research, formulate and develop your marketing campaigns, and acquire the knowledge and the hardware that technological innovation may bring.

That additional working capital, moreover, has to be found whilst you may still be struggling with day to day cashflow management.

Business loans

Your solution to that need for immediate, but relatively short-term finance might lie in an optician’s loan.

The advantage of an unsecured business loan is that it requires nothing in the way of security against your business or personal assets.

It is also a very flexible way of obtaining just the amount of additional funding you may need – we are able to arrange loans from £5,000 up to £1 million, or even more – and repayment terms may be fixed from three months to five years.

This gives you every opportunity to tailor the loan to meet your specific needs and requirements, in the knowledge that a fixed – and highly competitive – rate of interest ensures fixed monthly repayments throughout your chosen term, making budgeting and cashflow management that much easier and straight forward.

The way you apply the funds released in this way is, of course, entirely for you to decide. You might choose to use it for meeting tax or VAT liabilities, the acquisition of new technology and apparatus, other assets or simply draw the extra working capital to help maintain a healthy cashflow for your business.

With that extra financial boost, just when your business might need it, you may be better placed to play your own part in maintaining the high street presence of an independent opticians.

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