Optician Awards: Independent success

Emma White speaks to Samantha Hague about luxury eyewear, clinical excellence, team development and plans to expand

Winner: Samantha Hague Optometry


  • Tompkins Knight & Son Optometrists
  • Airedale Opticians
  • Dore Optical
  • Taylor-West & Co Optometrists
  • Grey St Independent Optician

‘We are still buzzing from our win and can’t quite believe it,’ says Samantha Hague, practice owner and principal optometrist at Samantha Hague Optometry (SHO).

‘To be a finalist in this category was in itself a brilliant achievement and, while I always secretly hoped we had a slim chance of winning, it came as such a shock to hear our name read out. I think everyone could tell that by the shrieking from our table,’ she says. SHO impressed the judging panel by demonstrating ‘the difference a great independent can bring’ with ‘impressive turnover’, ‘a keen sense of style and social media’ and ‘great customer feedback’.

‘We see the Optician Awards as the ultimate in accolades and have been finalists ourselves in a number of categories over the years, so it’s been a huge honour to be an award-winner,’ says Hague. ‘We had a fabulous night at the gala dinner in the Hilton Ballroom and the team enjoyed a fantastic overnight stay at the Hilton Park Lane.’

SHO is a fully-refurbished boutique independent, established in 2019 by Hague and her LabTech husband Paul Saunders. The practice celebrates luxury eyewear, clinical excellence, leading edge technology and providing exemplary patient care, free-from external influence or group targets. Patient numbers have increased by nearly 70% from 2,663 to 4,484, turnover has doubled to more than £500,000 and the practice has 127 five star Google reviews.

Eye examinations are scheduled at 50 minutes-long and Hague carries out all clinical consultations to provide ‘an uncompromised level of care and consistency’. ‘People are at the heart of everything we do and giving them our time and undivided attention is what we do,’ she says. Through forging strong relationships with local ophthalmologists, Hague ensures efficient referrals into secondary care and all patients are offered an extended eye examination, inclusive of optical coherence tomography and Optomap. The practice has invested significantly in consulting room and dispensing technology, including Topcon’s Solos Lensmeter, with plans to further enhance equipment this year. Children’s eye care, myopia management, visual stress and complex lens dispensing, low vision, dry eye clinics and a wide-ranging contact lens service are among the enhanced services offered.

SHO stocks luxury brands, such as Dior, Cartier, Dita, Tom Ford and Lindberg, including Lindberg Precious. The team is continually exploring the market for beautiful, exclusive frames, attending 100% Optical in London and with plans to travel to Silmo this autumn. To promote and showcase the practice’s stylish eyewear, Hague manages an Instagram page with 788 followers and collaborates with local fashion retailers.

‘We have started to be a little more targeted with our advertising. Our work with renowned jeweller Ruddell’s has already paid dividends. We featured our Cartier collection in an editorial at Christmas and have received a number of enquiries from new clients,’ says Hague. The practice is also collaborating with high-end estate agents Peter James and Mr & Mrs Clarke, featuring in their publications and on their social media. ‘We work with photographic model Luke Boyden who has the face to make our frames look divine and fashion retailers the Decorium and Mode, who display our frames in their fashion hauls on their social media. Local influencer Marie, aka “Sparkle and Thread”, is a huge SHO fan and has done a number of frame reels for us, including our launch of Dior. With nearly 80,000 followers, we have been very well received,’ she says.

Hague describes her team, including Jess, a dispensing optician, and optical assistants Robyn and Emma, as the ‘beating heart’ of her business. ‘The team is our most important asset and supporting their development is central to the business,’ she says.

As well as encouraging her staff to pursue their interests in low vision and frame fashion, Hague has completed the professional certificate in medical retina and plans to qualify in independent prescribing. To inspire the delivery of exceptional service, Hague previously treated the team to an overnight stay and dinner at the Savoy in London and she has also recruited the behavioural change consultancy Advance Performance to deliver team coaching and development.

‘The SHO team are a special group of people and I am truly grateful for their dedication and commitment. I know, with them beside me, SHO can continue to deliver something special to our patients,’ she says.

The practice aims for a further year of double-digit growth, but with a focus on service and quality to achieve sales numbers. ‘Integrity is paramount. Our success comes from doing things right and from our reputation for quality and service and that’s what makes me so proud,’ says Hague.

Larger premises are a further goal. ‘I’d like to work alongside another optometrist, so a second consulting room would be great as would room for hearing care and other services. I have big ambitions for SHO, but we have a tiny footprint. What a great problem to have though,’ she says.