Optical Express parent suffers loss as it is hit by high street gloom

DCM (Optical Holdings), the company behind Optical Express, have reported losses
DCM (Optical Holdings), the company behind Optical Express, have reported losses
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THE tough retail trading environment has taken its toll on David Moulsdale’s high street healthcare empire, pushing the group to a hefty loss.

DCM (Optical Holdings), the Cumbernauld-based company behind the Optical Express chain, slumped to a £1.5 million pre-tax loss in 2011 from a profit of £6.8m in 2010 as turnover fell 8 per cent to £188m from £205m.

Difficult trading conditions at the group had been flagged in October when the company announced it was closing down an unprofitable subsidiary with 40 stores.

In their report to the accounts the directors – who include the former head of PwC’s Scottish operation Frank Blin and ex-First Minister Lord McConnell as non-executives – highlighted the impact of the “significant economic slowdown” and lack of consumer confidence.

It also said it had taken action to cut costs, including closing a number of stores as part of a restructuring, and had reduced its debt by £4.7m during the year.

“The directors are confident that the restructured group is best placed to maximise its return going forward from its broad spectrum of clientele including an ever-ageing population,” said the directors. The company said it expected economic conditions and consumer confidence to remain challenging in the short and 
medium term but that it continues to look to grow organically and through acquisition.

The pay package of the highest-paid director, thought to be Moulsdale, was unchanged at just over £500,000.

The number of staff employed dipped to 1,998 from 2,043.

The company has grown into one of the UK’s biggest opticians after buying up several rivals. It also offers laser eye surgery and private dentistry.

At the time of the closure of the stores under its Optical Express (Southern) subsidiary, Bryan Jackson of administrator PKF said that in common with other retailers the group had been “adversely affected by difficult trading conditions, a reduction in consumer confidence, and the negative impact of the subdued economy”.

“The decision to close one part of the group is intended to strengthen the remainder of the company and ensure it can operate successfully in the future,” he added.

Optical Express (Southern) had a turnover of £97m in the year to 1 January 2011.

Stores on Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, in the St James Centre, Edinburgh, and a store in Dunfermline closed as part of the restructuring although at the time the company said it expected fewer than 20 people would be affected in Scotland and that those who could not be redeployed would be offered the chance to retrain for its call centre operations. The group has around 990 employees in Scotland.

At the time of Blin’s appointment to the board in February, he said he would be supporting the board in dealing “with some short-term trading challenges but, more importantly, the strategic development of the business”.