Audio wearables company Nuheara (ASX: NUH) has unveiled a further extension to its growing distribution network via a deal with UK-based optical and hearing retailer Specsavers Optical Group.
The agreement between the two companies means Nuheara’s proprietary IQBuds and IQBuds BOOST products will be sold by Specsavers and will be made available for Specsavers’ “audiologists” who will be able to recommend and sell Nuheara’s affordable, multifunctional, self-fitting hearing devices to those customers that are not yet ready to receive a hearing aid but still need support in the mild to moderate hearing loss category.
According to the terms of the deal, Nuheara’s products will initially be trialled in the Sussex Specsavers store with a view to increased roll-out over the course of 2019.
Specsavers is a British brand that was first founded in 1984 and has since established a significant global market footprint over the past 30 years.
The chain offers optician services for eyesight testing and sells glasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses. However, since 2002 the retailer has also stocked a range of hearing aids as a supplement to its vision-focused products.
“We are delighted to welcome a powerhouse of global optical retail, Specsavers, to the Nuheara fold. Optical chains globally are transforming the accessibility and affordability of hearing products and are strongly positioned to support the customer journey across both their eye-care and hearing needs,” said Justin Miller, chief executive officer of Nuheara.
Nuheara is keen to expand its UK market presence and has already made a meaningful step in the right direction after its IQBuds BOOST product was selected by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) in a “world first” hearing aid supply contract that is set to commence in April 2019.
Nuheara will provide the agency’s hearing solutions for adults and children with mild to moderate hearing loss with the Specsavers deal announced today likely to serve as a neat supplement that further boosts Nuheara’s growth in the UK market.
According to Nuheara, Specsavers is already a “champion of the NHS” given that 60% of its 17.3 million UK customers are sourced from the NHS, with Specsavers currently ranking as the largest private provider of free NHS digital hearing aids.
Furthermore, Specsavers provides support to remote UK regions that cannot be serviced by NHS hospital-based audiological services.
Optical and audible market presence
With revenues in excess of £2.6 billion (A$4.55 billion), Specsavers is the UK’s largest optical retailer that serves more than 36 million customers and employs in excess of 32,500 people across 1,978 stores in the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia and New Zealand.
Significantly, Specsavers was one of Europe’s pioneers in adopting a “cross-over sales approach” that merges optical and audiology products. Audiology services now operate in more than 900 optical stores, including Australia, and sold 337,770 hearing aids last financial year.
In addition to selling hearing products, Specsavers also offers what it calls “audiological services” that aim to assist both public-sector and private patients.
Specsavers has obtained accreditation by over half of the NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups in England to provide NHS hearing services in local community settings, helping people to get the assistance they need with their hearing closer to home.
This means that people in some areas of the country who need help with their hearing do not necessarily need to go to a hospital to get the care they need, but instead, can choose to go to a local Specsavers store.
At all NHS-accredited locations, “Specsavers offer a full clinical assessment, and fitting of hearings aids where appropriate, as well as ongoing aftercare as required,” according to the retailer.
With its products being stocked by Specsavers, Nuheara can expect to see much greater market traction for its products and expand its addressable market audience significantly in the near future.
“The handheld consultative sales approach presented by optical chains has proven to be a successful model in nurturing and growing the sales opportunities within retail outlets. As such, we expect to continue to see significant growth in the number of optical chains presenting Nuheara products globally”, said Mr Miller.