The world's largest optical retail group published strong results for the 1st quarter ended May 4. Net income jumped to $2,897,000 from $645,000 in the year-ago period, and operating income (EBITDA), rose by 20 percent to $20,495,000. Total revenues were up to $290,109,000 from $270,291,000, with same-store increases for all its vision-related banners.

Comparable store sales grew by 10.6 percent at the company's directly owned Pearle Vision stores ? the highest increase of any quarter since its acquisition ? and by 5.9 percent at Pearle Vision franchises, thanks in part to more fashion-oriented merchandise and intense staff training. They were up by no less than 29.1 percent at Target Optical concessions following numerous initiatives including better signage and marketing, including credit card mailings. They increased by 2.2 percent at Sears Optical and by 1 percent at BJ's Optical.

The overall gross margin declined to 67 percent from 67.5 percent in the year-ago period, partly because of more aggressive pricing of contact lenses. Debt was reduced by $27 million year on year. Deloitte & Touche has been hired as the group's new auditor.