Big W exits optometry; will close 41 stores, 175 jobs affected

Woolworths Group has confirmed it will close its entire 41-store Big W Optical business, affecting 175 staff, amid a slew of cutbacks at the company.

Confirmation of the closure of Big W’s optical business – which the company expects to be completed by early July – comes as Woolworths announces it will close 30 of its Big W stores over the next three years, representing 16% of its store network.

In explaining the reason behind the closure of Big W Optical, a company spokesperson told Insight: “As part of our strategic review, we are working toward building a stronger and more profitable Big W for the future and therefore we have made the decision to focus on categories that are core for our customers.”

In June 2016 Big W Optical operated 27 stores, expanding to its current number over the following years.

The wider closures across Big W follows a review of its 183 stores nationally. The decision is expected to cost Woolworths approximately $370 million and will impact the supermarket giant’s 2019 profit results.

“As foreshadowed at our half year 2019 results, while the recovery in trading for Big W is encouraging and there rains further opportunity for improvement, the speed of conversion to earnings improvement is taking longer than planned,” Mr Brad Banducci, Woolworths Group CEO, said.

“This decision will lead to a more robust and sustainable store and DC network that better reflects the rapidly changing retail environment. It will accelerate our turnaround plan through a more profitable store network, simplifying current business processes, improving stock flow and lowering inventory.”

Big W’s optometry department was launched in 2007 to compete with major optical chains.

Liquidators appointed to Healy Optical Group

Australian eyewear distributor Healy Optical Group has been placed into liquidation, after almost 45 years in business.

A staff member at its Sydney office in Lane Cove West confirmed the company’s financial troubles when contacted by Insight, however, representatives were unavailable for comment and said to be occupied in meetings.

According to a notice on the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) website, company mbers agreed at a general meeting on 8 March to wind up Healy Optical Group, and approved the appointment of liquidators Mr Michael Hogan and Mr Brendan Copeland from the accounting firm HoganSprowles.

ASIC records state the company was registered in Tasmania in 1982, and lists Mr David Healy, of Mosman, New South Wales, as the company director and majority shareholder.

According to the Healy Optical Group website, its business activities actually date back seven years earlier to 1975, when it began operating as a regional optical frames and accessories wholesaler. It claims that the company continued to expand throughout Australia and New Zealand to eventually become a leading independent distributor of sunglasses and optics in high-end fashion and mainstream brands.

The company – which had at least 49 stockists – represented international fashion brands such as Tom Ford, Roberto Cavalli, Tods, Dsquared2, Lafont, Swarovski, Mont Blanc and Balenciaga & Cat. Its business also extended into distribution of spectacle cases, cleaning cloths and clip on sunglasses.

Insight sought comment from the HoganSprowles liquidators and Healy Optical Group managent, however, there was no response at the time of publication.

It is unclear what led to the liquidation, how much creditors claim to be owed, or what the future holds for the company’s ployees.

However, according to the ASIC website, the liquidators’ role will now entail collation, protection and realisation of the company’s assets, an investigation and creditors’ report into the company affairs, an inquiry into its failure and, finally, distribution of proceeds to creditors.