Marks & Spencer is to take on health retail giants such as Boots and Specsavers by opening opticians branches across its estate.

M&S Opticians 'virtual try-on' feature on website

M&S Opticians includes a website enabling customers to try on glasses virtually

Following a trial of the venture, run in partnership Owl Optical, Marks & Spencer will open opticians in 55 stores over the next 18 months.

At present M&S Opticians operates in 12 M&S stores and through a standalone website, enabling customers to try on glasses virtually as well as book appointments and make purchases.

M&S Opticians sells own- and third-party branded frames and typically trades from excess space as the retailer builds its online capabilities and adds complementary services.

Pandemic drives concerns over healthcare

Tthe UK opticians market generates annual sales of £4bn, and M&S said the service has been in demand as people become increasingly health-conscious following the Covid pandemic. Many were unable to receive eyecare during lockdowns.

M&S group property, store development and IT director Sacha Berendji said: “We know our customers trust us to deliver first-rate specialist services and M&S Opticians is just the latest example of this. 

“Feedback from our trial showed that customers loved the convenience of having an opticians within our store, and we’re really excited to be introducing the service to more stores.”

Owl Optical chair Nicholas Georgevic said: “Following a very successful trial, we are extremely excited by the expansion plan for M&S Opticians.

“Working in partnership with M&S, we aim to offer a market-leading optical and hearing care service across the whole of the UK.”