Boots Opticians' sales were affected by the ?very competitive? markets in core optics during the financial year ended last March 31, with its LASIK business still suffering from the impact of negative publicity on the effects of laser treatment, but their operating profit grew by 65 percent to £12.8 million (e19.2m-$23.6m) through improved cost management.

Without providing additional sales breakdowns, the Boots plc group says its Boots Opticians and Dentalcare division, including LASIK, suffered a sales decline of 6.6 percent last year to £241.6 million (e362.8m-$445.1m), with a 5.0 percent drop on a same-store basis, and its overall operating loss fell to 2.1 percent of sales from 11.9 percent in the previous year.

Overall sales grew by 0.1 percent for the British pharmaceutical retailing group, but on a comparable basis they went up by 5 percent to £5,326.4 (e7,998m-$9,813m). Operating income before interest (Ebit) rose by 1.6 percent to £550.1 million (e826m-$1,013.5m). After exceptional items, pre-tax profit stood at £580.1 million (e871m-$1,068.7m), up by 18.0 percent, with a 3 percent increase on a comparable basis before extraordinary items. Aiming for a ?leaner organization,? the group is now planning to eliminate a total of 2,700 jobs by March 2005, including the 1,000 people who have already left its headquarters.

Contrary to prior speculation, the company has stated that it has no plans to sell off its optical retail business. After the recent departure of Norman Usher, who ran Boots Opticians and other operations, Boots has appointed a commercial director for its optical chain, Colin McLean, who has a strong background in retailing.