Two big French generalist retailers, Carrefour and Casino, have started opening optical retail stores, as they seek to offer additional services to attract new clients to their hypermarkets and to retain existing ones. One of their competitors, Leclerc, started doing the same more than ten years ago, diversifying into audiology.

Carrefour is entering both sectors in partnership with a big French optical retail cooperative, Atol. The giant chain inaugurated its first optical and hearing aids store, Carrefour Optique et Audition, on July 12 at its Vénissieux hypermarket near Lyon. A second store is expected to open after the summer break at Villiers-en-Bière, near Paris.

Manned by Atol-certified opticians, Carrefour's stores intend to offer a pair of prescription glasses in 45 minutes. Clients holding Carrefour's loyalty card will be offered a discount voucher. They will also be able to choose their glasses on the new optique-audition.carrefour.fr website and pick them up at the store.

The first store is managed by Natacha Nikitine, who expects it to complement the Atol store she runs at Saint-Fons, which is also part of Lyon's metropolitan area. Atol says that the Carrefour store will undergo an 18-month trial period.

For its part, Casino opened a pilot Casino#Optique store in May at its Géant Casino hypermarket in Villeneuve-Loubet near Nice. Measuring 65 square meters, the optical retail store offers 900 models of frames and can provide eye tests.

Casino is considering opening a second pilot optical store in the coming months, also in the southeast of France. If the outcome of the experiment is satisfactory, the group aims to open other optical stores in its network.