Vision Express has launched a series of promotional initiatives after reporting strong figures for the 2009 financial year.

The optical specialist has launched an interest-free credit offer and joined loyalty scheme Nectar in an attempt to capture optical spend in the current tough economic climate. Brand strategy director Brian Linnington said sales in the first half of its current financial year had been “tough” but added: “We haven’t sat back and will continue to innovate.”

For the year to December 31, Vision Express UK reported pre-tax profits of £19.9m, up from £15m the year before. Turnover was £195m, up from £184m the previous year. Linnington said: “We reported excellent sales in the first half of 2009 and our newer stores from the Bateman acquisition also performed well.” Vision Express acquired rival Bateman in May, 2008.

Linnington added: “This year has been more difficult, as the market continues to consolidate and become more competitive.”

He said Vision Express was “still performing well” though the optical market was in slight decline and that “it seems the independent opticians are suffering”. Vision Express fell from second-largest in market share behind Specsavers to third following the merger of Boots Opticians with Dollond & Aitchison.

Vision Express is also recruiting a new chief executive, as former boss Bryan Macgrath has moved to a consultant role within the group.

Other promotional initiatives Vision Express launched this year included a two-for-one deal on designer brands such as Hackett and Gant and this week it will launch a money-off recycling event. It has also launched a click-and-collect service online.

“With all our initiatives we are trying to help customers get the best value,” said Linnington. “It’s tough for everyone at the moment but we have lots up our sleeve.”