admin Comment:0 Category: News Date: February 1, 2024

Daniel Barnes and Lina Tejoprayitno, co-founders of Pop Specs,
opened the first store in 2021, just as shopping centres were re-
opening after the second Covid-19 lockdown. The company now
has 11 shops in cities including London, Manchester and
Newcastle, with sales of close to E2 million in its latest financial
Barnes, 43, had run his own high-end optician’s shop in Chester
for 20 years before he met Tejoprayitno on an MBA course. The
pair saw an opportunity to sell glasses more cheaply than big
high street names such as Specsavers by not employing in-store
opticians to carry out eye tests, and to compete with online
retailers by offering a same-day service and the chance to try
glasses on in person.

Convincing shopping centresto let you open a site isstill
not easy

Despite the vacancies left by retailers that have gone out of
business, it is really hard to get into shopping malls if you’re not
a recognised brand. When we were looking for our first site, we
found it extremely difficult to talk to the right person. What got
us into our first site in the Trafford Centre in Manchester was a
bit of luck — I had been given the name of a senior person there
by someone I knew, and the day I spoke to him it turned out his
son had broken his glasses. Our business model was that we

could make a pair of glasses in 20 minutes, but he had been told
it would take days to get his son’s specs fixed. Luckily I had the
right lens in stock and was able to show we could do it as fast as
we said. After that, we signed an initial six-month contract.
Once we were in the Trafford Centre, we were able to open a
second kiosk in Manchester in the Arndale Centre within a year,
and then I knew I wanted to get into London. Because we had a
track record, we started to get calls from owners there including
Westfield. Our goal is to get to between 100 and 150 kiosks,
using a franchise model. Of our 11 stores to date, three are

Contacts and experience go a long way
I had worked in my parents’ optician since I was seven years
old, and ran my own shop for two decades. I was sure there was
a gap between online, which offered good prices but with no
customer service, and the big high street retailers, which
advertised glasses for £15 but when you go in there’s everything
up to £900. They have to cover the cost of the opticians doing
the eye tests, plus the store space, so they can’t be as cheap as

I had got to know the factories where the main manufacturers
have their frames made, and I was able to approach them about
making frames for me, which I could sell more cheaply because
we only stock our own brand and wouldn’t have the same
marketing overheads as designer brands. For lenses and the
equipment to make glasses in-store, I approached Essilor, also a
company I had worked with for a long time. They knew my past
sales record, so were willing to negotiate on a rate I could afford
for the new business.

I treated the new businesslike it was my only chance

I kept my previous business open for the first year after setting
up Pop Specs. But I moved from my home in Chester and lived
in a room in a shared house in Manchester. I needed to feel like
everything was on the line. When we opened in May 2021,
people were only gradually starting to come back to shopping in
person, and the weather was good so no one really wanted to go
to a shopping centre. My co-founder, Lina, also caught Covid
just as we opened so I was there on my own, thinking, “I had a
three-month waiting list in my last shop”.
I talked to everyone who stopped to have a look, and when we
did have a customer I put a handwritten note in the case with
the new glasses. That’s something we still do now. Eventually,
word of mouth started to spread that we could make glasses the
same day.
We haven’t raised outside funding — every shop has to pay its
way, and helps to pay for the next one.

People have to come to us with their glasses prescriptions, and I
knew this would start to annoy the opticians who offer free or
cheaper eye tests with the expectation that people will buy their
glasses in the same shop. We’re the little guy, so when we open a
new site I go to the big opticians near by and tell them what
we’re doing, and position us as another rival to online. Now,
some of the big chains will pay us to make glasses quickly for
customers who really need them.

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