The difficult economic situation did not prevent the leading German optical retailer from recording a 5 percent sales increase in the third quarter on a same-store basis in the countries where it operates, marking a major improvement over the 2 percent growth of the first half. While no recent estimates are available about the German market as a whole, it seems that Fielmann gained market share against its competitors, supporting its statement that consumers tend to privilege high quality at reasonable prices in difficult times.
Fielmann has been investing in new stores, new personnel and advertising to grow its presence in the German-speaking market. It has opened 21 stores so far this year, with four more to go before the end of 2009. The number of its employees grew by 5.7 percent in the first nine months of this year, which will see the creation of 650 new jobs within the group. Slightly higher personnel training and advertising expenses as compared to one year ago reduced its profitability during the latest quarter.
Thanks to the expansion of its retail network, Fielmann had a 7.5 percent increase in sales in the third quarter, by volume and by value: units sold rose to 1.6 million pairs of glasses, for consolidated sales of €248.1 million. Pre-tax profit fell by 1.9 percent to €46.2 million. Net income inched down by 1.5 percent to €32.5 million.
For the first nine months of the year, consolidated sales climbed by 4.5 percent to €712.6 million, with 4.8 million pairs of glasses sold, up from 4.5 million from January to September 2008. Pre-tax profit for the period dropped by 7.0 percent to €118.4 million, and profit after tax also declined by 7.0 percent to €83.3 million.
From January to September, Fielmann's sales in Germany grew by 4.4 percent to €604.2 million, but the operating profit in the country fell to €100.6 million from the €105.7 million level of the previous year. Operating earnings grew slightly to €15.4 million in Switzerland, where there was growth of 6.8 percent to €78.3 million. Fielmann's stores in Austria had a sales increase of 10.2 percent to €38.9 million, but profit there fell to €4.1 million. Other regions had a 9.0 percent drop in sales to €18.3 million.
At the end of September, Fielmann had a total of 640 branches,