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Hirstlens again in private ownership

NZ Optics - June 1988

John Shennan and Ian Handricks have successfully negotiated the purchase of Hirstlens from the Receivers of Standard Optical.

The new owners took over on June 1, ending many months of frustration and hard work. Hirstlens (NZ) Limited will be owned and operated by John Shennan who has been in the optical industry for thirty years, twenty two of them with Hirstlens and Ian Handricks, who has been associated with the company for seventeen years.

"It was vital that the control of Hirstlens be retained by people who understood the nature of the business so that it could survive for the future. It is a very vulnerable and fragile business and for it to fall into the hands of people who didn’t know the industry, could have been disastrous," said Mr Shennan. The 15 Hirstlens staff will be retained and all services and products will remain unchanged.

"It was also important from an employment point of view that the current staff, many of whom have been with the company for many years and have much valuable experience, be retained." Mr Hirst sold Hirstlens in 1976 to New Zealand Optical and he acted as a consultant until 1980.

"Gene Hirst installed in us a great deal of pride and loyalty to Hirstlens and he encouraged us to develop the contact lens market and this is what has really driven us over the past year or so," said Mr Handricks. Both the new owners are determined for the company to develop to it’s full potential, something they feel could have happened over the years if it hadn’t been held back for various reasons.

"Since Hirstlens was sold by Mr Hirst, we feel that it has been stifled and sometimes the reasons have been very good but the promises never came to fruition. There has been a long history of Hirstlens contributing to the industry and profession and we wanted to see that continue."

Both the owners feel that a period of transition will take place for a short period whilst the changeover from corporate ownership to private ownership takes place but no major changes are planned except for improving distribution and communication. "New telephone equipment, an after-hours answering service and an improved courier service are some of the initial changes we have made," said Mr Handricks.

Future planning involves the launching of some new "home-grown" products both in the lens area and in the area of product promotion. Additionally, both would like to see the company getting into export markets too.

"We want to service the New Zealand optical community first - we are not going to get side-tracked running export orders to the detriment of the local market. We would certainly like to look at this possibility within the next twelve months. We believe that we can be cost competitive with other markets but cost is not the only issue. The product and the packaging of the product is just as important," said Mr Handricks. "In New Zealand there are a number of optometrists who are forming optical research groups and we would very much like to work with these groups to develop New Zealand generated designs.

"We do want to develop a series of non-lens based products to help general understanding of public awareness of contact lenses and we would like to do this through the Contact Lens Society’ said Mr Handricks.

Hirstlens will continue to represent Alcon and Allergan aftercare products. In addition the company will be selling Eycon lenses, an Australian manufactured soft toric. Congratulations and best wishes flowed into the company after the announcement of the purchase was made.

"We have been encouraged by practitioners nation-wide and the support has been overwhelming. We are very grateful to everyone,’ they said. Hirstlens will remain at the existing premises for the immediate future and existing telephone and fax numbers have been retained. However their new postal address will be Private Bag 9, St Lukes, Auckland.

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