Virtual Bristol Distinguished Address: Doug Perkins, Chair and Founder and Dame Mary Perkins, Co-founder, Specsavers

This event has now passed.

Date: 04 November 2020
Venue: Online Event
Time: 18:30-19:30

Building the World's Largest High Street Optics and Audiology Brand

Doug and Dame Mary Perkins founded Specsavers with the aim of offering affordable eye care to everyone. They will talk about how they saw the opportunity to revolutionise the optical market, following a relaxation of UK regulations, which allowed opticians to advertise products and services for the first time.

Specsavers is not built on a stock exchange model but rather on a unique joint venture partnership, where directors part-own and manage their own stores. Theirs is a values-led approach to business, which has led to a world-wide organisation that turns over 3 billion a year, operating in 10 countries and employing 35,000 colleagues.

Doug and Dame Mary met in Cardiff while studying optometry at university. After graduating they bought Mary's father's optometry business in her home town of Bristol, which they built into a successful chain of more than 20 stores across the south west. This provided invaluable experience when they set up Specsavers.

With Mary being Bristol-born and educated and Doug living in Bristol for 15 years (and even playing for Bristol rugby club), they will describe how their business experience in Bristol acted as an extended pilot for the birth of Specsavers and inspired their vision for affordable eyecare and audiology at scale.

After selling their original chain of stores, it took a further three years of worldwide research of partnership and franchises, which were unheard of in the medical sector, to create their unique business model.

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  • 18:25 - Join the talk online
  • 18:30 - 19:30 - Lecture including Q&A

How to join

We've closed registration for this event, but you can still join by following this link at 18:30.


Doug Perkins FCOptom DCLP

A renowned entrepreneur and a leading figure in optometry and audiology, Doug is Chairman of Specsavers Senior Executive Committee, and is also responsible for the advancement of professional standards and supporting the regulatory agenda across all markets.

Doug is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers and has Honorary Fellowships from Cardiff and Swansea Universities and Honorary Doctorates from Anglia University and Plymouth. He is a past member of the Institute of Directors Committee in Guernsey and a past member of the Government Strategic Forum in Guernsey.

Born in Wales, Doug has maintained his Welsh connections - he was an initial fund supporter for Ty Hafan, a children's hospice in South Wales, and has been personally involved in raising $70,000 for Seeing Eye Dogs Australia and $0.5m for The Fred Hollows Foundation in Australia and New Zealand.

Dame Mary Perkins DBE FBOA

Dame Mary Perkins is co-founder of Specsavers with her husband Doug and is also a board member of the Senior Executive Committee. A qualified and registered optometrist for more than 50 years, Dame Mary plays an active role in the business in many areas, including driving customer service standards, championing values and shaping corporate responsibility.

Well known for her philanthropy, Dame Mary is passionately involved with numerous charities and was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2007 for her services to charity and business in Guernsey. She has also won the most outstanding Woman in Business Award and in 2017 received the EY Lifetime Achievement Award. She is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers and a Freeman of the City of London.

Dame Mary places huge value on putting people first and encourages all areas of the business to support their local community.

About the Bristol Distinguished Address Series

The Bristol Distinguished Address Series provides a unique opportunity to hear about the challenges, issues and decisions being made at the highest level of strategic leadership.

The series is delivered by the Bristol Business School in partnership with ACCA, Bristol City Council, Bristol Creative Industries, Bristol Junior Chamber, Bristol Law Society, Business West, CBI, CIPD, CIPFA, CMI, FSB, IoD, ICAEW and the West of England Combined Authority.

Event recording

All addresses will be recorded and we will aim to make them available as a video on YouTube one week after the lecture, subject to approval of the speaker and no technical difficulties with the recording. Podcasts from previous series can be viewed on our previous address archive.

Media queries

Please contact the Media Relations office if you have a media query about this event, email


If you have any access requirements, please email the Events Team at or ring us on the number below.

UWE Bristol aims to ensure, as much as possible, that all our public events are fully accessible. Early notice of access requirements is much appreciated.

Cost: Free
Contact: Events Team
Telephone: +44(0)117 32 84517

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