Optical Express

The Optical Express group of companies operate in a range of healthcare services including the optical, dental and cosmetic industries under the brand names Optical Express, The Dental Clinic, The Cosmetic Clinic and Bridgewater Hospital The group was founded in 1991 by David Moulsdale[4] with one Optical Express branch based in Leith, Edinburgh.[5] The company grew steadily following its establishment, acquiring the 11 stores of Remocker Shapiro in 1995,[6] and the 65 stores of Specialeyes PLC in 1997.[7]These were followed in 2001 by 34 stores from Co-op Eyecare,[8] and 14 more Scottish stores from Specdeals in 2002.[9]

Optical Express entered the refractive eye surgery market in 2002 when it acquired The Health Clinic which offered general ophthalmic procedures across slightly less than 20 locations in the UK. In 2004 it acquired the ophthalmic treatment assets of Boots Group plc from nine sites in the UK. It did not acquire Boots’ other optician assets.[2]

In 2004, Optical Express acquired two Free Vision Euro Eyes laser vision correction clinics in Amsterdam and The Hague,[10][11] marking the first large-scale UK optical chain to extend its laser vision correction business in the Netherlands.[12] Optical Express acquired the dentistry and laser eye surgery services of Alliance Boots in 2005 – the dental services now trade under the name `The Dental Clinic’.[13]

In June 2010 Optical Express was criticised by Which? and BBC Watchdog. Which? criticized Optical Express, along with other laser eye surgery providers Optimax and Ultralase, focusing on the concern that laser councillors consistently downplayed the risks of surgery[14]

In November 2012, Optical Express closed a subsidiary with 83 stores placed into administration and 40 store closures. In December 2012 Optical Express said it would open 40 new sites as laser consultation/treatment centres in 2013. Landlords expressed dismay that this closure happened two days after quarterly rents were due.[15][16] [17]

Accounts filed at Companies House for the calendar year 2011 reported a loss of £1.5 million, the previous year the company made a profit of nearly £6.9million.[18]

On 21 July 2013 Optical Express narrowly avoided being foreclosed by its lender RBS and Moulsdale averted administration by purchasing the bank’s loans.[19]

1 October 2013: Accounts filed at Companies House show DCM (Optical Holdings) recorded a pre-tax loss of £15.1m in the 12 months to 29 December 2012, wider than the £1.5m loss in the prior year. Founder David Moulsdale unveiled the intention to appoint an administrator for DCM Optical Clinic and then buy back 16 of the 19 stores.[20]

20 November 2013: British Member of Parliament John McDonnell introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill into Parliament calling for regulation of the refractive eye surgery, including laser eye surgery. Among the concerns raised by McDonnell was misleading advertising and he used the 17 complaints about Optical Express to the Advertising Standards Authority in 2011 as an example.[21]

In November 2013 a Competition Commission report into the merger of two rival companies reported that Optical Express share of the laser eye surgery market was nearly twice the size, and in intraocular lens surgery six times as big as both Optimax and Ultralase combined, the report concluded that the merger ofOptimax and Ultralase would not lessen competition in the market.[2]

In April 2014 a complaint by the company that rival Optimax had funded a protest website was dismissed by Nominet.[22]