Should have gone to GCU!

Tue, 04 Jul 2017 11:05:00 BST

The founders of Specsavers, Dame Mary Perkins and her husband Doug Perkins, are to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU).

Dame Mary Perkins has revealed that companies such as Specsavers need more opticians to cope with demand, ahead of receiving her honorary degree from GCU on Wednesday, July 5.

She said: “If you’re an optics student, you are walking straight into a really good job. There is a great shortage of optics students. We employ lots of GCU students and we are always looking for more.”

Dame Mary and Doug founded the world’s largest private optician chain in Guernsey in 1984. It now sells more than 19 million pairs of glasses and 400 million contact lenses each year from nearly 2,000 stores in ten countries. 

The couple met while studying optometry at Cardiff University, and on completion of their degrees, they bought the small practice owned by Mary's father in Bristol. They proceeded to build up a chain of 23 outlets called Bebbington and Perkins and, in 1980, sold it to a company that was bought by Dollond and Aitchison for £2 million.

“We started our own business straight out of university, as soon as we were registered, and we had people working for us – but it was impossible to say then that we could have imagined how far the business would develop,” said Mary.

Specsavers is a champion of the National Health Service – of its 17.3m customers in the UK, 60% are from the NHS, and the company is the largest provider of free NHS digital hearing aids.

In 2007, Mary was appointed a Dame by the Queen for services to business and the community, and she is a supporter of a wide range of charities in the UK.  She plays an active role in the business in a number of areas, including driving customer service standards, championing values, and shaping corporate responsibility.

Specsavers has raised more than £5 million across the world for charities and good causes. Mary serves on the board of many local institutions and voluntary organisations, is a Freeman of the City of London, and an Ambassador for Vision Aid Overseas, Sightsavers and Actionaid.  She is also Patron of Kidscape and of Everywoman.

Doug led the expansion of Specsavers into Australia, opening 100 stores in 100 days. Doug is a leading figure in optometry and audiology. He focuses on the advancement of professionalism and healthcare within the sector, fully addressing an ageing population and the associated healthcare issues, including diabetes, glaucoma, cataract and age-related macular degeneration.

Glasgow Caledonian UniversityGCUSpecsavers