Alain Affelou has finally launched its second chain of stores in France. Called Lunettes Plurielles (meaning ?plural eyeglasses?), the new format offers special prices to customers under the age of 18 and to those who purchase more than one pair. The first two stores were opened on June 24 in two shopping centers anchored by Carrefour hypermarkets near Bordeaux, at Mérignac and Bègles, replacing former Carrefour optical stores. A total of about 30 franchised stores is the goal for this year.

Alain Afflelou, which remains the biggest franchisor in France, reports a net profit of €23.1 million before goodwill amortization for the year ended last Apr. 30, or 24 percent more than in the previous year and 15.4 percent better on a pro-forma basis. In spite of major investments, the operating profit rose by 8.7 percent to €27.6 million, or by 4.1 percent on a pro-forma basis.

For all the 689 stores affiliated with the group or owned by it at the end of the year, the turnover reached €464.6 million, compared with €373.7 million for the previous year. The number of stores grew by 182 units, largely due to the acquisition one year ago of Carrefour's former network of optical retail stores in France and Spain. For the stores carrying the Alain Affelou banner, whose number rose from 507 to 546 during the 12-month period, sales reached €389.2 million, up from €373.7 million, and that doesn't include 31 other former Optique Carrefour stores that have been converted to the Alain Afflelou format.

On a pro-forma basis, assuming that Afflelou had owned the Carrefour operations in the previous year, the total turnover would have increased by 5.0 percent. Sales at Optique Carrefour's 69 stores in France remained largely steady at €48.3 million last year, and of those 63 have been resold by Afflelou to franchisees, defying many sceptics. The 74 stores operating in Spain, which have all been renamed from Carrefour to Afflelou Optico, contributed sales of €27.1 million to the total turnover of the group for the full year, or 31.6 percent more than in the previous year in absolute terms and 14 percent more on a comparable basis.

Sales have been particularly buoyant lately in Spain where they grew on a same-store basis by 7 percent in February, 25 percent in March and by 47 percent in April, following the February launch of Afflelou's famous ?Tchin Tchin? advertising campaign in the country. An additional two units were opened in Spain in June, taking the local count in the country up to 76 doors, or 12 percent more that when the Spanish chain was taken over by Apax Partners, acting in behalf of Afflelou.

The franchisor's actual revenues were €138.4 million in the quarter, up 10.5 percent on a pro-forma basis from the previous year and in line with previously set targets. The company attributes this to its rapid growth in Spain, higher sales of ?exclusive? products and network development. Sales of exclusive products were up in fact by 31 percent for the year to €26.4 million, with a 48 percent jump in the latest quarter. For the 4th quarter, the company's revenues were up to €37.4 million from €33.5 million on a comparable basis, in spite of an apparent slowdown in the French market.