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Glasses Direct expands through acquisition

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Internet retailer Glasses Direct is claiming the number one spot in the European online eyewear market after its parent company bought Sunglasses Shop for an undisclosed sum.

Between them the two sites are visited by more than eight million people a year, selling nearly a quarter of a million pairs of glasses a year, or one every two minutes. The two companies will continue to operate as separate brands, under the ownership of Glasses Direct parent company Prescription Eyewear.

The acquisition means Glasses Direct, founded in 2004 by then-university student James Murray Wells, has achieved a long-held ambition. Chief executive Kevin Cornils (pictured) said: “From day one we have set out to be the leader in online eyewear retailing. Glasses Direct pioneered the prescription glasses market with innovations like our unlimited Home Trial, providing advice from qualified opticians over the phone and our no quibble 14-day money-back guarantee.”

He added: “Sunglasses Shop is the clear leader in the sunglasses market, with an unbeatable selection of over 8,000 frames, all of which are carried in-stock and available for guaranteed next-day delivery.”

The combined business will now have more than 100 employees working from London, Swindon and Sunglasses Shop’s home of Southend-on-Sea. Sunglasses Shop has European sites live in 12 languages, including French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Daniel Puddick, managing director and founder of Sunglasses Shop, said: “Working closely with the management team and investors at Glasses Direct will allow us to greatly accelerate our plans to grow our business in the UK as well as expand our European business where we believe there is tremendous opportunity.

“We’re excited to be part of Prescription Eyewear Limited and we share Glasses Direct’s entrepreneurial vision to change the way people feel about buying eyewear online.”

The acquisition was supported by Glasses Direct’s existing investors, Index Ventures, Highland Capital Partners and Acton Capital Partners.

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