Alain Afflelou continued to record strong growth in the 1st half of its financial year, ended Oct. 31. Total revenues increased by 17.4 percent to €57.6 million, but while revenues from franchising jumped by 25.7 percent to €46.1 million, due in part to continued expansion, the sales of the French retailer's own stores declined by 7.0 percent to €11.5 million, due to difficult market conditions.

Much of the recent sales growth was due to the increasing penetration of the group's exclusive product in the growing network of affiliated stores, representing 32.8 percent of their total purchases as compared to 29.5 percent in the year-ago period. That includes the Ephémère 30 brand of monthly replacement contact lenses, the Cent pour Cent 3 line of progressive lenses and the Tchin Tchin and Tercera lines of frames. The Roland Garros license was added recently, and it should make a major contribution in the 2nd half.

The store network reached 700 units at the end of October, up from 594 a year ago, after 17 new openings in France and 3 in Spain in the latest 6-month period under the Alain Afflelou banner. Another 4 units were inaugurated under the new Plurielles banner, and 7 of the 9 stores operating under this new name had satisfactory or very satisfactory results. On a same-store basis, the Alain Afflelou stores experienced a 1.9 percent sales decline, but those who have been converted from the previous Optique Carrefour banner had an average sales increase of 31 percent during the 2nd quarter. In Spain, sales were up by 29 percent overall, with a 21 percent increase on a same-store basis.

Meanwhile, the company's founder and major shareholder, Alain Afflelou himself, has advised French stock exchange authorities that he know has less than 50 percent of the voting shares in his company. He holds 42.52 percent of the outstanding shares and 49.61 percent of the voting shares.