De Rigo's consolidated revenues increased by only 1.4 percent to e512.6 million in 2002, but they rose faster on a comparable basis and profits probably increased even more. Without the sale of its interest in Ranieri of Argentina last June, the group's revenues would have increased by 2.3 percent. Currency conversions had a negative effect of 0.7 percent on the total score. Also the switch from direct sales to agents for its joint venture with Prada had a negative impact on the turnover.

While the group's revenues from wholesale and manufacturing activities grew by 6 percent to e141.2 million, in spite of Ranieri's disposal, its retail business recorded a sales increase of only 0.4 percent to e359.8 million because of temporary problems at its UK subsidiary, Dollond & Aitchison. The British retail chain generated 3.5 percent less revenue in pounds sterling and its same-store sales per working day declined by 4.4 percent. In euros, its sales dropped by 4.6 percent to e247.6 million.

Noting that D&A reported double-digit sales growth on a same-store basis in the first weeks of 2003, De Rigo attributes the chain's poor performance again to disruptions and service delays following the sale of its laboratory to Essilor's BBGR subsidiary. By the last quarter of 2002, service levels related to the plant had improved significantly. Besides 233 directly owned stores, D&A had by year-end 147 franchised shops whose sales totaled e62.9 million.

Instead, De Rigo's Spanish retail chain, General Optica, continued to perform well. Its sales grew by 11.6 percent to e123.4 million, reflecting an 8.5 percent increase on a comparable store basis, higher sales of sunglasses and the addition of new stores. By the end of the year, GO operated 140 directly owned stores, not including the first 5 franchises, opened in smaller Spanish towns.

On the wholesale side, De Rigo recorded strong growth in France, Greece, the UK, Japan and Korea, partly offset by decreases in Germany and in Singapore, where the company shut down its local distribution subsidiary. Sales went down by 34.1 percent in the Americas, mainly due to the sale of Ranieri, and by 7.5 percent in Asia and other distant territories.

Eyewear International Distribution (EID), the joint venture with Prada, recorded a 2.8 percent sales decline in value to e31.2 million, but its unit shipments rose by 37.3 percent. Total wholesale revenues in the premium-priced segment of the luxury designer market went up by about 32 percent.

The USA remains a weak spot for the Italian group. Seiko Optical Products of America has agreed for the moment to distribute De Rigo's Céline line of ophthalmic frames and sunglasses in the country, starting with a presentation at the Vision Expo fair in New York next month.