DOUG Perkins described himself as ‘average’ as he stood on stage at the annual reunion of the Llanelli Grammar School old boys and Graig Comprehensive Former Pupils Association at the Stradey park Hotel on Friday (Oct 6). Dressed in a smart blue suit he told the audience of some 150 people about his humble beginnings in Llanelli and how he attended the Boys’ Grammar School before going to Cardiff University. His profession in optometry led him to open his first five shops, which he admits was a scary time not least because he says, the bank kept checking that his home was still there in case they needed to take it back.
The bank needn’t have worried. This ‘average’ young Llanelli man quickly built up one of the most successful businesses in the U.K. Specsavers Optical Group Ltd is a British optical retail chain, operating globally, which offers “optician services”, along with eyeglasses, contact lenses and hearing aids. In 2012 it had the largest single market share of the four major opticians, with 42% of the market within the United Kingdom.
The company had a total turnover of £1.5 billion in 2010/2011 and £1.7 billion in 2012, with 1,648 branches in the United Kingdom, Guernsey, Jersey, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand. Not bad for a boy from Llanelli.
The event attracted a large number of former pupils many of who had been school mates of Doug Perkins. Amongst the audience were Lee Waters AM/AC, Nia Griffith MP, the Mayor of Llanelli Cllr Jeff Edmunds and the Chairman of Llanelli Rural Council John Evans.
Following a sumptuous dinner guests were treated to a musical interlude courtesy of Andy Pike and Soprano Keely Morgan of the Loud Applause Rising Stars. There was also a raffle and an auction of items including artwork by John Wynne Hopkins.
We asked some of the former pupils what they thought of the Specsavers giant’s success
Local businessman Paul Oram said: “It is astonishing really. He started out with one shop and believed in what he was doing. He took the risks and had the courage of his convictions. It has been a great opportunity to meet Doug who is working in the global community. He has built up a business that has been built up for people. It is a fantastic story and a testament to his courage.”
George Parker said: “It has been an excellent evening and we are supporting young people through the charity. Doug is also a great supporter of charities. He has gone on to achieve ultimate success in business. He has a serious passion for what he does.”
One of the organisers Claire Rumble said: “We have raised close to £3,000 and it was wonderful to see 150 people. Doug Perkins is one of Wales’ billionaires and it has been an honour to have him here this evening.I am sure he has enjoyed meeting his old school friends.”
Others commented, “He is an exceptional but humble man. It was very generous of him to give of his time and extraordinary when you realise how many people he has helped here in the U.K. and abroad.”
Speaking to Llanelli Online Mr Perkins said: ” I was born in Alban Road and went to Park Street school and the Llanelli Boys Grammar and had a fantastic education there. I went on to Cardiff but essentially I have been living outside of Wales. My father was a policeman and my mother was from a farming community in the Ammanford area. They were both Welsh speaking. I went to the local chapel and we valued that time. I studied for a long time including management studies and finance but I had a fundamental belief based on my upbringing in the value for money concept in particular the price and the quality of service and that is what Specsavers is based on.”
Read the full interview with Doug Perkins on Llanelli Online soon.