Specsavers group plans 700 jobs in UK, Europe
High street opticians group Specsavers has unveiled plans to create up to 700 jobs in the UK and continental Europe.
The group said it would take on about 400 staff to work at 40 new stores that it plans to open in Britain this year.
It added that it plans to create up to 200 jobs in Sweden and a further 100 posts in the Netherlands, where it is the third largest optical retailer.
Specsavers, the UK's biggest optical retailer, currently has 559 stores and more than 700 joint venture partners in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands.
It recently bought Swedish optical company Blic for £3.2 million and plans to increase the number of Blic stores from 34 to 70 in the next three to five years.
The privately owned group, based in Guernsey in the Channel Islands, said it had achieved record annual results in 2003, with a turnover of more than £500 million and an 8.8% increase in like for like sales against the 2002 figure of 5.1%.
The group runs its stores on a joint venture basis with business partners such as opticians and distributes a proportion of its profits to those partners.
It declined to give a total profit figure, but said profits and bonuses distributed to partners remained flat at £50 million in 2003, excluding more than £20 million of investment, against 2002.
However, group sales rose to £545 million from £490 million previously.
The company said it achieved a 31% share of the £1 billion optical market in 2003, which it said was three times that of its nearest rival.