Simon Jones: Scotland the bountiful
As practices expand aggressively into Scotland, I wonder, what does the future of independent optometry look like?
Author: Simon Jones
Optometry north of the border has been buzzing with developments in recent months. Expansions, mergers, acquisitions and even university courses have made the Scottish sector a very interesting one to watch.
The Hakim Group started to expand aggressively in the lowlands several months ago, accelerated somewhat by the acquisition of Urquhart Opticians, which had been on an expansion journey of its own in Ayrshire. With high profile practice purchases of Cameron Optometry in Edinburgh and Mackie Opticians in Lanarkshire, the group looks to be on the road to repeating its success in England and Wales.
Duncan & Todd Opticians, which celebrates its 50th anniversary last week, has also expanded significantly in recent years, as has Black & Lizars. I also have to take my hat off to Cubitts for its first foray into Scotland. Simultaneously opening two fantastic-looking practices in Edinburgh is no mean feat, and the customer demographics in the two neighbourhoods the company has selected are sure to love the brand.
This all leaves me wondering what the future of independent optometry looks like in Scotland. As someone who visits the more remote parts of Scotland on a regular basis, and as someone who likes to investigate what’s happening with optical practices in these areas, I’m always left wondering how, and sometimes if, they are still in business. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen one of the practices in Argyll and Bute that we often drive past with its lights on and doors open. The polarisation between the high-end practices of the country’s larger cities and the smaller practices in quieter locations is really quite stark.
It’s difficult seeing how some of these independents can survive the current state of flux in Scotland, which leads to concern about access to everyday eye care. The future of eye health for the more remote parts of the country may well be mobile.