Specsavers celebrates three decades of optical services in Harrogate

The Specsavers store in Harrogate is reflecting on a milestone year as it marks its 30th anniversary caring for the town's eye health.

By Lucy Chappell
Monday, 9th May 2022, 11:17 am
Updated Monday, 9th May 2022, 11:38 am

To celebrate its ‘pearl anniversary’, spanning three decades on the high street, its staff have shared some pearls of wisdom about just how much optical care has changed over that time.

The store launched the same year as Bill Clinton’s election win and the 25th Olympic Games in Barcelona – at a time when the average house price was £68,634 and a gallon of petrol cost just £2.13.

An ever-familiar face at Specsavers in the town, Robert May, founded the store alongside John Broadberry in the early 90’s, alongside three optical assistants and a lab technician.

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The team at Harrogate's Specsavers store is reflecting on a milestone year as it marks its 30th anniversary caring for the town's eye health

Denise Fagan, the store’s office manager, has worked alongside Robert and John since the doors opened in 1992.

The store's other familiar faces include dispensing optician Cathy Preston, who has been with the store for 19 years, hearing aid dispenser Abbie Holmes (17 years) and call centre manager Beth Balmforth-Goncalves (10 years).

Commenting on his time at the store, Robert said: "Although the time has flown-by, optical care nowadays is worlds apart from the technology that was in place 30 years ago.

"Back then, we used to have a trial frame for patients to wear in the test room, using different lenses which would fit into the frame.

"We would then narrow down the prescription and fine tune it and you can imagine quite how time consuming the process was.

"The method today is still very similar, however it’s much quicker as we have phoropters, a machine which holds all the required lenses to determine a patient’s prescription.

"Although that’s very different, the test charts we use have stayed the same since the 90’s.

"We used to get very close to patients in the 90’s with an ophthalmoscope, to examine eye health, which has been replaced with special lenses and an illuminated magnifier called a slit lamp.

"Rulers were also used to measure a patient’s glasses, however the store has since invested in precision dispensing - using iPads to ensure each patient gets precise measurements.

"Unbelievably, we estimate that over the 30 years, we’ve undertaken nearly one million eye tests – over ten times the number of people living in the town."

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Investment has been key to the store’s success over the years.

Whilst the level of service and store experience share common values with the 90’s, the Specsavers store in Harrogate has invested hundreds of thousands of pounds into equipment to provide customers with the best service.

Throughout the years, the store has invested into an auto refractor, which measures the front curvature of the eye and gives the optician a starting point of a patient's prescription, and Fundus cameras, which enable opticians to see the retina and its blood vessels.

The store also now has hospital grade equipment such as an OCT machine - enabling optometrists to see further than ever before, providing them with a non-invasive 3D scan of the retina, similar to an ultrasound.

This technology can see all the layers of the retina and pick up eye disease four years earlier than a conventional eye examination.

John Broadberry, dispensing optician at the store, who has been there for 30 years, has noticed a number of trends throughout the years.

He said: "All our patients require something different, but we do our very best to meet patient needs and requirements.

"Over the past ten to fifteen years, computer use at work has increased exponentially, so therefore, we introduced lenses specifically for computers and reading, digital varifocals.

"Alongside this, there is an increase in people driving for a living, so we have introduced the SuperDrive varifocal lenses."

John offers his advice to the increasing number of people who are suffering with their vision due to working from home.

He added: "It is important for those working from home to remember the 20/20/20 rule, every 20 minutes, you should look 20 metres into the distance for 20 seconds.

"This helps the muscles of the eyes relax, stopping eye fatigue when looking at a screen for long periods."

Commenting on the milestone, Robert concluded: "It’s been excellent to reminisce about the impact the store has had on the town’s eye health since it launched in the 90s.

"We’re excited to see just how much of a continued impact we can make through the provision of cutting-edge optical technology and top-quality customer care over the next 30 years."

The store will be hosting a party to celebrate its 30th year anniversary on Saturday, May 28, with customers invited to join in with the celebrations.

For more information on the store and to book an appointment, visit https://www.specsavers.co.uk/stores/harrogate?v=true