Local business owner has clear vision for the future

Providing outstanding customer service has helped an Alloa business attract clients from all over the world. 

Now, Smart Specs, which has welcomed customers from Rio de Janeiro, New Zealand, Australia and Italy through its doors, is getting ready to celebrate its fifth birthday on June 11.

Using over 25 years’ experience working in optics, owner, Anne-Marie Macklin launched the optical dispensary in the High Street in 2011 after gaining advice from Business Gateway Clackmannanshire.

Since then the business has thrived, with customers visiting the shop time and time again confident they’ll leave with the perfect pair of spectacles.

Anne-Marie said: “I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved so far, and believe the secret to my success is excellent customer service, outstanding choice and unbelievable value. These three things combined have enticed people from far flung places to pack their prescriptions so they can buy spectacles from us when they visit family in the town.  

“I’ve great plans, including opening another three stores in the next two years so that I can bring more choice and flexibility to the marketplace. At present, my clients can walk away wearing frames with single vision lenses that have an anti-reflective coating for just £19, and my 3-for-1, and ‘You & Another’ deals allow customers to use different prescriptions in each pair of spectacles. I want to be able to offer to even more people that kind of value and expanding will allow me to do that.”

Having started out in optics in 1990, Anne-Marie worked her way up to become branch manager at a leading high street opticians before taking on the role of Store Support Manager, which saw her travel throughout the UK, Holland and Ireland visiting different branches each week. 

After six years, Anne-Marie decided working away from home 47 weeks of the year was taking its toll. She gave up her job and moved into a different sector only to be drawn back to optics, when the optician’s branch she worked in closed it gave her the push she needed to open her own dispensary.

She said: “I love optics. It gets into your blood. There’s nothing more satisfying than helping someone find glasses that not only suit them but fit them perfectly. When I’d decided to launch Smart Specs I went to Business Gateway with my idea. I knew the optical side of things and what business model would work, but I needed help with the day-to-day running of the business – from HMRC, contracts and marketing to premises and funding. 

“I run a small business in a small town and you can sometimes become blinkered. Even now, touching base with my adviser helps me take a step back and makes me look at the bigger picture of where I am, where I want to be and how I can get there. Their reassurance always gives me added confidence that I’m on the right track.”

Michelle Carr, Business Gateway, said: “Anne-Marie has used her vast experience to set up a thriving business, engaging with our services throughout the past five years to help her lay out a clear vision for the future. As an established business, she understands the benefits of tapping into our advice as and when she needs it. We’ll continue to be on hand to help her achieve her growth plans.”

For more information on Smart Specs visit www.alloasmartspecs.com. 

To find out how Business Gateway Clackmannanshire can help your business call 01259 208426 or visit www.bgateway.com/clackmannanshire.