Ref NoWBA/BO
TitleBoots Opticians
DescriptionThis collection comprises the records of Boots Opticians and its subsidiary companies. Collection includes promotional material (leaflets, brochures), internal communications (magazines, briefing packs), management reports, press cuttings and releases, Directors' reports and accounts, store plans, project papers, review papers, personnel papers, marketing and advertising.
LevelFonds
Administrative HistoryBoots Opticians was formed officially in 1987. Prior to this, Boots had a number of in-store optical practices, the first one being in Store 6, Victoria Centre, Nottingham and opened in 1983. This was followed by six more in-store practices which were opened in the following year (at Leeds, Mansfield, Northampton, Luton and Birmingham). In December 1983 the government announced plans to end the optics monopoly for supplying spectacles and stopped the general supply of spectacle frames on the NHS, which meant that prices for glasses were very high until the introduction of the NHS vouchers scheme in 1986.

By March 1985 there were 34 in-store practices, and this doubled to 68 by March 1986. Boots acquired the Clement Clarke chain of 86 stores and Edmund Wilkes Ltd , a chain of 5 stores. In order to take over these freestanding stores Boots Opticians Ltd was established in January 1987, with a dedicated management team behind it. A new area management structure was introduced with 24 regional areas and an area manager was responsible for between 10 and 12 practices.

A further 39 in-store optical practices opened before March 1987. In the April Boots Opticians acquired the 45 Curry & Paxton Ltd stores. Within just four years, Boots Opticians had become the UK's second largest retail optics chain, with a total of 240 practices; 107 in-store and 133 in separate units.

The first freestanding branded Boots Opticians practice was opened in September 1987 in Durham. In 1988, VAT was added onto the price of spectacles which had a serious impact on the market.The following year, changes saw serious limitations on eligibility for free NHS sight tests and conditions became more difficult as ready-made reading spectacles were now permitted for sale in a wide range of outlets, causing a reduction in the need for opticians. Despite this Boots Opticians continued to expand and acquired the 110 stores of Miller and Santhouse PLC, the third most successful chain within the optical market. In January 1989 Boots Opticians announced the relocation of its head office from Horsham to St Mary’s Court in Nottingham and the closure of its Corby manufacturing site.

In 1994 the average number of eye examinations each week was 22,500. This increased to 25,000 in 1995 and 30,000 in 1999.Boots Opticians were the first UK chain to launch daily disposable lenses in 1994. Boots Opticians introduced LASIK laser eye surgeries into several branches starting in 2001 in Regent Street in London. Boots was the first major retail optician in the UK to offer laser eye surgery LASIK was later sold to Optical Express Group in 2004. In 2001 two Boots Hearingcare Centres were opened in Birmingham and Manchester to supply the revolutionary new product Songbird, a disposable hearing aid.

In 2004 the Opticians business was integrated into Boots The Chemist to eliminate duplication of functions such as marketing.

In January 2009 the merger of Boots Opticians and Dollond & Aitchison was announced, creating the second largest optical chain in the UK, and the third largest in Europe. The combined businesses had around 690 stores, including around 210 franchises, and employed over 5000 people.All D&A branches have since been rebranded under Boots Opticians.
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