Specsavers launched its first audiology business in Australia on 30 August 2017 at Runaway Bay, Queensland. Specsavers Audiology Executive Director Darrel Magna offers further insight into how this new enterprise aligns with Specsavers’ vision of providing accessible healthcare to everyone, and how audiologists can benefit from the established Specsavers Joint Venture Partnership business model.

Why has Specsavers chosen to enter the Australian audiology market?
According to a 2006 report by Access Economics, one in six Australians experience hearing loss, yet only one in three does anything about it. Specsavers research conducted in February 2017 has also shown that half of Australians (57%) aged 18 years and over have experienced moments where they felt concerned about their hearing.

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on quality of life. If someone living with hearing loss is having difficulty joining in on conversations, this may lead them to feel embarrassed. They may start avoiding and withdrawing from social engagement and gradually become isolated. This social isolation, combined with a lack of independence, can lead to a variety of mental and physical conditions, especially if the individual is older.

Despite this, it takes most Australians 7-10 years to acknowledge they have hearing loss and start taking steps to address it.

By offering audiology, we’re providing truly accessible healthcare for our customers’ ears as well as their eyes. The earlier we detect and treat hearing loss, the less of an impact the problem will have on a person’s hearing long term.

Why has Specsavers chosen this timing to open Specsavers Audiology in Australia?
Our 325-strong optical store network now has a level of maturity and scale to enable us to open audiology businesses on a staged basis within those stores over the coming five years. The intention has long been to open Specsavers Audiology in Australia at the right moment, especially given that our model is tried and tested in more than 900 Specsavers Audiology businesses in Europe.

Earlier this year, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a report outlining its concerns surrounding the hearing aid sector. Did this have anything to do with the decision to open Specsavers Audiology in Australia?
No it didn’t, although it did provide further impetus to our plans. The ACCC report was published on Saturday, 3 March 2017, just one day before we announced our plans for Specsavers Audiology to our 700 optical store partners at the 2017 Specsavers Australia & New Zealand Partnership Seminar in Sydney. The ACCC report and story is available here: accc.gov.au/media-release/hearing-aid-sector-put-on-notice

How will Specsavers prices compare to incumbent audiology businesses in Australia?
Specsavers is well known for offering great value to customers and that means our overall package of professional service and high-quality products has to be as well priced as anything in the marketplace currently.

Importantly, we will bring a clear and transparent pricing model to the Australian audiology market from day one. Any customer can go to our audiology website and see for themselves how we price our products. That already sets us apart from the broader marketplace.

Specsavers Audiology pricing can be viewed at: specsavers.com.au/hearing/hearing-aids/digital-hearing-range-and-prices

What is the investment required for audiologists wanting to join the Specsavers Audiology franchise as an audiology partner?
Key details of the Specsavers Audiology franchise model is available within our Specsavers Audiology Partnership Prospectus, accessible at our information website audiology-anz.com

Although there are a range of set-up costs involved in the foundation of a new Specsavers Audiology business, including the cost of a sound booth and a number of modifications to the optical store set-up, the quantum of these costs depends on the size, scale and location of a new business. Because of the nature of the Specsavers Joint Venture Partnership franchise model, these costs are funded into the entity by Specsavers Pty Ltd. The only direct capital that each audiology franchise partner needs to introduce into their new joint venture business, is a $10,000 working capital loan. This is a capital loan into the business and is paid back to the partner over a period of up to three years.

Why does Specsavers offer a market-rate salary and superannuation package to all its partners?
We have always offered this as a sign of confidence in the Specsavers business model, as it demonstrates the level of belief we have in the future success of any store or business location we open with our partners. It’s also very important for new partners, especially those starting off in a new Specsavers business – we want them to be able to focus on providing a great service to their new customers, rather than worrying about money.

Among the various reasons that led to his decision to open a Specsavers Audiology business, Specsavers Audiology Runaway Bay owner Andrew Fraser noted that he had wanted to open a clinic locally on the Gold Coast. Why did he choose Specsavers over an existing audiology group?
Both Andrew and his sister Rochelle Fraser (owner of Specsavers Audiology Tweed City, which opened in New South Wales on 31 August 2017) had considered opening their own standalone audiology businesses on the Gold Coast. However, with nine national chains represented there, the risk was considered very high, especially given the fact that five of these are owned by the manufacturers they would need to buy their hearing device products from. Specsavers Audiology offers a support model that includes significant buying power on hearing device products, a reputation for marketing excellence and a ready-made optical customer base.

For more information on the Specsavers Audiology business, visit specsavers.com.au/hearing

For details on audiology partnership opportunities, visit audiology-anz.com