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Duncan & Todd undergoes £1.3m refurbishment

Caledonian Optical, the lens manufacturing division of Duncan & Todd Group, is poised for expansion following the completion of a £1.3m refurbishment at its laboratory in Aberdeen, thanks to the support of BGF.

Duncan & Todd has invested in state-of-the-art optical manufacturing equipment for the site, including a £500,000 in-house coating facility, making it the only Scotland-based prescription lens manufacturer to have this capability.

The company has also installed a second machine line, doubling the capacity in the laboratory.  Installing the equipment has already cut turnaround times to market leading lows.  This is part of a continual investment programme with a further £250,000 planned during 2016 to complete the automation of the production line.

As well as producing lenses for Duncan & Todd, which is Scotland’s largest independent optician, Caledonian Optical supplies clients at other opticians and laboratories throughout the UK and Ireland.

Investing in the new equipment will fuel Caledonian Optical’s expansion plan, under which the company aims to double its revenues from external customers.

BGF invested £5.6m into Duncan & Todd in December 2013, with part of the funding used to refurbish and expand Caledonian Optical’s manufacturing facility.

BGF made a £3.5m follow-on investment into the business in February 2015 to fund its acquisition of 2020 Opticians, a chain with six branches in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and fuel further expansion.  At the same time, RBS also provided additional senior debt facilities.

Frances Duncan, managing director at Duncan & Todd, said: “The investment made by BGF has enabled us to buy this new manufacturing equipment and refurbish our manufacturing unit in Aberdeen.

“We are now in a position where we are offering a wide range of quality lenses, first class in-house coating capabilities, and market leading turnaround times to our existing customers as well as other third party opticians and laboratories.  We can tailor lenses so that they suit each patient’s needs and lifestyle.

“Our retail division has been bucking the trend in the Optics sector and has demonstrated strong organic growth in the last year.”

She added: “At a time when the oil and gas sector is under pressure, this investment has secured jobs in the North-East in a different industry, showing the breadth and diversity of the economy in the North of Scotland.”

Patrick Graham from BGF and a member of the Duncan & Todd board, added: “This new equipment allows Caledonian Optical to significantly increase its capacity to produce a full range of products, from the latest HD Digital lenses and rimless spectacles through to safety glasses for its corporate clients and the expansion into coatings means all lenses can be produced in-house.

“Investing in these state-of-the-art machines provides Caledonian Optical with the opportunity to expand production and take on further work for third parties. Growing the business in this way was one of the factors that attracted BGF to the company in the first place and encouraged us to make our follow-on investment.”

Duncan & Todd was founded in 1973 and has since grown to 30 branches throughout Scotland following its takeover of 2020 Opticians and Dunfermline-based Gunn & Galbraith in May 2014.

In addition to its chain of high street stores, Duncan & Todd’s corporate eye care division supplies safety equipment and spectacles to more than 200 customers.

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