Statement from Paul Bott, Executive Director and General Manager: Specsavers Pty Ltd
As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation continues to escalate in Australia and State and Federal Governments move to extend their restrictions, we have taken the decision to adapt our service model from midnight on Sunday 29thMarch. While Specsavers will remain open for urgent and essential care, we will hibernate our normal retail service.
Regrettably this means we will stand down all of our store team members for a month, from midnight on Sunday 29th March to Thursday 30th April. We hope to re-open all stores after this time although this will be dependent upon government and health department advice.
Urgent and essential care will be available via a combination of in-store, telephone and video* consultations. Full details of these services and which store locations will remain open is available – and will be constantly updated – on our website at Specsavers.com.au. Each store that remains open for essential care will be staffed by an optometrist store director and an optical dispensing director and, where an audiology business is present, by an audiologist director.
There are four main reasons behind the decision we have taken, and these relate to our Store Partners, our Team Members, our Community and supporting the nation in time of crisis.
Our Store Partners: Specsavers is a franchise partnership and each of our 350 Australian optical stores is owned and operated by optical professionals, being optometrist and optical dispensing partners. Similarly, our 150 Australian audiology businesses are each owned and operated by audiology professionals. Given the serious impact the Coronavirus has had on their revenues and cashflows, it is critically important that we act decisively now to help protect their businesses for the future so that when the current situation eases, they are in a position to open once again and service the eye care and hearing needs of their local communities. The decision we have taken therefore is aimed squarely at preserving and protecting 350 optometry and 150 audiology businesses that provide care services and significant numbers of jobs in their local communities.
Our Team Members: We want to ensure that our team members are safe during this difficult time in line with current and emerging health agency guidelines. This is important from an immediate health perspective, but it is also important as we look to the future once the Coronavirus threat is under control. Our teams are made up of optometrists, optical dispensers, retail specialists and audiology professionals and together they represent a highly skilled workforce that will be essential to the future provision of eye care and hearing services in all Australian communities. We are doing everything we can to support and guide all team members, working with the store partners that directly employ them. Our goal is that the businesses we support can continue to offer great career opportunities and a fulfilling livelihood for thousands.
Our Community: Specsavers store partners are responsible for meeting eye care, eyewear and audiology needs for almost four million Australians annually who have put their trust in us in growing numbers since we first opened for business in 2008. To repay the trust that exists between us in the local communities we serve, we will endeavour to maintain urgent and essential care throughout the country during this crisis. We have a loyal customer base and we thank every single patient and customer now for their continued support as we do everything we can to ensure the future wellbeing of the local Specsavers store in their community.
Supporting the nation: By remaining open for care, Specsavers aims to support the national healthcare effort. Priorities include looking after any immediate needs of health workers on the front line and other essential workers who are giving their all to support the nation through the Coronavirus. At the same time, offering urgent and essential eye care in-person, via video and audio platforms helps ensure that those with manageable eye care needs do not visit GP clinics or hospitals, whose resources are already stretched. Our goal is to support State and Federal Governments’ call to bring relief wherever possible to the hospital and broader healthcare system.
Finally, we are determined that by taking decisive action now to maintain essential care, protect business viability and preserve the future livelihoods of store team members we will help our local stores to survive the current crisis and thrive into the future.