The group's sales in North America advanced by only 1.2 percent in local currencies in the first quarter for several other reasons. Sales of lenses showed only modest improvement in the U.S., and they declined in Canada. Sales of frames and sunglasses were largely flat in volume. According to the management, the growth rate would have been about two percentage points higher without the previously mentioned decline at FGX and excluding Transitions.
LensCrafters bought more Transitions and blue-light lenses from Essilor during the quarter, but Essilor's sales of Transitions photochromic solutions to third parties declined in North America during the period because its clients were holding back new orders in preparation for the release in July of Transitions Signature's new Generation 8 range. Globally, Transitions' revenues grew by more than 5 percent inside the group during the quarter.
In Europe, Luxottica experienced a strong rebound in the quarter in all the markets except in Spain. Essilor's momentum in the region was fueled by consumer marketing campaigns and point-of-sale events. Sales of Nikon lenses continued to rise quickly in France. The introduction of Essilor's new phoropter contributed to the growth in the region, where gains were also achieved in the Sunglasses & Readers and Equipment divisions.
Essilor contributed strongly to an overall organic increase of 5.9 percent in Asia, Oceania and Africa. Its sales of lenses and instruments accelerated in Mainland China to a rate of more than 10 percent. Strong gains were also recorded in Southeast Asia and Korea. The situation was more mixed in India, where the growth was led by e-commerce.
At Luxottica, the wholesale business resumed its growth in Greater China, after a clean-up of the distribution, but the situation was still challenging in Hong Kong. Wholesale revenues returned to growth also in the Middle East, following the establishment of a subsidiary in Dubai.
Luxottica's performance in Japan and South Korea was particularly strong, with currency-neutral increases of 8.4 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively. The growth in Japan was driven by Ray-Ban and the incorporation of Fukui Megane. Travel retail and luxury brands were the engines of growth in Korea.
The group recorded its strongest growth in Latin America. Essilor, in particular, recorded a 12.4 percent increase on a comparable basis in the region, with particular strength in Brazil and Mexico. Luxottica's wholesale division posted double-digit growth in Brazil. At the retail level, where the company added about 100 more doors in the last 12 months, Sunglass Hut and GMO grew strongly and the newly acquired Oticas Carol gained new partners.