Europe's largest chain of franchised optical stores, which took over Optique Carrefour last year, raised its revenues on a comparable basis by 10.3 percent to €58.2 million in the 1st half ended last Oct. 31. Its net income rose by 8.8 percent to €11.1 million, in spite of high interest charges related to the acquisition, thanks in part to a major increase in sales of private label products.

Sales under the Afflelou banner grew by 5.7 percent to €5.7 million, with a 3.7 percent gain on a same-store basis. Company-owned stores under this banner had an 8.2 percent sales increase to €25.6 million. Revenues from franchising grew by 12.2 percent thanks to growing private label activity, which is now being extended to Optique Carrefour stores in France and Spain. The latter had sales increases of 4.3 percent in France and 32.8 percent in Spain. The 72 Spanish stores, which are owned by Apax Partners, raised their sales on a same-store basis by 10.1 percent. They are being converted to the Afflelou banner.

Afflelou predicts that by next June 30 it will have sold back to its retail members all but 8 of the 69 former Optique Carrefour stores that it has bought in France. Moreover, the number of new franchises increased by 18 in the 1st half of its financial year, or nearly double its previous projections, and 13 more have sprung up since last Oct. 1.

Including the former Optique Carrefour stores in France and Spain, the group's network of company-owned and franchised stores has expanded by 30 percent. It should expand further with the introduction of a new format, which is still in an experimental stage. Company officials decline to comment on its positioning, indicating that it should start up around June.

Meanwhile, Jean-François Rocher, who built up and led the international Optique Carrefour chain over the last few years, has been rehired by Afflelou as chief operating officer of the group, with sales responsibilities for the French retail network.