50 years of Fielmann: 21 September 2022 marks a significant milestone
How a family business has shaped the optical industry for half a century
When Günther Fielmann opened his first store in Cuxhaven on 21 September 1972, he was driven by one simple idea: the customer should be put first, not maximum profit. In a time when traditional opticians wore white coats, glasses were stored in drawers and customers had their options pre-selected for them, this truly was a revolutionary idea. Prices were steep across the board. Those who did not have enough money for these glasses were limited to just eight pairs of unsightly standard-issue glasses under statutory health insurance schemes – which subjected wearers to social stigma.
The 1970s – the early days
Upon opening his first store in 1972, Günther Fielmann transformed the glasses market by introducing low prices and extensive services. During this time, the company’s defining philosophy – which still guides the business to this day – was formulated under the guiding principle of “You are the customer”. The guarantees introduced in the 70s still apply today: three years’ quality and manufacturing guarantee, the Best Price Guarantee as proof of value for money, and our satisfaction guarantee – and every complaint is accepted.
The 1980s – historical achievements
Fielmann’s real breakthrough finally came in 1981 with the “fashionable eyewear at no cost” initiative. Overnight, Fielmann began to offer those with statutory insurance much more than the eight pairs of standard-issue glasses. At no extra cost, customers could choose from a range of 90 high-quality metal and plastic-framed glasses in 640 different varieties. As Günther Fielmann said: “Before Fielmann, everyone who couldn’t afford a pair of expensive premium spectacles had to wear proof of their low income on the end of their nose. Fielmann abolished this injustice!” This democratisation of fashionable eyewear is the historical achievement of our company’s founder, Günther Fielmann, earning him the nickname “the Robin Hood of those with poor vision” (FAZ) and laying the foundations for his success as the “Glasses King” (Die ZEIT).
The 1990s – expansion
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Fielmann began to expand into Germany’s new federal states. In so doing, the company went from being “one of Germany’s large optician’s chains” to the largest optician’s chain in the now-reunified Federal Republic of Germany – and the industry’s largest employer. In 1994, the company was floated on the stock market, enabling it to expand abroad. By the end of the decade, Fielmann had successfully launched in Austria, Poland and Switzerland.
The 2000s – manufacturer and training provider
At the start of the 2000s, Fielmann established a production and logistics centre in Rathenow an der Havel in Brandenburg, the birthplace of German eyewear. By eliminating the middle man, Fielmann is able to offer significantly lower prices than its competitors. At one of the industry’s largest high-tech production sites anywhere in the world, today almost 1,000 employees manufacture millions of lenses and glasses – of course, with the “Made in Germany” label.
Since 2004, statutory insurance providers have terminated almost all services relating to glasses. However, in partnership with the insurance company HanseMerkur-Versicherung, Fielmann offers the Zero-cost insurance (Nulltarifversicherung). For just € 10 a year, customers receive a complete pair of glasses, with prescription lenses, that are protected against breakage, damage, and changes in prescription. More than nine million insurance customers have signed up already.
2006 saw the inauguration of the Fielmann Academy at Plön Castle, the former summer residence of the Danish king, which is now the industry’s largest training and research centre. In Germany, Fielmann trains more than 40% of all optical apprentices while operating only 5% of the industry’s optical stores. The family business is the largest training provider in the industry.
The 2010s – succession
In 2012, Marc Fielmann’s appointment marked the entry of the next generation into the family business. Working alongside his father, he accelerated the company’s international expansion and initiated the digital transformation of the company’s business model. After eight years of working side by side, Günther Fielmann handed the reins to his son at the end of 2019. With the acquisition of Optika Clarus in Slovenia and Optica Universitaria in Spain, Fielmann grew to become the Fielmann Group.
The 2020s – present day
In 50 years, we have grown from one store in Northern Germany to a multi-brand, omnichannel Group serving 27 million customers through more than 900 retail stores and various online channels across 16 European countries. Just as it was back then, Fielmann’s secret to success remains the consistent customer centricity that our 22,000 employees embrace every single day. With record levels of customer satisfaction and customer repurchase figures of more than 90%, the market leader is continuing to strengthen its position.
Now, it is time to say thank you. Customers who visit a Fielmann store or fielmann.de/50-jahre next week (19–24 September) will be in for a pleasant surprise: Fielmann will be giving away every 50th set of frames the entire week. Anyone who purchases a set of frames in-store will also receive 50% off a second pair, with the cheapest of the pairs being discounted. We will also be celebrating with a large competition – with 300,000 top-quality prizes up for grabs.
The limited-edition Anniversary Collection
The Fielmann name is synonymous with fashionable eyewear at fair prices. The company not only offers big-name brands and international couturiers, but also employs top in-house designers who set the benchmark for eyewear fashion. To mark the company’s 50th anniversary, Fielmann has designed the exclusive Anniversary Collection, which reinterprets the designs of the 1970s with modern styles in gradient and statement colours. These 18 pairs of glasses are a homage to the days when the company was founded. This is also reflected in the product names – Oliver, Frank, Claudia and Peter – which were the most popular names in Germany at the time. Inspiration for the designs has come from the company’s archive materials. And, just like in the 70s, the materials come entirely from Italy and the frames are handmade, with the anniversary logo now an added feature.
Hamburg, 15 September 2022
The Management Board