Vision Express has delivered a 20% increase in pre-tax profits, generating £18.5m in 2011 as it drove sales volume and highlighted value across the year.

For the year to December 31, like-for-like sales “modestly” increased as customers responded to Vision Express’s  product offering and it ensured it offered customers a range from value to luxury.

Chief executive Jonathan Lawson, who joined last March, said the pre-tax profit advance was due in part to one-off costs taken in 2010.

But he observed: “Value for money is extremely important but at the same time brands are continuously important to customers. We are a mid- market retailer and want to offer broad appeal.”

The optician now offers glasses frames starting from £29 up to premium brands such as Dior. It has also experienced demand for its two-for-one offers on designer glasses.

Vision Express reported that its online eye test booking service had also improved customer engagement.

Lawson said service had become more important in the current economic climate.

He said: “We focus heavily on what the customer wants. We are focused on driving service too and have introduced mystery shoppers, which we have linked to store targets.

“Service is critical. Loyalty among customers is priceless and in a challenging environment customers are more likely to reward retailers if they see a high standard of service and value for money.”

In the current year Lawson said a “flat” performance so far was in line with expectations.

He added: “We are not attempting to be the largest optical retailer but we want to be the best. We are concentrating on improving profitability.”

Lawson will also seek to run the store network as cost-efficiently as possible. He said: “Over the next four years, 50% of our store portfolio is coming up for lease renewal and we will enter discussions with our landlords on those.”

The retailer has 328 shops. It opened three last year and one is planned for the current year.