Having trained as an optician through a correspondence course, 24 year-old David Moulsdale launched David Moulsdale Holdings in Glasgow. The optical retail chain trading as “Optical Express” has in the last four years been growing 194.5% year-on-year — making it one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK. Sales have increased from £1.4m in 1994 to £36m in 1997. In 1994, there were 40 employees, and by the end of 1997, there were 935. Much of the growth has come through acquisition. For example, in 1997, the company acquired the chain Specialeyes – adding 69 stores to its stable of 181. Growing aggressively through acquisition hasn’t meant overlooking single store sales. Understanding that typical consumers buy new glasses only every couple of years, Moulsdale takes every opportunity to lure them back into his stores. After visiting a retail outlet, customers are called and quizzed about the service they received. Participation in the surveys earns customers a voucher for their next visit. Recently, Moulsdale won the Scottish Business Achievement Award. Despite such grand honours, fast growth has not always been easy. Soon after opening his third and highest profile store in the Gyle shopping centre, cash flow ran dry. His parents remortgaged their home so their son could meet the payroll. Today, Moulsdale has wide-eyed expansion plans. He’s looking for small chains that occupy highly sought after locations. In addition, he is considering a reverse take-over of a rival three times his company’s size. By the end of this year, he plans to open 12 more stores.
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