The French optical retail market rose by 5.6 percent to €3,285 million in 2003, according to GfK, with a much better performance than in 2002 in all the major product segments except contact lenses. While the study doesn't include sales of sunglasses through department stores, supermarkets and other sales circuits, even sunglasses showed a growth of 9.4 percent in value in the optical retail channel to €237 million, with a 4 percent increase in units, after the strong 12.4 decline that they had recorded in the previous year.

Sales of ophthalmic lenses went up by 5.9 percent to €1.97 billion, after a growth of only 1.9 percent in 2002, with organic progressive lenses representing 21.4 percent of the market in terms of volume. A higher 35 percent share of the lenses sold came with anti-reflection coatings. Revenues from sales of frames had declined in 2002 but they rose by 3.1 percent to €753 million. last year.

The contact lens market rose by 9.1 percent to €236 million in France last year, says GfK, but according to the contact lens supplier's national trade association, SYFFOC, the growth of the French market for contact lenses and solutions slowed down to 4.1 percent from 10.3 percent in 2002, while breaking for the first time the €200 million barrier. Contact lenses were up by 3.6 percent in value and 5 percent in volume. The most significant increases in terms of value were recorded by toric and multi-focal lenses, whose sales rose by 14.7 and 17.4 percent, respectively.