Tell us about Seen Opticians...
On the window of our store is written pioneers of original eyewear and that’s what we’ve been all about since seen opened in 2005. Eyewear is our world. We seek out superior and original eyewear from around the world and bring it back to Manchester.
Our clients come to us because we style them with eyewear that allows them to show their personality and individuality and into these frames we fit the best lenses. We do contact lenses but that side of the business is not what gets me out of bed every morning!
What makes Seen Opticians unique from other independent opticians?
Identity and personality. As I said, it’s clear to the team, our clients and potential clients what we’re about and what we stand for. The way our team present themselves, the way we talk about eyewear and style, the level of detail we go into on sales training and the importance we place on knowing what will suit both the face AND personality of the client is huge for us.
We’re a forward thinking company with a young heart. This means we’re always pushing the seen brand forward. That keeps the team motivated and the clients love it.
Global eyewear is at the heart of Seen Opticians. How do you source the latest eyewear?
The obvious places are Silmo (Paris), Mido (Milan) and OptiMunich. However, we’ve got a good reputation in the independent eyewear world so a lot of designers approach us. That means we’re often one of the first stores in the UK to get access to some of the finest designers and collections in the world.
What are the most exciting trends in eyewear at the moment?
The most exciting thing is that eyewear itself is a trend! A huge trend at the moment. I mean kids finally want to wear glasses and adults are finally realising its socially acceptable to wear sunglasses even if they’re not on holiday!
In terms of style trends I’m putting faith that people will move away from tortoise shell panto frames eventually! And I hope towards colour. It’s a slow move but I’d like to think we’ll be at the forefront of educating our clients to begin wearing frames with colour.
What are the main challenges facing independent opticians?
Being good is no longer good enough. Giving good service or doing ‘a good test' is no longer a USP, people expect great service, great product knowledge and great product selection.
If it’s true that supersavers are making a play for the health care market and possibly the NHS contract, then big trouble lies ahead for a large number of practices that have relied on “giving good eyecare” over the years. Also a lot of practices look terrible with minimal effort in branding, retail design and display. I think of places I and many other people enjoy being - hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and bars, the best ones create individual and enjoyable spaces to spend time and spend money!
Do you feel as though Brexit will affect the UK eyewear market?
In terms of overheads, it already has with increasing import costs due to the weakening £ (at time of writing). Brexit shouldn’t affect most people in the UK so why should it stop them buying glasses. We just need to perhaps work harder to make the sales. Seen grew 20% over 2008 and 2009 in the worst economic client for 3 generations. The sad fact is that the media dictates how the market place reacts, we could talk ourselves into a problem or we can talk about a positive future, I know which message I’ll be keeping in my head.
What’s the big dream for yourself and Seen Opticians?
In the near term, I’m in the process of expanding the store to bigger premises and growing the team. We’re going to change the way we retail our eyewear and I believe we’ll create an even more unique experience. We’re also in the process of launching a couple of new brands to the UK which is exciting for the team and our clients. We have an online commerce platform which is growing and I’d love to see that become a self-sustaining business with its own team in the near future.
I have a young family and the big dreams weren’t as important as my personal life, so right now I love spending time with the family but watch this space. I know the future is bright...
Will you be attending 100% Optical 2017? If so, why?
Of course i will, I’ve been to every one so far and that is unlikely to change. Not blowing smoke up your backsides, but 100% is clearly the leading UK optics trade fair when it comes to eyewear and that is my business world, so it’s essential to go and see what the industry is up to.
Tareq Moustafa, Head Honcho and Optometrist, Seen Opticians