Fielmann has been performing better than its peers so far this year, reporting increases for the first quarter in its external sales, up by 3.5 percent to €267.9 million, and in consolidated revenues, up by 3.7 percent to €226.4 million.

The German leading optical retail chain also raised its sales by 2 percent on a same-store basis. This means a further gain of market share as ZVA, the Central Association of German Opticians, has reported a 4 percent decrease in the optical retail market in the three months, against the backdrop of a 3.3 percent decline in the country's total retail sales. Fielmann would not say whether its own sales would continue to increase this year, although financial research institutes are forecasting a 6 percent drop in Germany's GDP.

Restating its belief that in difficult times consumers buy from companies that guarantee high quality at a reasonable price, Fielmann said it has made an «investment in the future» by added €10 million to its advertising budget. In the first quarter, its capital investments more than doubled to €12.7 million from €5.0 million in the same period 2008, and its store count at the end of the period was 624, up from 601 a year earlier.

For 2009, Fielmann expects to open 25 new branches while keeping an eye open for possible acquisitions, but company officials said there were no specific takeover plans.

In the first quarter, the pre-tax profit of the company declined by 14.7 percent to €33.0 million, while net earnings fell by 14.4 percent to €23.2 million. However, at its general meeting in July, the company's leadership will recommend a dividend payment of €1.95 per share for the 2008 fiscal year, up from €1.40 in 2007.

Georgraphically, Fielmann's three major markets all increased sales. Revenues in Germany grew by 3.6 percent to €191.7 million, in Switzerland they rose by 3.7 percent to €25.2 million, and in Austria there was an increase of 4.4 percent to €11.8 million. Represented mainly by Poland, the «other» region, however, saw a drop of 1.5 percent to €6.4 million.

Pre-tax profits across the regions were not as positive. Switzerland saw some growth, rising by 4.3 percent to €4.9 million, but Germany's pre-tax profit dropped by 13.4 percent to €27.1 million and Austria's nearly halved to €1.3 million, down from €2.5 million in 2008. The ?other? region had a pre-tax loss of €300,000, compared with profit of €300,000 in the same period last year.



The low-price positioning of Fielmann and its desire to cut margins led the big Marchon group to stop working with the chain at the end of last year, following the examples of Casall and Silhouette. Marchon is now working mainly with independent retailers and their buying groups in Germany.