Our first year with Specsavers – Nanaimo Woodgrove

Seija Gilks, Retail Partner, and Dr. Ian Scholfield, Optometry Partner, at the Specsavers Nanaimo location
Seija Gilks, Retail Partner, and Dr. Ian Scholfield, Optometry Partner, at the Specsavers Nanaimo location

Specsavers’ first Canadian location, Specsavers Nanaimo, has officially turned one this November. We are so proud of the many milestones that we’ve reached this year and are beyond excited to continue changing lives of Canadians through better sight. As we end our first year in Canada and prepare for 2023, we’ll be featuring stories from our very own Specsavers partners across Canada. Starting off this series is Dr. Ian Scholfield, optometry partner, and Seija Gilks, retail partner, who opened up Specsavers’ first location in Canada. Read below to see what their first year was like:

Q – As our first partner, you wouldn’t have known about Specsavers from other Canadian locations. How did you first hear about Specsavers? 

Seija: I came across a video called “Your Eyes are Priceless” which was a social experiment done by Specsavers where they asked strangers the monetary value they would take in exchange for their vision. The goal was to help elevate the perception around the value of getting your eyes checked. I was very moved by it. 

Ian: Actually, I’m from England originally and Specsavers is a very successful, global eyecare company that originated in Guernsey, UK. Prior to coming to Canada in 2001, I was working for Specsavers for a while.  

Q – Why did you decide to join Specsavers? 

Seija: In the past, I volunteered with a nonprofit charity that provided eyecare to children and adults who could not afford vision care or glasses in their local communities. Being able to help people get glasses who have never been able to see the world clearly, was one of my favourite experiences. I wanted an opportunity to help people in my own community get affordable eye care, as I knew that was not something that was currently available.  

The other thing that was really exciting to me about Specsavers was the potential to grow and develop a business. For too many years I saw no financial impact for my team or myself- despite growing a business significantly for a national chain year after year. I wanted a chance to be able to treat my team the way I wanted to be treated all those years, and to feel proud of creating a place that genuinely puts patient care as the number one priority, before the amount that those patients are spending. 

Ian: Having experienced working with Specsavers before in the UK, it was not a difficult decision at all! I’ve always liked their approach to eyecare and was excited to hear that they were coming to Canada. It was an opportunity that I could not turn down.  

Q – How has your first year been as a partner? What are some of the highlights of your partnership? 

Seija: It has been absolutely amazing! Better than I could have expected. My team has grown from 9 to 15 people, we have sold 8,200 pairs of glasses and my team, Dr. Scholfield and I, have witnessed hundreds of platinum moments. It’s been an incredible first year, and I can’t wait for year two! 

Ian: Being a partner was a completely new experience and a learning curve for me, as I had previously only been a locum optometrist and had a small mobile business. As the year has progressed, the business has become progressively stronger and more productive with the help of excellent team training and ongoing in-house support. Having access to a large clinic with multiple exam rooms equipped with “wow” factor, high-tech equipment has been a highlight for me. Not to mention the awesome selection of frames and contact lenses that patients now have access to. 

Q – What was your biggest challenge this year? 

Seija: The demand for eye exams at Woodgrove has been so much higher than anyone could have predicted that we’re eager to add more optometrists to keep up with appointments. Also, being the first store doesn’t come without some hiccups, but I couldn’t have asked for a better, more dedicated support team. 

Ian: One of the biggest learning curves for me was setting up my own incorporated optometric business, I was quite new to this as I have never started my own business before. Also, seeking a full-time associate optometrist to keep up with the demand for eye exams at the clinic. 

Q – What is the best part about being a partner at Specsavers? 

Seija: Pride. I’m so proud of my team, my business partner, Dr. Scholfield, my store, the support office, myself and of course the brand. What we are doing is so unique and I am so proud of the impact we are making in Canada. Customers tell me all the time, “Wow! Where has a place like this been all these years since I’ve worn glasses!?” I am so grateful to be a part of that! 

Ian: The best part about being a partner at Specsavers is being a part of a much bigger team. Everyone from the support office to the clinic staff shares the same goal of leading the way in Canadian eyecare excellence,  

Q – How has your location been doing over the past year?  

Seija: In the first year, we sold over 8,000 pairs of glasses, exceeding our expectations. In our second year, we are working towards having 30%-40% more growth. More and more patients are telling their friends and family, and quickly spreading the word about the amazing prices, quality products and comprehensive eye exams that include OCT. 

Ian: Specsavers Woodgrove has gone from strength to strength as the (mostly unknown) Specsavers group has hit the Canadian market. Customers are realizing the benefits of accessible eyecare and our patient/customer base is rapidly increasing. I feel that the business is a huge asset to the surrounding community and will continue to be so.  

Watch film